What Cities Does Seattle Compare To?

In the last few days I’ve run into a few comments in various discussions about Seattle real estate that have caught my attention:

Dean Jones, Condo Marketer:
“You might cringe at condos that sell for $2,000 a square foot. But it would be twice that in New York. We’re still, relatively speaking, a bargain.”

Bob, Urbnlivn commenter:
“When I look at the prices in New York, Tokyo, Hong Kong and London where new apartments can routinely fetch $1500 per sqft, Seattle still isn’t that expensive but it is getting there.”

Emkorial, Ars Technica Forum Member:
“Seattle is a MAJOR city. Like LA and NYC.”

What I find interesting about these comments is the tendency to justify Seattle home prices by comparing Seattle to large, major cities. Is this a valid comparison? Is Seattle really a major city like LA or NYC?

Usually when people refer to a city as “large” they are referring to the sheer population of the city. However, population density also has something to do with it, because otherwise any city that expanded their boundaries enough could claim to be a “major” city. So we could rephrase the question to ask: “What cities most closely match Seattle’s population and density?”

To answer that question, I made a list of a handful of major world cities and a number of large-ish US cities. Here are the population, land area, and population densities of each:

Seattle Population Density Compared

I have highlighted the six closest cities to Seattle in each separate category: population (orange), land area (green), and density (yellow). When looking only at population, Seattle is most similar to cities such as Las Vegas, Vancouver, Milwaukee, Portland, Cleveland, and Sacramento. When comparing land area, St. Louis, Cleveland, Baltimore, Milwaukee, Sacramento, and Las Vegas are all fairly close. Lastly, when you compare density (which the chart is sorted by above), Seattle is comparable to Los Angeles, Baltimore, Buffalo, Detroit, Cleveland, and Milwaukee.

There are two cities on the list that are similar to Seattle in population, land area, and density: Cleveland, Ohio and Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Keep in mind that I am not attempting to compare all available statistics (such as income, economy, home prices, etc.) for these cities. I simply wanted to determine which cities Seattle should be compared to when discussing city size.

And now we know the answer: Cleveland and Milwaukee.

Update: Some people pointed out that my “highlight the three next highest and the three next lowest” method does not meet the rigorous scientific standard that the readers of this site deserve. Therefore, in the interest of science, I present this updated chart:

Seattle Population Density Compared

In this chart I have highlighted cities that are ±20% of Seattle in each category. As you can see, Cleveland and Milwaukee are still a close match to Seattle, with the city of Baltimore, Maryland joining the list.

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About The Tim

Tim Ellis is the founder of Seattle Bubble. His background in engineering and computer / internet technology, a fondness of data-based analysis of problems, and an addiction to spreadsheets all influence his perspective on the Seattle-area real estate market. Tim also hosts the weekly improv comedy sci-fi podcast Dispatches from the Multiverse.


  1. 1
    Richard says:

    These kinds of comparisons kill me. I spent some time living in London. There’s just NOTHING like that density here in Seattle.
    I’d walk 5 blocks to the tube station, the streets are lines with 5-8 story WW2 era apartments the entire way.

  2. 2
    Brian says:

    Thanks for putting this together, it’s about time CONCRETE OR REAL numbers dropped on one of these blogs.

  3. 3
    Grivetti says:

    Nice fact-based analysis Tim. Apparently the bubble-boosters out there have somekind of WASL based aversion to applied mathematics that allows them to wax-pathetic about reason why condo prices are justified in our fair city.

    One, oft-mentioned, none-sense reason you’ll hear in an attempt to fly in the face at your fact-based bias is the word desireability

    But again, I believe even this metric can be broken down to the sum of its parts, what is “desireability?”

    My metrics are as follows…
    1) Proximity to water
    2) Weather
    3) Cultural amenities
    4) Job availability
    5) Natural beauty
    6) Cosmopolitan viability

    Here’s my assessment of Seattle on all 6 counts

    1) We’ve always been as close to water as NYC,LA have for our entire existence, still RE prices far below both.

    2) Rainy, gloomy, notoriously depressing weather

    3) Getting better, but will never be on par with NYC or dare I say LA (yes, LA is chock full of Art, theater, and music, scary I realize) culturally. Sadly, M$’s Zune and Starbucks CD island do not constitute culture. The ‘hipster’ chic days of Sea-town have come and gone.

    4) Jobs are decent, but they’ve been better.

