U.S. State Population by Rank (Update for 2023!)

Updated July 21, 2023 | Infoplease Staff
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The U.S. population is enormous  —  339,123,510 people as of 2023  —  and growing. But there’s more to the numbers than “largest and smallest”.

Some American metropolises have a population larger than that of entire nations, while some of the least populated states have fewer people than a large city. Some parts of the country are growing fast, while others are losing people. And then there’s population density.

Who lives where in America, and how? Let’s take a look.

What Are the 50 States in Order of Population?

Here are the 50 U.S. states in descending order of population, according to the 2023 figures by World Population Review.

Rank State Population Percentage Rank State Population Percentage
1 California 40,223,504 11.92% 26 Kentucky 4,555,777 1.35%
2 Texas 30,345,48 8.99% 27 Oregon 4,359,110 1.29%
3 Florida 22,359,25 6.62% 28 Oklahoma 4,021,753 1.19%
4 New York 20,448,194 6.06% 29 Connecticut 3,615,499 1.07%
5 Pennsylvania 13,092,796 3.88% 30 Utah 3,423,935 1.01%
6 Illinois 12,807,072 3.79% 31 Iowa 3,233,572 0.96%
7 Ohio 11,878,330 3.52% 32 Nevada 3,225,832 0.96%
8 Georgia 11,019,186 3.26% 33 Arkansas 3,040,207 0.90%
9 North Carolina 10,710,558 3.17% 34 Kansas 2,963,308 0.88%
10 Michigan 10,135,438 3.00% 35 Mississippi 2,959,473 0.88%
11 New Jersey 9,438,124 2.80% 36 New Mexico 2,135,024 0.63%
12 Virginia 8,820,504 2.61% 37 Nebraska 2,002,052 0.59%
13 Washington 7,999,503 2.37% 38 Idaho 1,920,562 0.57%
14 Arizona 7,379,346 2.19% 39 West Virginia 1,775,932 0.53%
15 Massachusetts 7,174,604 2.13% 40 Hawaii 1,483,762 0.44%
16 Tennessee 7,080,262 2.10% 41 New Hampshire 1,395,847 0.41%
17 Indiana 6,876,047 2.04% 42 Maine 1,372,559 0.41%
18 Maryland 6,298,325 1.87% 43 Montana 1,112,668 0.33%
19 Missouri 6,204,710 1.84% 44 Rhode Island 1,110,822 0.33%
20 Colorado 5,997,070 1.78% 45 Delaware 1,017,551 0.30%
21 Wisconsin 5,955,737 1.76% 46 South Dakota 908,414 0.27%
22 Minnesota 5,827,265 1.73% 47 North Dakota 811,044 0.24%
23 South Carolina 5,266,343 1.56% 48 Alaska 740,339 0.22%
24 Alabama 5,097,641 1.51% 49 Vermont 647,156 0.19%
25 Louisiana 4,695,071 1.39% 50 Wyoming 583,279 0.17%

N.B.: Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia are not states, but their populations are 3,153,898 and 715,891, respectively.

Population of States in America 

What can we learn from studying population trends? And who uses this information?

Why are Population Figures Important? 

Population figures help federal, state, and local government officials to make decisions about issues that affect people.

For example, transportation authorities may use demographic information to make decisions about expanding roads and public transportation. Educational authorities use population information to decide if they need to open more schools in a given area. And planners may use it to determine what types of housing are most needed in their area.

Projections can also help governments to plan for future needs.

And by making these data publicly available, the census allows journalists, students, scholars, and websites like this one to transmit accurate information about the population of the United States.

How is Population Measured in Cities?

Every ten years, the U.S. Census Bureau takes a census, that is, a count of people living in the country. The census consists of voluntary surveys filled out by people who live all over the United States.

In 2010, the census questionnaire was shortened to exclude detailed information, such as languages spoken in a household, educational attainment, transportation usage, internet usage, and so forth. This information is now collected by the American Community Survey.

The 2020 census short form included questions about:

  • Race.
  • Sex.
  • Age.
  • Household structure.
  • Where people live.

The surveys collected by the Census and the American Community Survey are the primary sources of demographic information for the United States.

Which State Has the Highest Population? 

With a total population of more than 40 million, California is the most populous U.S. State.

Which State Has the Least Population?

With a resident population of just over half a million — that’s about one-eighth the size of the population of Los Angeles — Wyoming is the least populous state in the United States.

Most Populous States in the US

Which state populations are the largest? The results of 2023 population estimates from the World Population Review probably won’t surprise you. But then again, they might!

1. California (Population: 39,613,493)

California is one of the three largest American states in terms of land mass. Its population is the overall largest. At nearly 40 million people, California is home to 12 percent of the American population.

California has four main population centers: Los Angeles (population 3,898,747), San Diego (population 1,386,932), San Jose (population 983,489), and San Francisco (population 815,201). San Francisco is the most densely populated area in the entire United States.

