Philly is still the 6th largest city nationwide despite losing population

Philadelphia kept its ranking despite losing 50,000 residents during the pandemic, but population growth in San Antonio could outpace it someday.

Shown is the Benjamin Franklin Bridge and the Philadelphia skyline as seen from the Cramer Hill Waterfront Park in Camden, N.J., Wednesday, April 20, 2022.

Shown is the Benjamin Franklin Bridge and the Philadelphia skyline as seen from the Cramer Hill Waterfront Park in Camden, N.J., Wednesday, April 20, 2022. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

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Philadelphia may have lost more than 16,000 residents between 2022 and 2023, but it held onto its ranking as the sixth largest U.S. city with 1.55 million residents, U.S. Census data shows.

For reference, New York City lost 77,763 people and Chicago lost 8,208 residents during the same time frame.

Philly’s population is smaller than Phoenix, Houston, Chicago, Los Angeles and New York City. But it has more residents than Dallas, San Antonio, Austin and Fort Worth, Texas, and San Jose, California. The Texas metropolis of San Antonio added 21,970 people between 2022 and 2023.

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But Philadelphia packs more people into its city limits, which spans roughly 135 square miles. San Antonio is sprawled across 500 square miles.

Meanwhile, Jacksonville, Florida knocked Austin off the list of the 10 largest U.S. cities.

About 39% of the nation’s population lives in cities with 50,000 residents or more.

While the millennial generation migrated into cities, it’s too early to tell if Generation Z will do the same. Historically, cities have drawn new residents from younger generations each year.

“There’s a new generation having to leave their parents’ homes … their colleges,” said William Frey, a Michigan University demographer and Brookings Institute researcher. “Traditionally those folks have moved into cities because that’s where the action is.”

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The vast majority of cities with 250,000 people or more added to their populations between 2022 and 2022, Frey said.

For example, Fort Worth added 21,365 people during that time frame. Charlotte, North Carolina saw 15,607 move in, Jacksonville saw 14,066 new residents and Atlanta added 12,052 people.

“There’s always been this Snow Belt to Sun Belt migration. This has been with us for many decades. It’s not going to stop,” Frey said. “But is it going to increase a lot?”

Another unknown is the long-term effects of remote — and increasingly hybrid — work.

“I think a lot of work models are more hybrid and less fully remote, but people have chosen to kind of look further out of city centers because they don’t need to live close to where they work,” said August Benzow, lead researcher for the Washington, D.C.–based think tank Economic Innovation Group. “I think it’s a bit of a stronger trend in the Northeast versus the Sun Belt, where everything is decentralized, and not living in Phoenix [city limits] doesn’t matter as much as not living in Philly.”

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