    5) Rates high comparitively to NYC and LA, however, its always been naturally beautiful here, which does not correlate to recent RE activity.

    6) Cosmopolitan is nebulous. But I’d say Seattle lags the ‘world-class’ city moniker, especially when you throw NYC and LA into the mix. If you want Cosmopolitan, head to Vancouver B.C. where lax immigration has created a mini-Asian demographic that proves to be much more worldly.

    My take? Seattle’s desireability has remained consistent throughout its life, why would it be any more desireable now?

  4. 4
    MisterBubble says:

    Great post, Tim. At some point, you should consolidate all of these seattle myth-busting posts in a single, easy-to-read post. Something titled “There can’t be a bubble in Seattle, because….” and then links directly to each of these articles.

  5. 5
    The Tim says:

    Capital idea, Mr. Bubble. I shall work on such a post in the coming weeks.

  6. 6
    Brian says:

    “…quantifiable data.”

    what a notion!

  7. 7
    Eleua says:

    Up until the Nirvana/Frasier/Singles era, I always considered Seattle to be the Cleveland of the West Coast.

    We were a gloomy, industrial city with crappy weather, unattractive women, and really bad sports teams.

  8. 8
    Wanderer says:

    Interesting analysis, but it does make me wonder what the numbers look like for the 2.0 million or so for the Seattle area… or 3.5M or so for “Seattle metro.” Apples to apples comparisons are always difficult for that reason. I personally am not willing to go vet all of the cities for “greater metro areas” but I respect those that can do that more efficiently than I.

    I would also like to point out that if everyone starts comparing my adopted city to Cleveland, I will vomit. I will also be very sad. True that all of my friends growing up in Toledo saw Cleveland as the hip land of opportunity, but I just can’t see the resemblance to Seattle. Density, populaion, culture (thank god), or otherwise.
    [No, I am not a troll or attacking our fearless leader’s analysis. Please don’t hate me].

  9. 9
    synthetik says:

    >unattractive women

    wha?? You don’t like PIT hair and baggy pants?

  10. 10
    Eric says:

    …a gloomy, industrial city with crappy weather, unattractive women, and really bad sports teams.

    So, basically Seattle was what the City of Destiny is now minus the proximity to Mt. Rainier? Huh…

  11. 11
    T,V & Mr.B says:

    Well, at least we now have a fairly decent sports team.

  12. 12
    Grivetti says:

    Didn’t mean to start a ‘rag on Seattle’ thread, by any measure… as far as my personal opinions regarding the attractiveness of Seattle’s women are concerned I will hold-back.

    I was basically trying to give a quantifier to ‘desireability’. These things should be easily quantifyable for somebody more amibitious than myself.


    proximity to water: Saltwater/lake waterfront & density.

    weather: number of sunny days a year, days of rain, etcetera

    cultural amenities:#theaters, museums, art galleries, sports teams, etcetera…

    job availability: pretty sure Tim’s summed this up

    Natural beauty: parks,views, proximity to outdoor activity

    Cosmopolitan viability:internation commerce, fashion/entertainment industry, expatriot pop., etcetera…

  13. 13
    Rob Dawg says:

    Buffalo circa 1960 compares almost exactly. Ouch.

  14. 14
    Merger Dog says:

    You guys don’t like how high home prices here have gone so you say how sucky Seattle is. I bet some New Yorkers, who think home prices are crazy there, have something nasty to say about their city too.

  15. 15
    Peter says:

    >wha?? You don’t like PIT hair and
    >baggy pants?

    Seattle is the only city I’ve ever been in where women think that flannel, longshoreman caps, and Doc Marten’s are the height of fashion.

    There are attractive women here, they’re just hiding under layers and layers of lumberjack clothing.

  16. 16
    Brian says:

    Maybe you’re hanging out in the wrong bars. It’s a sure sign if you’re the only guy in there and all the women are staring at you like you don’t belong.

  17. 17
    synthetik says:


    To be fair, I suppose it’s a matter of preference. I’ve lived along the coastal areas of Florida and San Diego most my life and I’ll take dark hair, flannel shirts and a brain over bubble headed beach/bleach blondes any day of the week.

  18. 18
    Eleua says:

    About the unattractive women comment…

    It’s not as if there is some freaky genetic component that makes our women look like they came from Middle Earth. No, I agree with Synthetik and Peter. Here is an example.

