If you're tired of seeing New York media treat L.A. like a backwater, here's something that may make you feel better. You see, the one thing New York has always had over L.A. is size. But we've been analyzing the numbers, and we're not so sure that's really the case.
If you ask us, Los Angeles has been a victim of New York-centrism, creative data crunching and apples-and-oranges comparisons. While L.A. and Southern California are not the same thing, you could argue that, in many ways, using broader SoCal data would match us much more fairly with our East Coast rival.
Here are five ways L.A. is actually bigger than New York:
5. Our county is their city. Comparing New York City's population (8.3 million) with the city of L.A.'s (3,884,307) doesn't make sense. It's apples and oranges. The five boroughs of New York City each comprise their own county. The city of L.A. is within the larger county of L.A., but it's really all the same place to most casual observers.
You don't blink when you go to Santa Monica, Beverly Hills, or Glendale, and think, Wow, I'm in a different city. But you are, supposedly. Numbers-wise, those places ought to be treated more like L.A.'s version of a borough. Beverly Hills is almost completely surrounded by the city of L.A. The same story applies to Culver City. Yet we're penalized in population rankings for having a different system of governments.
And here's the thing: L.A. County's population is bigger than the aggregated population of the five counties that we know as New York City. We have 10,019,365 people, nearly 2 million more than New York City.
End of story, right? Wrong. There's more.
4. L.A. is bigger in square miles. Since we're talking big here, let's talk land. We know this isn't the main measuring stick, and that there are some counties in the United States that have us beat. But play along, anyway. L.A. County has 4,084 square miles. New York City has 304.8 square miles. Really.
3. L.A. stretches almost to Las Vegas. There's a reason L.A.'s favorite nightlife playground is where it is. Even though it's a four-and-a-half-hour drive from L.A., Vegas is in our backyard. And if you don't believe that L.A. could possibly be that vast, take a look at our history:
Los Angeles County once went from the San Diego County line to Kern County, the latter of which it once encompassed, and even stretched all the way to the Nevada state line, at least until 1853, when San Bernardino County was born. That's right, you can almost see the lights of Vegas, and you can certainly see the lights of Primm, Nevada, from what was once a piece of L.A. New York wishes it was so massive.
2. The urban definitions don't match up. Measurements of New York are often quite broad. Like this one: "It stretches far beyond City Hall in Manhattan, 50 miles west to Hackettstown, New Jersey, 90 miles east to Sag Harbor Long Island, 55 miles north to Dutchess County, New York, and 80 miles south to Ocean County, New Jersey."
Fair enough. But if we're going to give New York so much leeway to, you know, actually exist in other states and stuff, should't L.A. be defined by the greater, SoCal urban mass? Honestly, if it weren't for Camp Pendleton in San Diego County, urban Southern California would run uninterrupted between Ventura County and Tijuana. And that's a lot of people.
In fact, the Southern California Association of Governments says it represents 18 million people who live in Imperial, Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino and Ventura counties. Add in the population of San Diego County, and you're looking at a 21-million-strong megacity. Even though the urbanity doesn't actually stop until the outskirts of Tijuana (population 1.3 million), we'll leave out TJ since, like Philadephia, it's a metropolis with its own cultural force.
Greater New York's official population for its U.S.-designated "metropolitan statistical area" is 19,949,502. That includes cites and counties in other states: Newark, Jersey City, the "NY-NJ-PA Metro Area," Dutchess County, Putnam County, Nassau County, Suffolk County, and even White Plains. Wow.
While greater L.A.'s number is officially 13,131,431, that includes just L.A. and Orange counties and leaves out a lot of the region described above.
Now, you're saying, this is ridiculous: San Diego is no more a part of L.A. than Philadelphia is a part of New York. True. But we're trying to match the breadth given to New York's metropolitan statistical area here. If greater New York stretches into Pennsylvania and White Plains for purposes of counting population, then L.A. can surely reach to San Diego.
And Southern California is arguably much more culturally contiguous than greater New York, too. Whether you grew up in Chula Vista or Rancho Cucamonga, you are of SoCal heritage. If you're from here, you know what we mean. We speak the same pop culture language.
And here's the No. 1 reason we're bigger than New York:
1. We're denser. You read that right. L.A. is more dense than New York. Despite the rare vertical wonder that is Manhattan, when you look at how many people per square mile we have (7,000), we beat New York (5,319).
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Sure, we don't all live in walk-ups and high-rises, but we still pack in our people. The blog Somewhat Reasonable recently explained it this way:
The urban core of Los Angeles is much less dense than New York, but the suburbs (where most people live) are twice as dense.
So the next time an out-of-towner tells you L.A. isn't a real city, let 'em know that not only is Los Angeles as real as it gets, it's also the new urban capital of America.