How Big is a Town In the US? Detailed Guide

When people talk about the population of a town in the US, it’s important to understand what exactly that means. Is it based on the number of people who live within a certain distance of the town center, or is it based on the number of people who live within the town’s administrative boundaries?

Towns are communities that fall between villages and cities in terms of size. To be considered a town, a place must have at least 5,000 people living there and a population density of at least 780 people per square mile.

This guide will help you understand how big a town in the US really is and how its population can impact its resources, economy, and infrastructure.

Why Does the Population of a Town Matter?

The population of a town can have a significant impact on its resources, economy, and infrastructure. It affects the availability of services, such as healthcare and education, and can influence the development of businesses in the area. Understanding how a town’s population is determined is crucial to understanding the community.

How Big is a Town?

The size of a town in the US is often defined by population. Understanding the distinctions between small, medium-sized, and large towns can give you a better idea of what to expect.

Small Towns

Small towns in the US typically have populations under 5,000. They may have a more rural setting and a tighter sense of community. Small towns may have fewer public services and amenities and may rely on nearby cities for more extensive facilities.

Medium-sized Towns

Medium-sized towns in the US typically have populations between 5,000 and 20,000. They may have a more suburban setting and offer a wider range of services and amenities than small towns. Medium-sized towns may also be centers for local commerce, industry, or education.

Large Towns

Large towns in the US typically have populations between 20,000 and 50,000. They may share characteristics with both small towns and cities, offering some of the resources and amenities of a city while still maintaining the more intimate setting of a town.

Exactly What Is a Town?

A town is a human settlement that is larger than a village but smaller than a city. It typically has a defined boundary, a population of several hundred to several thousand people, and a range of community services and facilities, such as shops, schools, and churches.

Describing a town can be difficult, and just looking at the technical definition may not show what makes each town unique. Usually, a town is a place with at least 5,000 people and 780 people per square mile. But other things can shape a town’s character, like its history, culture, economy, or surroundings.

Although New York City technically meets the criteria for being a town, it feels different from a small town in terms of its size, speed, and community feeling. Cities are known for their busy life and nightlife, while towns can be more peaceful and relaxed.

Defining a town can be a tricky task, so sometimes it’s easier to use a more informal method. To figure out if a place is a town, you need to look at the area around it and how the people who live there make choices. This can help you understand what the place is like and decide if it should be called a town.

A town is a special kind of settlement that is usually found in the countryside of a state. It has its own unique qualities that make it different from other places.

One of the most important things in a town is the town hall. This is where people who live in the town come together to talk about things that affect them, like making new rules or starting new projects to help the town. However, towns cannot change the laws that the state or country has already made.

The decisions that are made in town halls are meant to keep the town safe, secure, and happy for everyone who lives there.

Sometimes, when people talk about towns, they might include villages too. Villages are places in the countryside that have even fewer people living in them and fewer people per square mile. It’s important to know the differences between towns and villages so that we can understand them better.

How the Population of a Town is Calculated?

The population of a town can be calculated in several different ways, depending on the data available.

Census Data

The US Census Bureau conducts a nationwide census every ten years, which provides data on the population of each town and city in the country. This data is used to determine the population of a town official.

Voter Registration Data

Voter registration data can also be used to estimate the population of a town. Voter registration records typically include the name, address, and age of each registered voter, providing a rough estimate of the number of people living in the area.

Utility and Water Meter Data

Some towns may also rely on data from utility and water meters to estimate population levels. This method is less common than others but can provide a more accurate count of the number of people living in an area.

Administrative Boundaries of a Town

To understand how the population of a town is determined, it’s important to know the administrative boundaries of the town. Administrative boundaries are geographic subdivisions that define the jurisdictional limits of government entities. In the US, these entities can include cities, townships, and unincorporated areas.

The Basic Types of Administrative Boundaries

There are three basic types of administrative boundaries that can be used to define a town in the US. These include:

  • Municipalities: This type of boundary is used to define cities and towns with incorporated governments.
  • Townships: This type of boundary is used to define areas with local government, typically in rural or suburban areas.
  • Unincorporated areas: This type of boundary is used to define areas without local government or services, typically in rural areas.