    Back in ’99, I had to ferry an aircraft from the East Coast to Hawaii. We had two engine fires. The first one occurred in Fort Worth, which had us stranded for a few days while we were awaiting an engine change. My buddy and I had an opportunity to take in the sights and check out the local color. We noticed that the women in the D/FW area spent quite a bit of time on their appearance, and were really dolled up for mundane things like grocery shopping.

    We smoke-checked the other engine in Tacoma, and we were stranded a few more days. Again, the same drill. We noticed that the women in the PNW would also spend quite a bit of time getting their look ‘just right.’ Now, we are talking purple hair, black leggings, combat boots, death-white face makeup, and enough facial piercings that made me wonder if they went bobbing for apples in their daddy’s tackle box.

    Even the normal women were wrapped in baggy sports attire, and looked like they had been awake for a week straight.

    I did high school in Port Orchard up through the 11th grade, and then hit the lottery and did my senior year at a suburban SF/Oakland high school. I was as bewildered with the difference in the young women. Both were basically all white high schools, but it was the functional equivalent of going from Bulgaria to Sweden (and Sweden with a first day of school at 105F).

    Attitude also plays an important part. That’s a whole other post.

  19. 19
    Ben says:

    Qualitatively and quantitatively, I think Seattle has much in common with Boston, San Francisco, and Vancouver, all of which can be considered world-class cities. Seattle is continuing to get denser. Over the last 20 years we’ve seen the creation of the world’s largest software company, a massive etailer (Amazon) and a massive retailer (Starbucks). Boeing has been crushing Airbus lately, although, admittedly, it is not what it once was, in Seattle. We also now have the world’s largest (by a long shot) philanthropic foundation that is investing a ton of money locally btw. We apparently have the most educated population in the states, and this is increasing. It is a gorgeous place to live, and many of will take the mild drizzly winters in exchange for the beautiful summers. I still maintain, Seattle is becoming a world-class city like Boston, SF and Vancouver.

  20. 20
    EconE says:

    You want beautiful women…we got your beautiful women right here!


    Damn Hot…seriously.

    With our women…not only will you get sheer utter beauty…you will also reap the benefits in so many other ways.

    1. You’ll be able to tell your friends you are dating an actress…ooops…that offends them…they like the term actor now. Don’t worry that she’s unemployed…probably never been in a film…hasn’t ever heard of words like ‘humble’ or ‘humility’ …and is most likely a total gold digger…because she is SMOKIN’

    2. She will have jeans that make her look even more like an angel. Who *doesn’t want to be seen with an angel…I mean really…just the angel factor is a bargain for only $300…you’ll see…you won’t have any problem buying her a pair…because she is an aaaaangelll.

    3. You will finally KNOW…not just assume…but KNOW…exactly what a breast implant feels like.

    Seriously you guys…after living all over the country…sure…you guys aren’t gonna have as many “Hotties”…most of them are attracted to warmer/drier weather from what I have experienced.

  21. 21
    Richard says:

    Blame the seattle women on the men I suppose – A girl I dated had transfered from the University of Arizona. She commented that none of the women here would ever have a date down there with the way they present themslves. She then went on to say “up here, I don’t even have to shave my legs and can be walking around in sweats and still get asked out”. Granted, she still looked good in sweats, but maybe that’s just the seattle in me talking.

  22. 22
    Eleua says:

    Milwaukee, Cleveland, and Seattle…

    The Brewers had one good season.
    The Indians have had one or two.
    Same with the Mariners.

    We had the Supersonics of ’78 (I think), and coming close in ’96.
    Cavs suck. Bucks suck. Sonics now suck.

    The Packers were good for a few years, as were the Seahacks. The Browns were about as good as the Seahacks are now.

    All three cities lack an NHL team (thus permanently disqualifying them from any type of elite rating). Dallas and Tampa have NHL teams that have both won Stanley Cups. To be fair, the Seattle Metropolitains won the Stanley Cup back in 1916-17, and were the first non-Canadian team to do so.

    Milwaukee has beer. Seattle has coffee. Cleveland has carp. Greece has Ouzo.

    Milwaukee has Harley-Davidson. Cleveland has Sherman-Williams.
    Seattle has Boeing and Microsoft.

    Miss Ohio-USA was a real hottie back in ’99. I don’t know how Miss Wisconsin does, and Miss Washington is almost always just the chick between Virginia and West Virginia on the roll call. Although, the Miss Washington for this year’s Miss America pagent was pretty cute.

