Half of the total US population is clustered in less than 5% of its counties — that is just 146 out of over 3000. Eyeballing it, it looks like about ~7% of the continental land mass (not counting Alaska, which is huge).

Imagine that: Much less than 10% of the land mass houses more than half the population.


map of us 50 percent
Source: BI

Category: Data Analysis

Please use the comments to demonstrate your own ignorance, unfamiliarity with empirical data and lack of respect for scientific knowledge. Be sure to create straw men and argue against things I have neither said nor implied. If you could repeat previously discredited memes or steer the conversation into irrelevant, off topic discussions, it would be appreciated. Lastly, kindly forgo all civility in your discourse . . . you are, after all, anonymous.

21 Responses to “Half of US PopulatIon Lives In < 10% of the land mass”

  1. sellstop says:

    And I hope you all stay right where you are. The life is tough and we are poverty stricken out here in the hinterlands. LOL


  2. Sawbuck says:

    Great map – and interesting just on its face without digging deeper. But your comments UNDER the map? Those need to go viral!

  3. Jim says:

    45% of the landmass is devoted to agriculture. http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/AG.LND.AGRI.ZS

  4. Captain Ned says:

    And yet the Left wonders why we on the Right so adore the Electoral College. I’d be very happy with an Electoral College that was a county-by-county vote.

    • BillG says:

      The left doesn’t wonder anything. Everyone knows the electoral college favors rural states and those states tend to vote Republican.

  5. mllange says:

    The West is an entirely different country when it comes to land ownership and population density.

    see also (although this doesn’t include or reflect state ownership, which is considerable):

  6. OPnhnd says:

    Imagine that I live good old Lancaster County with the Amish… We thought we were county folks…. turns out so many NY an NJ folks moved here now we one of the most citified places in the good old USA
    Time to move I guess

  7. GuyS says:

    Two highlighted large counties in California (Riverside and San Bernardino) are both larger than 9 states but are quite sparse with 90% of the population of both of them living at the western edge.

    Clark County Nevada and Maricopa County Arizona are other large counties with high density areas and a lot of land mass that is unoccupied, similar to the rest of the Western US

    • PhilW says:

      You can include the population center of Washington state in that list. Snohomish, King and Pierce counties all consist of mostly open land, lakes, national forest, a 86,000 acre military base, and even a volcano (Mt Rainier). The people mostly live on the western edge, along the Puget Sound.

  8. BillG says:

    Exactly how empty this country actually is is something I don’t think many people in the northeast really have a grasp of. Its partly why we have an agricultural preserve taking up a full third of Montgomery County outside DC. Its one thing to preserve open and natural space with parks because people actually use and enjoy those things. But preserving a rural atmosphere in a suburban county where it no longer makes economic sense to farm is ridiculous. This country has more farms than anyone could even count. And if the people that made these crazy preservation laws would ever leave their bougie enclaves they might realize that.

  9. Francisco Bandres de Abarca says:

    It was probably a map much like this one which inspired the ‘New Economic Geography’ musings of Paul Krugman*, addressing the trade advantages of population density.

    *This observation is in no way an endorsement of the views and opinions of Paul Krugman or economists in general–people who are very adept at constructing appealing–but generally lawless–narratives.

  10. Greg0658 says:

    ah a thinking post beyond cash push
    had a few (but tosses caution to the wind)

    1st – is this a post to make folks think the world can handle more population – really?
    2nd – is this a post to encourage earning in high density and move outward for __ ? alphabeta ?
    3rd – is this (remiss) someone needed a story to spike
    4th – now it (the story) gets complicated – stack it like NYC Tokyo everywhere for alphabeta? have you had a pair of those 2for$5 chicken sands from (haha) do your own research

  11. SecondLook says:

    It really shouldn’t be that surprising. Advanced modern societies have been heavily urbanized for some generations now.
    Just a brief snapshot of what percentage of the population is considered urban:

    US: 79%
    Japan: 86%
    Canada: 80%
    UK: 80%
    France: 78% (about 10% of France’s population lives in the Paris region alone)
    Russian Federation: 71%
    Germany: 73%

    Generally, if you live in a country that isn’t utterly poor, you’re very likely to live in a town or city.
    And, urban areas are densely populated; average per square mile globally is around 20,000. The richer countries are much less crowded – suburban life and all that (suburbia is still urban by the way). But just using our low figure of about 3,000 per square mile, that map becomes very self evident.

  12. pneely says:

    If California were divided into counties the way that, say, the Mississippi River valley states are, imagine what Southern California would look like. Vast areas of those southern counties are desert or agriculture. That would make the point of the map even sharper — striking concentrations of population in a few small areas, not related to political representation.

  13. farmera1 says:

    Isn’t this just a take on the old 80/20 rule which makes it predictable. My guess is that close to 80% of the population live in 20% of the counties. The 80/20 rule is a rule of thumb for many things. This is a well known and used (particularly in manufacturing environs) for prioritization in problem solving. For instance 20% manufacturing processes cause 80% of the problems, 20% of the workforce cause 80% of the problems, etc, etc. If I recall my stats classes, it goes back to a normal distribution of things.

  14. Greg0658 says:

    if we generated a future population (of my lifetime in the same exponential)
    it’s too early to number crunch – not enough coffee in me – besides imo it can’t continue as is

    interesting jump thru multi-centuries

    a white paper “Deaths in Wars and Conflicts in the 20th Century”
    bottom line “Total = approximately 40,968,000, rounded to 41 million”

    I sometimes wonder what the population woulda been – without war .. and more than the 41M .. the births that would have happened to those 41M … then again many times the men die in war – which means the remaining men have a better chance at getting lucky

  15. WickedGreen says:

    Sure, that pop. lives in those places; their needs and discretionary desires draw from far, far beyond.

    Ponder for a moment the global infrastructure needed to sustain this arrangement, 24/7.

    It’s an open, ongoing debate as to whether this sort of density pattern is ‘good’ or ‘bad’ for the environment / conservation / biodiversity, etc. NYC has a low carbon footprint given its millions, but there are few environmental services being produced amongst all that asphalt aned concrete. On the other hand, just a few slash-and-burn agriculturalists can do major damage over vast landscapes.

    Some day, probably soon, and likely by obligation rather than choice, humanity will discover that growth as we have known it in the past is not inherently a good thing.

    Don’t know if Big Blue is correct about just being smarter – whatever that means – but if you look at the global natural resources account, we’re burning through it faster and faster.

    And we’re not making any deposits – much less new income-yielding investments.

  16. Greg0658 says:

    WickedGreen – imo mass transportation is Green to earth and hense us humans – it uses less commodities of steel stuff and oil to move people (over those cars stuck in traffic patterns)

    also that vast farmland angle – it needs some root support of people to produce stuff from its vastness and a Green delivery system to bring it to the mass population doing what they do

    my issue I can’t get through is this angle of competition for cashAir to survive thru good & bad times with our current opsys

    more band is needed and less sports

  17. Greg0658 says:

    RickSantelli @squawkstreet (just minutes ago)

    in Sept’08 work’g population ratio fell down and broke its crown after yrs & yrs relative flatline

    but what about the war machine for oil dominance till then
    but what about the building buildings bubble till then
    all so skyscrapers would need to be -ie cheap foreign manufacture’g zones

    bought time – drug the world into an opsys tarpit