U.S. Rural Open Space is 94.6% of all land
by Randal O'Toole
See Arizona Map at:
Arizona Land Distribution
July 2003. A perennial argument for "smart growth"
and compact urban development is that we are running
out of open space. But how much open space is
really left? Data available from the 2000 Census
show that at least 94.6% of the United States is
rural open space, says economist Randal O’Toole
Together, urbanized areas, urban clusters and rural
places occupy 5.4% of the nation’s land, while urban
areas alone cover just 2.6%. Rural open space thus
covers 94.6 to 97.4% of the land.
On a state-by-state basis:
o Four states -- New Jersey, Massachusetts,
Connecticut and Rhode Island -- are 30 to 40%
urbanized and, counting rural places, 40 to 44%
o Delaware and Maryland are 15 to 20%
urbanized and 18 to 23% developed.
o Florida is 11% urbanized and 16% developed.
o Six states -- Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York,
Tennessee, New Hampshire and North Carolina -- are 6
to 10% urbanized and 10 to 13% developed.
o All other states are less than 7% developed.
Unfortunately, data from the 2000 census are not
comparable with numbers from the 1990 census because
the Census Bureau changed many of its definitions,
Among other things, urbanized areas were redefined
to exclude many undeveloped areas. This led to a
10% increase in population density of urbanized
Despite growing populations, the 2000 census
reported many developed areas were smaller than
measured by the 1990 census.
Source: Randal O’Toole, "Another ‘Smart Growth’
Myth: U.S. Is Running Out of Space," Volume 12,
Number 7, July 2003, Carolina Journal.
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