    Milwaukee has Lake Michigan. Cleveland has Lake Erie.
    Seattle has the Lake Washington.

    I guess “Rain City” has a better ring than “The Mistake on the Lake.”

    Cleveland has Drew Carey. Seattle has Frasier. Milwaukee has Laverne and Shirley.

    I would have to agree that Seattle, Cleveland, and Milwaukee are good sister cities.

  23. 23
    Ben says:

    If that is the case, then Seattle is by far the best looking sister. Cleveland and Milwaukee are – to continue the analogy – the old maids (and getting older). In all seriousness, one of the more interesting articles I have ever read about Seattle compared it to Cleveland, quite favorably… check this out: http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn/A17201-2003Nov8?language=printer

    If the link doesn’t work, Google “Brain Gain Cities Attract Educated Young”. It is a fascinating article.

  24. 24
    Ben says:

    BTW, here’s a little quote from that article I just mentioned:
    Cities such as Cleveland have become painfully aware of what they are losing, and their leaders have come to regard cities such as Seattle as mortal enemies.

    “Are they a threat to the survival of Cleveland? Absolutely,” said Manuel Glynias, a Cleveland-born scientist and entrepreneur. “Are they a threat that we haven’t figured out how to answer yet? Absolutely.”

  25. 25
    Pondering says:

    Vancouver is a world class city only in those “quality of life” survey’s we are always winning. There are very few high end jobs here.

    Vancouver has no industry or world class company’s to speak of yet we have the housing prices similar to San Fran or LA. Over the past 5 years we have lost something like 40% of our head offices due to a poor business climate, taxes and no one wanting to move here due to housing costs. In terms of affordability of housing it is among the worst in the world.

  26. 26
    Eleua says:


    Nice article. I just yacked all over my keyboard after reading, yet another, article referring to the all important “creative class.” Chicken and pasta just isn’t the same on the way up.

    Yes, brains are important for many occupations. One problem with brains is they are very easy to transport through a wire, or bounce off a satellite. If you need a high priced brain, and some well educated peasant, from a former English colony, that operates just south of the Himalayas has one, you will outsource that job and gut put all the uber-eggheads out on the street.

    Brains are highly transportable.

    Massive, capital intensive industries also can be outsourced, but it is very expensive to do so, and a legeslative tariff can shut down an offshored fab alot easier than an offshored brain trust.

    The entire notion that brains justify the high inflation in local real estate is one step above ludicrous. Yes, it helps in the short run, but there are not that many Lex Luthors moving to the PNW.

    You would think with all that wonderful education that people are bringing to the PNW, we wouldn’t be such suckers for exotic mortgages, and sports franchise owners swindling billions from us to build palacial playhouses for their expensive toys.

  27. 27
    flotown says:

    “One problem with brains is they are very easy to transport through a wire, or bounce off a satellite. If you need a high priced brain, and some well educated peasant, from a former English colony, that operates just south of the Himalayas has one”

    I beg to differ with that assumption. Companies have and are trying to do this but it has proven much more difficult than expected, not because of strictly brains but – oh god – creativity and ingenuity. Exporting a programming function is one thing, but R& D and business development- no way. Ask any local tech CEO. These jobs are and will continue to flourish. Clustering is a real, legit phenomena which I’m sure you’ve read about and it is affecting us here in Seattle – and one of the top handful of tech regions in the nation.

  28. 28
    eldan says:

    There’s a major difficulty with this sort of comparison, which is that in both Seattle and Cleveland (I don’t know Milwaukee), the area that the census labels as “City of Seattle|Cleveland” is only a small fraction of the urban area, whereas in some cities (especially in the old world) that area actually covers much of the sprawl. Having lived in London, Cleveland and Seattle, I know that these three can’t validly be compared in this way.

    That 7.5 million figure for the population of London accounts for a large fraction of the people in the whole sprawl of city+suburbs, as much as 20 miles from the centre.

    The half a million quoted for Cleveland refers only to a very small fraction of the sprawl; essentially an impoverished, decayed centre from which every well-to-do suburb with single-family homes and gardens has gerrymandered itself away. The result is that Cleveland’s density is hugely overestimated by these kinds of statistic, because most people who can afford to—including almost everyone who has a single-family home with a garden—live in suburbs that have made themselves into separate cities.

