Data Visualization & Analysis

October 2022

By the numbers: Definition, demographics, and climate risks of U.S. coastal cities

By the numbers: Definition, demographics, and climate risks of U.S. coastal cities


What defines a coastal city? The answer is surprisingly elusive. To inform our work, we need to know more about the people who call these diverse and increasingly vulnerable urban areas home. This publication presents our definition of “coastal city” and an analysis of the demographics of coastal city populations.

Key takeaways

This study’s findings are foundational to developing more equitable and effective policy solutions to confront our climate crisis and increase resilience in coastal urban areas.

There are 375 coastal cities in the United States.

They collectively comprise around 0.5 percent of the total U.S. land area.

One in five people in the U.S. live in coastal cities.

U.S. costal cities have a combined population of over 65 million people, or 20 percent of the total population.

Coastal cities are home to populations that are disproportionately impacted by climate change.

Nearly 60% of coastal city residents are people of color, 50% are renters, and 16% are living in poverty—all higher than the national average.


Urban Ocean Lab is a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit that cultivates rigorous, creative, equitable, and practical climate and ocean policy for the future of coastal cities.

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