The United States’ Fascinatingly Uneven Population Distribution

It is easy for us Americans to underestimate just how big our country is, both geographically and demographically. At a little over 320 million people, only China and India (each with over a billion inhabitants) have larger populations. And in terms of territorial size, only Russia, Canada, and (by some measurements) China are bigger.

Along with Japan, the U.S. is the only developed country with over 100 million people, and also among the few developed countries to be so big territorially; only fellow Anglophone nations Canada and Australia are both highly developed and fairly large by global standards. The norm is for most industrialized societies to be small or medium range in population and size.

The sheer sense of living space is all the greater when one realizes how unevenly distributed the U.S. population is. The following maps by dadaviz user Jishai, obtained view Headlines and Mental Floss really help to put these things in perspective. Though lacking the sort of international comparisons I started off with, they should how vast the disparities are even within the U.S. itself. Take note that for every map, the red and orange represents roughly equal population sizes.

Unsurprisingly, most of the biggest counties are concentrated among the top ten states in terms of population. Which leads to the next map.

While some of the biggest states include historic centers of population and industry like New York, Pennsylvania, and Ohio, the majority are now located in the so-called Sunbelt, the southern and southwestern regions that have been swelling both demographically and economically since the 1960s (and which subsequently command greater political sway, as is especially the case of California, Texas, and Florida, each among the top five in population).

As the largest state in the nation, with 35 million residents, it is no surprise that California would host a county equal in population to one-third of all U.S. counties. But it is still fascinating to see how this plays out visually; more people are crammed into this one corner of southern California than in huge swathes of the U.S.

Which leads nicely to the next and final map.

If you think almost outnumbering one out of three countries is something, try nine whole states. Needless to say, Americans have quite a lot of options to choose from as far as where to live; hence why homeownership, big living spaces, and high internal migration are practically the bedrocks of American culture (for better or worse).

This also explains why so many rural and medium-sized communities are seeing an influx of residents, both from within and without the U.S. Some of the fastest growing cities range from Buckeye, Arizona and Boise, Idaho, though it also includes suburbs or exurbs of bigger metropolitan areas like those in Texas, Florida, and California.

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