    Seattle, meanwhile, is somewhere in between – we have city boundaries defined in a way that leaves out much of the overall urbanised area, and the least dense parts are excluded, but the City of Seattle is at least closer to being a representative cross-section of the area in terms of income and does at least include significant tracts of single-family homes.

  29. 29
    Eleua says:

    Didn’t ‘American Idol’ have some big whoop-de-doo in Seattle?

    That should go down as evidence that the PNW is not the repository of too many brainiacs.


    On the topic of “The Eggheads are coming!!! The Eggheads are coming!!!”…

    I can understand if you had a HUGE influence of highbrow techno-wizzards on a relatively small community, you could get the phenomenon your “creative class” article referrs to. I lived in Livermore, California back in the days of SDI and Reagan. Yes, when you have a one industry town (Lawrence Livermore Labs) of 55K, you get a braniac feel. Los Alamos, New Mexico is the same thing. Some college towns are like that.

    Metro areas of 3 million need a freaking galaxy of doctors/engineers/biotech studs to sway the braintrust. You would need a Microsoft in every other municipality in the PNW for that to take place.

    Chipping off a National Merit Scholar from Cleveland and moving him to Seattle via Pasadena isn’t going to do that.

    Yes, Bremerton is vastly dumber than Redmond (and just about every other decent place to live). Both are part of the PNW metro area.

    “Creative class…”

    I’m starting to dry heave.

  30. 30
    Eleua says:

    I agree there is more to brains than techno-know-how. Creativity is huge. That’s not my point. My point is that a few clusters of creative people are going to float an entire regional housing economy is a dumb answer looking for an even dumber question.

    It’s one thing to see the megatrend of the urbanization of America and draw some valid conclusions. It’s quite another to think that the emptying of the Central and Mountain time zones is a result of all these creative types wanting to live the Blue State life.

    I laugh when I am told that Dallas has low house prices because all the brains are moving to the coasts. Many Dallas ‘burbs have higher incomes than anyplace in the PNW (except Medina, but then you need to compare Highland Park to Medina, and you have a clean sweep).

  31. 31
    Ben says:

    I’m not trying to claim in any way that Seattle’s housing is not overpriced (sorry for the double neg)… BUT I do think it is relevant to consider who the buyers are at the margin… and Eleua, rants about the perils of globalization and offshoring aside, you’d have to admit Seattle is better positioned from a economic standpoint than Cleveland or Milwaukee?

  32. 32
    Eleua says:

    you’d have to admit Seattle is better positioned from a economic standpoint than Cleveland or Milwaukee?

    Yes, for now.

    I’m not arguing that Seattle isn’t better positioned than some places. My point is about the idea that Seattle is a creative magnet, and will have permanently higher house prices than an area that isn’t a brain magnet.

    I think all the talk about how we are robbing the heartland of all their talent is a bunch of self-serving arrogant twaddle.

    We are alot more like Cleveland and Milwaukee than New York or San Francisco. I know those that derive their self-worth from their living situation and civic identity will disagree.

  33. 33
    flotown says:

    Seriously? Seattle like Cleveland, Milwaukee. In what demographics? Geography? Climate? please explain

    I’ll take some metrics: literacy, education, venture capital investment (as a proxy for tech development), fitness and environmental technology development. Seattle is much sloer to SF than Milwaukee in almost every way imaginable

    Most literate cities (C. Conn Staate study):
    Seattle, WA 1
    Minneapolis, MN 2
    Washington, DC 3
    Atlanta, GA 4
    San Francisco, CA 5
    Denver, CO 6
    Boston, MA 7

    Most educated cities (% w/ bachelor’s degrees)
    1. Seattle, WA 52.7
    2. San Francisco, CA 50.1
    3. Raleigh, NC 50.1
    4. Washington, DC
    5. Austin, TX
    6. Minneapolis, MN
    7. Atlanta, GA
    8. Boston, MA
    9. San Diego, CA
    10. Lexington-Fayette, KY
    11. Denver, CO

    Venture capital: PSBJ 1/2003
    While the San Francisco metro area receives the most venture capital as a share of its economy because of its strong presence in a wide range of high-tech sectors, the Seattle metro area ranks No. 2 out of 50 for the amount of venture capital as a percentage of gross metropolitan product. This is a key indicator of innovation capacity, and technological innovation accounts for over two-thirds of per capita economic growth.

