Without further ado, here’s the answer: Montreal. You may have thought Manhattan had to be the most populated of the two because it’s the central island in New York City, the largest city and metropolitan area in the US, but this was another trick question.
Montreal Island has a population of 1.942 million inhabitants, while Manhattan Island is home to 1.629 million inhabitants. We’ll talk about the cities below, but the question was about the islands; it’s another of those trivia items that many people are surprised about when I tell them.
The key here is just the sheer size of the islands. Manhattan is much more densely populated than Montreal is, but Montreal is a lot bigger.
To give these numbers some context, we’ll take a look at how densely populated these islands are and how large of an area they cover.
- Montreal Island occupies an area of 499 square kilometers
- Manhattan Island occupies an area of 59 square kilometers
Even though Montreal Island has a larger population, it covers an area almost 10 times larger than Manhattan’s. Thus, the density of Montreal is only 3,882 inhabitants per square kilometer, while the density of Manhattan is 26,821 inhabitants per square kilometer, or almost 7 times more.
But Manhattan is just one of the 5 boroughs of New York City, and it is the densest one.
So if we look at the total city population (which isn’t really relevant, I’ll tell you why below) and not just the island of Manhattan, it isn’t even close:
- New York City has over 8 million inhabitants
- Montreal has under 2 million inhabitants
The difference is even more striking when we look at the total metropolitan area population, which includes nearby municipalities.
This is what we should always look at, and I feel very strongly about this, personally: city population numbers are quite misleading, and frankly quite useless. Keep in mind, these are just arbitrary imaginary lines, and a “city” is much more than just the municipal boundaries. The entire surrounding area that revolves around and centers on the city in question is what really tells you how big a city is.
The best example is in Florida: the most populous city is Jacksonville, with a city population of 900,000. Miami’s imaginary city lines only encompass 470,000 inhabitants.
But the Jacksonville metropolitan area? Only 1.5 million in total. The Miami metropolitan area? Four times more; a whopping 6 million in total, by far the largest in Florida and the 8th largest in the US (while Miami “city” population ranks 40th in the US).
The “city” population means nothing. It really depends on whether many neighborhoods are incorporated as separate municipalities, like in Miami, or if they all belong to one municipality, like in Jacksonville. Administrative details. The essence of a city does not stop at imaginary lines.
So Greater Montreal comprises a total population of approximately 4 million, good for 19th position in North America.
And, not surprisingly, New York City’s metropolitan area is huge. It spans across 4 states: New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and even Pennsylvania.
Obviously, it has a much larger population—it has a whopping 20 million inhabitants. It’s the 2nd-largest in North America, behind only Mexico City.
Since American cities are so spread out, New York City actually is the largest metropolitan area in the world by urban landmass (total urbanized area). That is despite having fewer inhabitants than Mexico City and a few (more compact) Asian cities, at least 7 depending on the definitions used (Tokyo, Shanghai, Jakarta, Seoul, Guangzhou, Beijing, and Manila).
That is one of the reasons many people keep using the city population even if it’s misleading: it is clearly-defined and not ambiguous at all. The metropolitan area population really depends on which boundaries you include and, therefore, can vary a bit depending on the measurements used. But it’s still more representative of reality.
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So, now you know! Montreal Island has a slightly larger population, but the area it encompasses is way larger than Manhattan’s. And you know that the numbers are much different when looking at the entire NYC population, whether it is the city itself or the entire metropolitan area.
You can also read our previous quizzes:
- – 40° F or – 40° C: Which One Is Colder?
- Canada or USA: Which Country Is Bigger In Land Area (Excluding Water)
- Spain or Brazil: Which Country Does France Share Its Longest Border With?
Did you guess correctly? Which island have you visited? Let us know in the comments!
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Featured image: Manhattan (Photo Credit: Jamshed Khedri) and Montreal (Photo Credit: Roberto Nickson)
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