This is the final factoid in a series of four factoids detailing the migration of the U.S. population to populous cities, creating a Big and Small America. From the 2016 Population Estimates Report done by the U.S. Census Bureau, over 50 percent of residents live in just 143 counties (Big America) with the remaining 50 percent spread out over a vast area encompassing 2,999 additional counties (Small America).
Fourteen states have no Big counties: Alaska, Arkansas, Idaho, Iowa, Louisiana, Maine, Mississippi, Montana, New Hampshire, South Dakota, North Dakota, Vermont, West Virginia, and Wyoming. By comparison, there are 17 states with a majority of residents living in big counties. Massachusetts and New Jersey have the highest percent of Big counties – 50 percent and 47.6 percent respectively. California has the most big counties at 17, followed by Florida and Texas, both with 12. In contrast, states with the highest number of small counties are Texas (223) and Georgia (141), while states with the highest mid-sized (medium) counties include Florida (21), Pennsylvania (20), North Carolina (19), and California (17).
Total U.S. population grew only 0.7 percent last year, with immigration contributing about 45 percent of that growth. Although population growth was slight, 84.3 percent of states experienced increases, leaving 15.7 percent with a decrease (eight states). Utah and Nevada topped the list of states with over 1 percent growth – both increasing by 2 percent. Two highly populated states, Florida and Texas also continued to grow.
Population in three big northern states, New York, Pennsylvania, and Illinois decreased alongside less populated states like Wyoming, Vermont, and West Virginia.
While some manufacturing jobs may return to the U.S., the divide between Big and Small America should accelerate, with metropolitan areas continuing to spread. Along with a majority of the immigrant population settling in the south and west, Americans in general will continue to gravitate to big counties that have warmer climates, job opportunities, and desirable cost of living.
This is the third factoid in a series of four factoids detailing the migration of the U.S. population to populous cities, creating a Big and Small America. From the 2016 Population Estimates Report done by the U.S. Census Bureau, over 50 percent of residents live in just 143 counties (Big America) with the remaining 50 percent spread out over a vast area encompassing 2,999 additional counties (Small America).
The staggering population density in the Northeast is a current key geographic characteristic in the U.S., notably in the New York-Jersey City-White Plains, NY-NJ MSA five key counties. With the exception of San Francisco County, CA, the Northeast contains the most congestion of people with Boston, MA, Philadelphia, PA and Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV MSA’s all containing over 11,000 people per square mile.
Meanwhile, the vast areas of California, Nevada and Arizona make the density in their counties less than .05 percent as dense as the Northeast. For example, New York County (New York City) has almost 72,000 people per square mile living in the county, compared to 2,500 in Los Angeles County, the largest county in population in the United States.
Immigration to Big Counties
Slightly less than one million people immigrated to the U.S. last year, down 3.6 percent from 2015. They represented about 45 percent of U.S. population growth. As shown in Table I, big counties were the major recipients with 74.1 percent of immigrants residing in highly populated areas.
Source: U.S. Census Bureau, 2016 Population Estimates, Population Density = the number of persons per square mile in the county