What's The Difference Between A Town And A City?

Definition of "What's the difference between a town and a city?"

Jason Lee  Katz real estate agent

Written by

Jason Lee Katzelite badge icon

RE/MAX Centre Realtors

Across the world, we can see patterns that don’t correspond with what is applied in the US, so there is no universal way to define a town or a city. The population is just one of the factors taken into account when determining a community’s status as a town or city, but there are others as well. If we go by the minimum population requirements for a community to be considered a city, Denmark needs only 200 residents while Japan needs 50,000 residents. The simplest way to define and differentiate the two is by stating that a city is larger than a town. That is the only general and universal rule that could be applied everywhere, but this isn’t always the case.

Towns and Cities in the US

Figuring out whether you live in a town or a city can impact how you view your leaders, your government, and your taxes. These are all reasons why this question needs to be answered. There are a few differences between the two entities, but unfortunately, it’s not always easy to decide which is which. The population requirement for a city in the US is 2,500 residents. There are, however, cities with less than that which are still incorporated as cities. Other factors to take into account are the level of government and activities available throughout the community.

We’ll try to settle this debate and apply it to the US population keeping in mind that the population is only one factor that will help us determine. We will also focus on other factors to better understand the differences between a town and a city, to help us distinguish one from the other.

What is a City?

The simplest way to define a city is as an urban area that is self-governing a mostly permanent and intensely organized population center. As stated above, a city is larger than a town but also more important.

Common characteristics that cities have in common are their urbanization level: paved streets, tall buildings, public transportation, etc. In a city, there is little to no agricultural activity as stores and markets supply the demand of the residents. There is also limited space for sizable vacant land areas as the essential use for land is commercial or residential real estate for the residents. The people making and implementing policies for the residents of a city are elected officials.

Some well-known cities across the US are New York City, Chicago, or Orlando.

What is a Town?

The most basic manner to define a town is as a residential semi rural (but not exclusively) area that isn’t as large as a city but is bigger than a village. Because towns have no exact borders and can be intertwined with villages, they can’t be as easily spotted as cities.

Among the typical characteristics of a town, we can mention that they have more rural areas while not entirely rural and can host agricultural activities. One of the factors that have an immediate and rapid effect on the town’s growth is specialized economic activities. Mining is still an important one in the US, as trade used to be in the 1800s. Towns don’t have elected officials, and the policy decisions are made through town meetings and taxpayers’ meetings, or townships.

Some well-known towns across the US are Chautauqua NY, Los Gatos CA, or Helen GA.

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