Population Geography of the United States

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The United States represents a vast area of land with 3.79 million square miles (9.83 million square kilometers) in size.  A recent release of population figures by the U.S. Census Bureau (August 25, 2021) puts the current population of the United States at 332,670,912. The population count of the United States based on the 2020 census was 331,449,281 people,

This makes the U.S. is the third most populous country (after China and India) and the fourth largest country (after Russia, Canada, and China).  

The top ten most populous countries are:

  1. China 1,397,897,720
  2. India 1,339,330,514
  3. United States 332,475,723
  4. Indonesia 275,122,131
  5. Pakistan 238,181,034
  6. Nigeria 219,463,862
  7. Brazil 213,445,417
  8. Bangladesh 164,098,818
  9. Russia 142,320,790
  10. Mexico 130,207,371

Quick Facts About Population Changes in the United States

Per the U.S. Census Bureau, this averages out to a birth every eight seconds and one death every 12 seconds. Every 670 seconds the U.S. gains one new international immigrant. The overall population gain is one net person every 22 seconds.

Population Density

While the population of the United States varies greatly within the geography of the United States, the average population density is 87 persons per square mile. This makes the United States the 146th most densely populated country in the world.

Population Center of the United States

The mean population center of the United States is a calculation from the U.S. Census Bureau that calculates where the pull of different populations ares is balanced out. Since the first census of 1790, the pull of settlers and migration towards the West Coast has move the mean population center gradually westward.

This map created by the U.S. Census Bureau shows how the mean population center of the United States has shifted from Kent County in Maryland in 1790 to Texas County in Missouri in 2010.

Map showing the mean population centers between 1790 and 2010. Map: U.S. Census Bureau.
Map showing the mean population centers between 1790 and 2010. Map: U.S. Census Bureau.

In 2020, the mean population shifted again, moving 18.3 miles (29.5 kilometers) west to Wright County, Missouri from the 2010 mean population center.

Table: National Centers of Population

Census YearNorth LatitudeWest LatitudeApproximate Location
United States
202037.37325392.173096Wright County, MO, 9.0 miles north northeast of Hartville
201037.51753492.173096Texas County, MO, 2.7 miles northeast of Plato
200037.6969991.80957Phelps County, MO, 2.8 miles east of Edgar Springs
199037.8722291.21528Crawford County, MO, 9.7 miles southeast of Steelville
198038.1369490.57389Jefferson County, MO, 1/4 mile west of DeSoto
197038.4630689.70611St. Clair County, IL, 5 miles east-southeast of Mascoutah
196038.5994489.20972Clinton County, IL, 6 1/2 miles northwest of Centralia
195038.8041788.36889Clay County, IL, 3 miles northeast of Louisville
Coterminous United States1
195038.8391788.15917Richland County, IL, 8 miles north-northwest of Olney
194038.9483387.37639Sullivan County, IN, 2 mile southeast by east of Carlisle
193039.0625087.13500Greene County, IN, 3 miles northeast of Linton
192039.1725086.72083Owen County, IN, 8 miles south-southeast of Spencer
191039.1700086.53889Monroe County, IN, in the city of Bloomington
190039.1600085.81500Bartholomew County, IN, 6 miles southeast of Columbus
189039.1988985.54806Decatur County, IN, 20 miles east of Columbus
188039.0688984.66111Boone County, KY, 8 mile west by south of Cincinnati, OH
187039.2000083.59500Highland County, OH, 48 miles east by north of Cincinnati
186039.0066782.81333Pike County, OH, 20 miles south by east of Chillicothe
185038.9833381.31667Wirt County, WV, 23 miles southeast of Parkersburg2
184039.0333380.30000Upshur County, WV, 16 miles south of Clarksburg.
Upshur County was formed from parts of Barbour, Lewis, and Randolph Counties in 18512.
183038.9650079.28167Grant County, WV, 19 miles west-southwest of Morefiled.
Grant County was formed from part of Hardy County in 18662.
182039.0950078.55000Hardy County, WV, 16 mile east of Moorefield2
181039.1916777.62000Loudoun County, VA, 40 miles northwest by west of Washington, DC
180039.2683376.94167Howard County, MD, 18 miles west of Baltimore.
Howard County was formed from part of Anne Arundel County in 1851.
179039.2750076.18667Kent County, MD, 23 miles east of Baltimore
Source:
National Centers of Population for the 1790 – 2010 Censuses, U.S. Census Bureau

1Coterminous United States excludes Alaska and Hawaii

2West Virginia was set off from Virginia, December 31, 1862, and admitted as a state June 19, 1863.

Map of Where Nobody Lives in the United States

Nik Freeman, who runs a map blog, mapsbynick on tumblr, decided to take a look at where people don’t live across the United States.  Using 2010 Census Bureau block data, Freeman pulled census blocks with zero recorded inhabitants.  The 2010 Census broke down the areas of the United States into 11,078,300 census blocks.  Freeman found that 4,871,270 of the blocks covering an area of 4.61 million square kilometers were uninhabited.  A little under half of the census block areas (47%) were vacant.  

Freeman noted that two main categories determined areas of human absence.  The first is areas where it is physically impossible or challenging to live such as water bodies, steep mountainous terrain, or extreme desert areas.  The second are areas where human habitation is prohibited such as protected wilderness areas or military bases.

To explore the map and to see more of Freeman’s analysis of the map visit: Nobody lives here: The nearly 5 million Census Blocks with zero population.

Nobody lives here: The nearly 5 million Census Blocks with zero population.  Map by Nik Freeman.
Nobody lives here: The nearly 5 million Census Blocks with zero population. Map by Nik Freeman.

A similar map showing uninhabited areas of France was also recently posted to Freeman’s blog.  Created by @matamix, the map uses population data from INSEE to show that about 31% of France is currently unpopulated.

References

Population clock. (2021, August 26). Census.gov. https://www.census.gov/popclock/

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