    Seattle Times (2006): Seattle climbs to seventh most active venture capital market in the nation

    Urban Sustainability
    1 Portland, OR: 85.08
    2 San Francisco: 81.82
    3 Seattle: 79.64
    4 Chicago: 70.64
    5 Oakland: 69.18
    6 New York City: 68.20
    7 Boston: 68.18
    8 Philadelphia: 67.28
    9 Denver: 66.72
    10 Minneapolis: 66.60
    11 Baltimore: 64.78

    Fitness – Seattle #1 – http://www.usatoday.com/news/health/2005-01-06-fittest-cities_x.htm

    I don’t see Cleveland or Milwaukee on any other these lists.

  34. 34
    The Tim says:

    Seriously? Seattle like Cleveland, Milwaukee. In what demographics? Geography? Climate? please explain

    I thought I did explain, but I’ll repeat it in case I somehow wasn’t clear. Seattle is like Cleveland and Milwaukee in population, land area, and population density.

    The scope of this post was limited to those three statistics, since those are generally what people are referring to when they describe how “big” a city is. Those lists are interesting, but honestly have nothing to do with the point I was trying to make.

    Seattle certainly does compare to more “favorable” cities in other areas, but size is clearly not one of them.

  35. 35
    Vickie says:

    You are aware of the RD development that MS has in India are you not?

  36. 36
    greenthum says:


    Just for the sheer entertainment value alone you deserve a permanent place in Seattle Bubble’s hall of fame. Your witty retorts are one of the things I look forward to here at SB. Your comments are dead on. I have nothing to add.

  37. 37
    Merger Dog says:

    Yeah, we must constantly criticize our parents, our schools, our cities just to show that we don’t derive our self-worth from our living situation and civic identity. The more we focus on the negatives, the better off we will all be. Hello, curmudgeon.

  38. 38
    MisterBubble says:

    As someone who is intimately familiar with Cleveland, I can say that culturally, the comparison is valid. Columbus might be another good comparison. Regardless, you’ve gone around the bend if you think that Seattle is in the same league as New York, or even San Francisco.

    Now….women. I have an anecdote to add: a few years back, I was on a flight from Seattle to my hometown in the midwest, and I was seated next to a typical Seattle girl. She was twenty-something, a bit overweight, dressed in polar fleece, and completely without makeup. It didn’t look like she was dressed down for the trip, so much as dressed in the normal, everyday, Seattle-woman kind of way: plain jane.

    Anyway, eventually, we struck up a conversation during the long flight, and I found out that her identical twin still lived in my hometown, and that she would be meeting her at the airport.

    (Can you see where I’m going with this? This is as close to scientific experiment as you can get….)

    Long story short, we get off the plane in my midwestern hometown, and I end up walking with the woman to the baggage claim. As we passed through the security checkpoint, I heard this giddy scream, and an extremely attractive version of the same woman came running out of the crowd of people who were waiting for arrivals. They were definitely twins, but thanks to the cultural divergencce, you could barely tell — midwestern twin was svelte, stylishly dressed, and completely primped (for a trip to the airport). Seattle twin looked like a troll in comparison.

    It’s like those anti-drug commercials say: “This is a woman. This is a woman in Seattle. Any questions?

  39. 39
    Alan says:

    King County 2005
    population 1,793,583
    land area 2126 mi^2 = 5506 km^2
    density = 325 persons/km^2

  40. 40
    Ben says:

    There nothing wrong with being proud of one’s city.

    BTW, check your table again. Not sure why you are highlighting Cleveland but not Boston in the population column.


  41. 41
    MisterBubble says:

    Ben, proud is one thing, delusional is another.

    Seattle has a fondness for comparing itself to much larger cities that I don’t quite comprehend. What is so wrong with being a small city? Be happy with who you are, Seattle — Milwaukee with mudslides!

  42. 42
    FinanceGuru says:

    Mr. Bubble, I agree with you. Seattle is like being the little bastard step child and thinking your part of the family…when in reality your only there because you came with the package, lol.

    Our leaders of this fine city and state are so PC about everything and dont want to offend anyone for anything they never make a firm stand on any big issue b/c they are afraid of making a mistake.

    Alan – You also need to take into account that King county has a significant amount of water (which is unbuildable), yet just wait until the developers find a way, just wait, lol. This also might be one reason for a slight premium in the median price in the Seattle region is.

