Interactive: While America urbanized, Mainers went back to the land

Since 1950, a growing proportion of the American population has been moving to cities – but Mainers have bucked that trend.

 

Data from the U.S. Census Bureau indicates that, since 1950, the share of residents living in cities has been on the rise in virtually every state – except in Maine.

The chart above plots each state's total population (on the horizontal axis) against its proportion of residents who live in cities (on the vertical axis). States like New York and California, where most of the population lives in large cities, are in the upper-right portion of the chart, and more rural, sparsely-populated states like Vermont and Alaska lie near the bottom-left corner of the chart.

In the 1950 Census, roughly half of Maine's 913,774 residents lived in urban areas like Portland, Biddeford, Lewiston and Bangor. At that time, Maine was more urban than Georgia and the Carolinas.

In the decades since then, most American states witnessed population growth alongside an increasing share of residents living in urban areas. Many of the states with the fastest rates of urbanization, like Nevada, South Carolina and Arizona, also posted some of the most dramatic rates of population growth.

But Mainers bucked that trend, with a decreasing ratio of urban-dwellers and relatively slow population growth compared to the national average.

By the 2010 Census, Maine had surpassed Vermont to become the state with the lowest proportion of residents – just 38.7% of the population – living in cities.

Use the slider above the chart to compare Census data in different decades. Or scroll up to the top of the page to reset the animation.

 

Interactive chart adapted from Mike Bostock's "Health and Wealth of Nations" project.