At a recent dinner, we were discussing where people lived — I mentioned I read nearly 60% of the country lived East of the Mississippi River 1 — and was immediately challenged on that data point.
Astonishing: this map shows how much of the West is just empty land:
5 million Census Blocks with zero population
Green shading indicates unoccupied Census Blocks. A single inhabitant is enough to omit a block from shading.
A Block is the smallest area unit used by the U.S. Census Bureau for tabulating statistics. As of the 2010 census, the United States consists of 11,078,300 Census Blocks. Of them, 4,871,270 blocks totaling 4.61 million square kilometers were reported to have no population living inside them. Despite having a population of more than 310 million people, 47 percent of the USA remains unoccupied.
1. Wikipedia says the number is 58.28%, not counting Puerto Rico’s 3.4 million people. But that is not a definitive source to me