  43. 43
    The Tim says:


    I agree, there’s nothing wrong with being proud of one’s city. I for one quite enjoy it here. I just think it’s silly to compare Seattle to New York or London. We’re not a “big city” and that’s one of the reasons I like Seattle.

    As far as the table goes, Boston is not highlighted because I took the next largest three and the next smallest three in each category.

  44. 44
    flotown says:

    Our best comparables, in terms of regional size, economic base and demographics, are, in my opinion, Denver, Boston, Minneapolis, Portland, and Raleigh-Durham

    That said, we have a world class physical location and beauty, which goes a long way. Seattle is exceptional in this way, and different from almost any other large metro I’ve been to on the continent – the only other one is in our backyard – Vancouver

  45. 45
    Alan says:


    Yeah, I realized that about the water as I was calculating the numbers. I am sure a lot more of the land is unbuildable.

    My wife and I went for a drive last weekend and saw tons of building projects out towards Enumclaw. I was telling a coworker about it and he pointed out that those are all in mudslide territory if Mt. Rainier erupts.

    Maybe the urban growth legislation would provide a better number to calculate density in the area.

  46. 46
    Lake Hills Renter says:

    King County also extends to the crest of the mountains. Much of the eastern part part of the county is National Forest, which is unbuildable.

  47. 47
    The Tim says:

    On the topic of which specific areas make the best comparison:

    The trouble here is that if you compare just the cities, as I have done in this post, you leave out the “greater metropolitan area.”

    However, if you try to use the metro area as a basis, the picture is arguably even more muddied.

    For example, the Census Bureau defines the Seattle Metropolitan Statistical Area as all of King, Pierce, and Snohomish Counties. Clearly that is far too broad a definition to be of any real use when comparing city densities.

    The most complete and accurate way to compare cities would be to selectively add up the population and area of the city proper as well as all the major incorporated suburbs. However, there is no central repository for such information, and only someone that is pretty familiar with a city would be qualified to determine which surrounding cities should be included.

    So I went with the data set that was most readily available and the most uniform across the country. It’s not perfect, but it’s the best option out of the choices.

  48. 48
    WTF says:

    The Tim,

    Perhaps something could be made from this US Metropolitan Statistical Areas following along your original premise of population/land area/density for the Metropolitan Areas associated with the cities on your spreadsheet.

    I will try to put something together on this and send you the results.

  49. 49
    WTF says:

    Here’s what I’ve found from census data:

    Density per square mile of land area; Population (Seattle Metropolitan Area) = 492 CMSA-546 PMSA

    Metropolitan Areas ±10% of Seattle:
    Dallas, TX
    Denver, CO
    Cincinnati, OH
    Los Angeles, CA

    Density per square mile of land area; Housing units (Seattle Metropolitan Area) = 203 CMSA-229 PMSA

    Metropolitan Areas ±10% of Seattle:
    Dallas, TX
    Denver, CO
    Cincinnati, OH
    Houston, TX
    Los Angeles, CA

    On these two measures the Seattle Metropolitan Area as a whole is on par with cities that predominately have lower housing costs (save for Los Angeles).


    Consolidated metropolitan statistical area (CMSA)
    A geographic entity defined by the federal Office of Management and Budget for use by federal statistical agencies. An area becomes a CMSA if it meets the requirements to qualify as a metropolitan statistical area, has a population of 1,000,000 or more, if component parts are recognized as primary metropolitan statistical areas, and local opinion favors the designation.

    Primary metropolitan statistical area (PMSA)
    A geographic entity defined by the federal Office of Management and Budget for use by federal statistical agencies. If an area meets the requirements to qualify as a metropolitan statistical area and has a population of one million or more, two or more PMSAs may be defined within it if statistical criteria are met and local opinion is in favor. A PMSA consists of one or more counties (county subdivisions in New England) that have substantial commuting interchange. When two or more PMSAs have been recognized, the larger area of which they are components then is designated a consolidated metropolitan statistical area.

    My head hurts now, maybe someone else can make sense of this data.

  50. 50
    WTF says:

    By the way, the United States as a whole averages:

    Density per square mile of land area; Population = 80

    Density per square mile of land area; Housing units = 33

    And, in Metropolitan Areas as a whole:

    Density per square mile of land area; Population = 320

    Density per square mile of land area; Housing units = 129

  51. 51
    biliruben says:

    The Cleveland-Elyria-Mentor Metropolitan Statistical Area has 2,250,871 people and is the 23rd largest in the country. Cleveland is also part of the larger Cleveland-Akron-Elyria Combined Statistical Area, which is the 14th largest in the country with a population of 2,945,831 according to the 2000 Census.