Outside of these centers, much of the state is sparsely populated and rural.

The state of California has the largest economy in the United States and the eighth-largest sub-national economy in the world. If it were a country, would be the world’s 36th largest by population.

Its population density isn’t a recent development, either. Prior to European exploration, California’s Native American population was the densest of any area north of Mexico, and the region was the most culturally and linguistically diverse.

2. Texas (Population: 29,730,311)

Everything’s bigger in Texas, including the population — and the land mass. In terms of area, Texas is second only to Alaska.

People may think that Texas is full of wide open spaces — and it is. But it also has some of the largest and fastest-growing metropolitan areas in the country. Its growth rate, nearly four percent per year, is ten times that of California. In fact, since 2010, Texas’s population has grown by nearly 15 percent!

The most populous city in Texas is Houston, with 2,304,580 residents. That’s the fourth largest city in the nation. Number two is San Antonio, with 1,434,625 people. Dallas is number three, with 1,304,379 residents, though the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex, one of the fastest growing regions in the country, has an incredible 7,637,387 in its metropolitan statistical area.

Texas has the second-highest GSP (Gross State Product) in the nation. Its economy is larger than that of Brazil, which has the ninth-largest economy, and the second-largest sub-national economy in the world.

3. Florida (Population: 21,944,577)

Florida isn’t as big as Texas in terms of square mileage; in terms of area, it ranks 22nd out of 50 states. But it has a large and quickly growing population. Its population of nearly 22 million is growing at a rate of 3.30 percent per year.

Florida’s main population centers are Miami, Jacksonville, Tallahassee, Tampa Bay, and Orlando. St. Augustine, founded as a Spanish colony in 1565, is the oldest continuously inhabited place in the country.

The Florida peninsula is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the east, the Gulf of Mexico to the west, and the Straits of Florida to the south, which makes it a great place for beaches, but also for hurricanes.

The Florida Keys, a chain of coral and limestone reefs and islands bordering the state, provide a unique ecosystem, as well as a valuable tourist attraction.

4. New York (Population: 19,299,981)

The Big Apple is more than Manhattan — a lot more. Although New York City is quite densely populated — about half of the state’s residents live there — it takes the rest of the state to get to its impressive nearly 20 million citizens.

With 8,804,190 residents, New York City is the most populous city in the United States, and the city with the most urban sprawl. One-quarter of the residents of New York City live in Brooklyn and Queens.

Other urban centers include Buffalo, Yonkers, Rochester, Syracuse, and Albany, which is the state capital.

New York isn’t all city, though. The Adirondack mountains in the northern part of the state, and the Catskills and Appalachian mountains to the south have provided adventure and recreation for over a century. And Western New York is part of the beautiful Great Lakes region.

5. Pennsylvania (Population: 13,092,796)

Historic Pennsylvania, with a population of just over 13 million, is the nation’s fifth most populous state. It’s the 33rd largest state in terms of land area, and number nine in terms of population density. With a growth rate of 0.23 percent, it’s not growing quite as quickly as some of the other states, however.

Pennsylvania is a very green state; nearly two-thirds of its land is forested. The Appalachian mountains bisect the state in the center, with the Allegheny and Pocono mountains in the northeastern part of the state. Pennsylvania has more navigable rivers than any other place in the United States and contains Lake Erie, one of the Great Lakes.

Founded in 1681 by William Penn, Pennsylvania was one of the original 13 colonies. It was known for its peaceful relations with local Native American tribes, as well as for its tolerant religious climate.

Pennsylvania has been inhabited for over 10,000 years — some archaeologists believe it might be as much as 16,000 years. Some believe that Pennsylvania’s first inhabitants may even have predated the paleo-Indian Clovis culture.

Philadelphia, being the gathering place for the Founders, was the cradle of the American Revolution. It was also the site of the first two Continental Congresses, the second of which produced the Declaration of Independence.

Other Populous States

Some other American states with large populations are Illinois (population 12,569,321), Ohio (population 11,714,618), Georgia (population 10,830,007), North Carolina (population 10,701,022), and Michigan (population 9,992,427)

Least Populous States in the U.S.

Many of the states in the midwestern and western parts of the U.S. have a lot of land, but a relatively small number of people. These are the five states with the smallest populations, though not necessarily the least population density. One of these may come as a surprise!

Wyoming (Population: 581,075)

Wyoming, located in the northwestern United States, is the 10th largest state in the union by area but has the smallest population. It also has the second least dense population after Alaska.

The western half of Wyoming is covered by the Rocky Mountains. The eastern half of the state is a high prairie — part of the Great Plains. Wyoming is home to the Grand Teton and Yellowstone national monuments, as well as a variety of other natural recreation areas.

Recognized Native American tribes in Wyoming include the Arapaho, Crow, Lakota, and Shoshone. Originally colonized by the Spanish, Wyoming was ceded to the United States in 1848, following Mexico’s defeat in the Mexican-American war.