How Administrative Boundaries Are Determined?

The creation and modification of administrative boundaries are largely decided by state law. State governments can establish boundaries through legislation or at the request of local authorities. Some states may also have laws that dictate minimum population requirements for incorporation.

The Difference between a Town and a City

In the US, the terms “town” and “city” can be used interchangeably in some regions. However, others define these terms differently, based on population and administrative structure.

Defining a City

Cities in the US are generally defined as densely populated areas with a high level of urban development. They typically have larger and more complex infrastructures and provide a wide range of services and amenities.

Characteristics of a City

Cities often have a larger population than towns, with the US Census Bureau defining a city as having a population of over 50,000. Additionally, cities may have distinct neighborhoods, downtown districts, and cultural institutions. They may also be centers of commerce, cultural hubs, and employment centers.

Defining a Town

Towns in the US are defined as smaller areas with less complex infrastructures and fewer amenities. They may or may not have their own local government, but are not typically established as cities.

Characteristics of a Town

Towns in the US are generally smaller than cities, with the US Census Bureau defining a town as having a population of under 50,000. They may have a more rural setting and be located further from major urban areas. Towns may also have a more tightly knit community, with a greater emphasis on local traditions and values.

Village vs. Town

The terms town, city, and village are often used to describe different types of settlements, but the definitions and characteristics of each can vary depending on the country and region.

Here are some general differences between the three.


A village is typically smaller than a town and may not have a municipal government and an average population of 500 and 2,500 people.

It is often located in rural areas and has a population of a few hundred to a few thousand people. Villages are usually centered around agriculture, with many residents engaged in farming or related activities. They often have fewer amenities and services than towns or cities.


There are at least 5,000 people living in a town, with a population density of at least 780 per square mile, which is smaller than a city, but larger than a village. Towns may have a central business district or commercial area but typically have fewer amenities and services than a city.

What Is The Number Of Towns In The United States?

In the United States, there are approximately 19,500 incorporated towns, of which 14,768 (roughly 75%) have fewer than 5,000 residents. However, the exact number can vary depending on how one defines a “town.”

The Largest US Towns by Population

Several towns in the US have populations larger than many cities. Here are some of the largest towns in the country:

Top 10 Largest US Towns

  • Gilbert, Arizona – Population: 253,458
  • Cary, North Carolina – Population: 175,784
  • Cary, Illinois – Population: 159,616
  • Cary, Michigan – Population: 99,545
  • Cary, Ohio – Population: 35,725
  • Lauderhill, Florida – Population: 71,768
  • Cheektowaga, New York – Population: 86,747
  • Montclair, New Jersey – Population: 37,702
  • Pembroke Pines, Florida – Population: 173,591
  • Arlington, Massachusetts – Population: 45,468

Other Large US Towns

Other large towns in the US include Chapel Hill, North Carolina, Fishers, Indiana, Flower Mound, Texas, and Silver Spring, Maryland.


How big is a town in the USA?

The size of a town in the USA can vary significantly. There is no fixed population size that defines a town. Some towns may have just a few hundred residents, while others can have tens of thousands or more. The population of a town depends on various factors such as its location, historical development, and economic opportunities.

What is the average size of a town?

The average size of a town in the USA is difficult to determine precisely since it can vary significantly depending on the region and state. However, many towns in the USA have populations ranging from a few thousand to around 20,000 residents.

What is the size of a small town in the US?

A small town in the US typically has a relatively modest population. While there is no specific cutoff, small towns in the US often have populations ranging from a few hundred to a few thousand residents. These towns usually have a close-knit community, limited commercial development, and a more rural or suburban character.

What makes a town a city in the US?

In the US, the distinction between a town and a city is typically based on legal and administrative factors rather than population size alone. The specific criteria for designating a town as a city can vary by state and local government. Generally, a town may be granted city status if it meets certain requirements, such as having a certain population threshold, a defined form of government (e.g., a mayor-council system), and the ability to provide a broader range of services and infrastructure to its residents.

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