    Not too different.

    Cleveland chicks are hot.

  52. 52
    Eleua says:

    Who said Seattle chicks can’t be hot?

    There is hope for PNW women.

    My kind of girl.

    Not only brains and beauty, but she can kick the crap out of you if you forget her birthday or leave the toilet seat up.

  53. 53
    nitsuj says:

    you want ugly, come to san francisco.

  54. 54
    johnnyrent says:

    Hello from another rain city, cosmopolitan Vancouver, where the bubble is about to pop.

    Flannel shirts and Doc Martins notwithstanding I’ve been to Cleveland and Milwaukee and neither are in the same galaxy as Seattle, let alone category. Give yourselves more credit.

  55. 55
  56. 56
    barry g says:

    cleveland is seattle 40 years ago. it is a special place. but it is decaying rapidly. very sad

  57. 57
    barry g says:

    RE: barry g @ 56 – rockefeller vs gates

  58. 58

    […] as refinancing added loan fees.I assume they selected Baltimore as a comparison because it’s fairly close to Seattle in population, geographic size, and density. Phoenix was of course the “extreme” […]

  59. 59
    puzzuld says:

    “Hello from another rain city, cosmopolitan Vancouver, where the bubble is about to pop.”

    4.5 years have passed since you posted that insight. Is the bubble still about to pop?

  60. 60

    RE: Eleua @ 7

    ….we were a gloomy, industrial city with crappy weather, unattractive women, and really bad sports teams…..YOU GUYS STILL ARE…

  61. 61
    Susan says:

    Well, there is always Minneapolis, or Indianapolis (although Indianapolis is bigger). It always cracks me up when Seattle-ites compare Seattle to New York. I have lived in Seattle for a year now, and can’t wait to go back to New York. Am important question to be asked is: What city compares to the sullen, unpleasant, rude Seattle population who possess a superiority attitude at the level Seattleites do? This would be important for a Seattle resident, I should imagine. Or: is it possible to find a city with as many pan handlers per capita as in Seattle? I think not. Minneapolis is a good choice. It is pretty, educated (but not snobby like Seattle, so you may not like it). It is friendly (again, maybe a draw back for Seattle people) I do not believe Minneapolis folk have the eye avoidance issue that they have in Seattle, and the absolute commitment to frown constantly seems to be unique to Seattle as well. ONE great thing about Minneapolis, is, although it is not a coastal city, they do have many lovely lakes. One difference though, is that you can actually SEE them since it isn’t constantly overcast as it is in Seattle. Good luck!

  62. 62
    marc says:

    I would say all in all SEATTLE-MINNEAPOLIS.

  63. 63
    ted says:

    Seattle area size is incorrect. Should be 147 square miles. If you are including the entire metro area the population and area are significantly larger.

  64. 64
    The Tim says:

    By ted @ 63:

    Seattle area size is incorrect. Should be 147 square miles.

    No, because I specifically stated that I was only comparing “land area.”

  65. 65
    Paul says:

    RE: Richard @ 1 – Tim, what you are missing in these comparisons, is the total urban area. The Seattle/Puget Sound region stand at about 4.5 million to 5 million. The density of Seattle’s urban villages equal those in Soho, NY, fall just short of Hong Kong and Tokyo. But rising too (almost too) rapidly. Vancouver’s region is dense in the urban areas, but those areas are bleeding into Victoria and other high tech surrounds, so Vancouver’s density is actually receding. Portland is increasing, with the advent of so many semiconductor companies in Hillsboro, so Portland is about where Seattle was 20 years ago, and it WILL catch up – especially with Intel moving into the region with its fabs. For you though, Tim, to compare the populations between cities based on what actually is within those city boundaries, doesn’t present an entirely accurate picture. Another thing to think about, is that a lot of people who live in the inter-urban cores don’t answer census queries, and a lot of them are independent contractors in high tech who don’t report earnings in a typical, payroll way for census tracking. So where Seattle is concerned, I would estimate that its true within city population is closer to 750,000, but it’s a small boundary, and the cores of the Puget Sound region are between 5 – 6 million at this point

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