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A side-by-side comparison of cities’ sizes. (Image: Matt Hartzell)

Everything's Bigger in America, Especially Urban Sprawl

Eight other cities (total population: 100 million) fit into the footprint of Atlanta (population: 5 million)

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The Rorschach-looking chart above, made by Matthew Hartzell for his blog, is one of the most interesting side-by-side comparisons we've ever seen for helping to put the world's cities in context. In the full comparison, which you can find here, Hartzell cut 54 major world cities out and laid them down at the same scale. The chart is a wonderful demonstration of just how big America's cities really are, dominating, by sheer acreage, 7 of the top 10 slots.

But apart from being big, America's cities are, comparatively, very sparsely populated. New York (when you count Long Island and parts of New Jersey as part of the larger urban area) is the world's biggest city by size, but only 9th by population. Atlanta is the world's 6th largest city, geographically, but is also stunningly empty. Hartzell:

America's sprawled out landscapes have been helped by, but also promote, a dependence on automobiles. In Los Angeles, as of 2010, around 12 million people owned 6.4 million cars. In the much-denser Beijing, 20.6 million drive around 5 million cars.

As we've previously discussed, different countries' citizens have different “global footprints.” If everyone on Earth lived like an American, we would need roughly 4.1 Earths.

More from Smithsonian.com:

If We All Lived Like UAE Citizens, We’d Need 5.4 Earths

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About Colin Schultz
Colin Schultz

Colin Schultz is a freelance science writer and editor based in Toronto, Canada. He blogs for Smart News and contributes to the American Geophysical Union. He has a B.Sc. in physical science and philosophy, and a M.A. in journalism.

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