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Where can I find (on the site of a US government agency, I assume) raw data for the sizes of cities that I can programmatically process? Data indexed by FIPS place codes (i.e. those found here) would be optimal.

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I'm on my way out but check out the US Census, and Tiger, also google should have plenty of answers, but try the dot gov websites first – dassouki Nov 5 '11 at 1:31
up vote 3 down vote accepted

You can download the Census Bureau's 2010 TIGER/Line shapefiles of "Places" (at the state level) through their web interface. All of the features have a FIPS value. I believe these shapefiles include an area field but, if not (or if the area is given in units other than what you're looking for), you can easily create a new field and have the areas calculated automatically.

If all you're looking for is a table of data, download the shapefiles and simply use the .dbf file.

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Thanks, that definitely looks helpful. I'm actually not familiar with processing GIS data in shapefile format... do you know of any way to get the data in a more basic flat text format? – jrdioko Nov 7 '11 at 18:36
@jrdioko you should be able to import the .dbf file from a given shapefile (which is not a single file, as the name suggest, but a collection of a few different files sharnig the same name but different extensions) into Excel and then save it out to whatever format you'd like to work with (XLS, TXT, CSV, etc.). – nmpeterson Nov 7 '11 at 18:46

You could try - they have a map viewer so that you can look at the data before downloading, and a variety of ways to get the data, including an API and data dumps.

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whoops, just saw the geonames link in your post. Is there a problem with Geonames data? – Stev_k Nov 5 '11 at 0:25

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