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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — Huntsville has surpassed Birmingham to become Alabama’s largest city, but the number of people living within the city limits doesn’t tell the whole story when comparing the two.

It’s probably not surprising to most that Birmingham, as a regional destination, remains larger than the Huntsville area in several ways.

Madison County has a total population of 388,153. Huntsville makes up 215,006 of that figure. Madison, the other incorporated city in the county, has 56,933 residents.

Jefferson County’s population far exceeds Madison County’s. Birmingham’s home county has a population of 674,721 people. Madison County actually is third largest in the state. behind Mobile, which has a population of 414,809.

A look at the metropolitan statistical areas that contain each city also shows that the Birmingham area is still way ahead of north central Alabama in terms of population.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, metropolitan statistical areas are core areas containing a substantial core population, as well as adjacent communities connected socially and economically with that core.
The Huntsville metropolitan statistical area, which is defined in the census as Madison and Limestone counties, has a population of 491,723 — still smaller than Jefferson County alone.

The Birmingham-Hoover metropolitan statistical area actually contains six counties: Bibb, Blount, Chilton, Jefferson, St. Clair and Shelby. That area had more than double the Huntsville metro population, with 1,115,289 people. That doesn’t take into account Tuscaloosa County, which borders Jefferson and has another 227,036 people.

More quick facts about the two from the Census Bureau:

  • According to Census Bureau data collected during the American Community Survey, there are more expensive homes in Huntsville, which has a median home value of $182,900. Birmingham’s median home value was half that, at $91,100.

    But outside the city and within the confines of their counties, more homes were more valuable. Madison, which borders Huntsville in Madison County, had a median home value of $253,000.

    Suburbs of Birmingham also had higher-priced homes. Hoover’s median was $291,000, Homewood’s was $347,800 and Vestavia Hills stood at $376,200, more than four times the value of the median Birmingham single-family home.
  • The Rocket City has more computers in homes. 91 percent of Huntsville households have computers, compared to 83 percent of Birmingham homes. More homes have high-speed internet in Huntsville, 85 percent, than in Birmingham, 72 percent.
  • Huntsville has a higher percentage of college graduates. 44 percent of residents age 25 and older have a bachelor’s degree or higher. In Birmingham, it’s 27.4 percent.
  • Sixty-two percent of Huntsville’s population is in the labor force. That’s the highest of the larger cities in the state. Birmingham isn’t far behind at 60 percent.
  • Huntsville’s median income is the highest in the state coming in at $55,000 a year. Birmingham is much lower that $37,000.
  • Census data shows 51 percent of Huntsville’s population is female. Twenty percent of residents are under the age of 18, whereas that number in Montgomery is 23 percent. The highest in the state. Huntsville’s 65+ population makes up 16 percent of the population.