Guided by the Shoshone interpreter Sacajawea, the Lewis and Clark expedition explored Wyoming. The Oregon Trail also passed through this territory.

Vermont (Population: 623,251)

The northeastern state of Vermont is a small state with a small population. It has the second smallest population after Wyoming, and also the sixth smallest state in terms of area. The city of Burlington (population 44,743), which is the largest city in Vermont in terms of population, is the smallest city in the U.S. to be a “largest city.”

Before being admitted to the union as the 14th state in 1791, Vermont had been inhabited by indigenous peoples for over 12,000 years. When French colonists came to the area, they encountered the Abenaki and Mohawk people.

It’s the only New England state that isn’t bordered by the Atlantic Ocean. Some might also recognize Vermont as the birthplace of Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream.

District of Columbia (Population: 714,153)


The District of Columbia has the third smallest population in the country. At the same time, it’s number one in population density. That’s a fancy way of saying that although there aren’t a huge number of people in DC, relatively speaking, there are a lot of people for the small space that makes up the state.

This is due to the fact that, as the seat of the federal government, Washington, DC is home to the federal government, many of its employees, and the businesses that serve them all.

The District of Columbia isn’t actually a state. It’s a federal district governed by an elected mayor and a 13-member council. There has been an ongoing effort to have it recognized as a state, however, and a statehood bill was passed by the House of Representatives in 2021.

North Dakota (Population: 770,026)

The state of North Dakota, located in the midwestern United States, has the fourth smallest population in the country and is the fourth smallest in terms of population density.

Half of North Dakota’s population lives in rural areas, while one-quarter of the state’s residents live in either Bismark (population 73,622) or Fargo (population 125,990). These two cities are amongst the nation’s fastest-growing.

In the 19th century, the success of wheat farming made North Dakota the breadbasket of the United States. Later, in the 20th and 21st centuries, extractive industries including oil production led to great prosperity and population growth.

Before colonization, the region was home to numerous indigenous peoples, including the Lakota, Mandan, Crow, Hidatsa, Cree, Shoshone, and others.

Alaska (Population: 724,357)

Alaska is the largest U.S. state when it comes to land mass. Its area is greater than that of the combined areas of California, Texas, and Montana! At the same time, it has the fifth smallest population and the number one smallest population density in the country. Most of the Alaskan population lives in Anchorage.

Alaska’s western edge sits along the Bering Strait, and many archaeologists believe that the ancestors of Native Americans first traveled from Asia via a land bridge that crossed the strait. Parts of Alaska are actually closer to Russia than to the continental United States.

Alaska has one of the highest per-capita incomes in the country. Much of its wealth comes from the fishing and extractive industries, including oil. Because of its remote location, Alaska has one of the highest costs of living in the nation.

Alaskan residents receive an annual check from the Alaskan Permanent Fund. The check, which varies in amount, is a share of dividends on the profits from the state’s lucrative oil industry. In 2009, the amount was around $1,600 per year. The state also has the highest percentage of indigenous residents in the United States — 15 percent. There are 11 primary indigenous groups.

What About Population Density?

Population density means the number of people living in one area. This is usually expressed in terms of the number of people per square mile or per square kilometer.

In the United States, the area east of the Mississippi River has the highest population density overall, particularly New York City, Philadelphia, and Washington, DC. Atlanta, Chicago, Houston, and Dallas are also densely populated.

The western United States is much more sparsely populated by comparison. The exceptions are the large Californian cities of San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Oakland, and San Jose.

The Top 10 U.S. States and Territories by Population Density Are: 

  1. District of Columbia (11,295 people per square mile).
  2. New Jersey (1263 people per square mile).
  3. Rhode Island (1061 people per square mile).
  4. Puerto Rico (960 people per square mile).
  5. Massachusetts (901 people per square mile).
  6. Connecticut (745 people per square mile).
  7. Guam (733 people per square mile).
  8. American Samoa (650 people per square mile).
  9. US Virgin Islands (649 people per square mile).
  10. Maryland (636 people per square mile).

The Ten U.S. States With the Lowest Population Density Are: 

  1. Alaska.
  2. Wyoming.
  3. Montana.
  4. North Dakota.
  5. South Dakota.
  6. New Mexico.
  7. Idaho.
  8. Nebraska.
  9. Nevada.
  10. Kansas.

The Fastest-Growing U.S. States

Some U.S. states are experiencing rapid population growth. Others? Not so much.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the south and west of the United States are seeing population growth, while the populations of the midwestern and northeastern parts of the country are shrinking.

As of 2022, the fastest-growing states in the U.S. are Montana, Arizona, Idaho, Utah, South Carolina, and Texas.

States with shrinking populations include California, Illinois, New York, and the District of Columbia.

State Your Facts

Do you think you know your states? Can you recognize them by their outlines? Take our State Outlines quiz and find out!

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