#113. Just How Much of America is Developed?

Posted on | The Agurban

From time to time, the term “sprawl”, as in “urban sprawl” or “suburban sprawl” jumps back into the headlines. A recent article at washingtonpost.com put this into perspective.

Just How Much of America is Developed?

What would you guess is the percentage of the United States that is developed? Twenty five? Fifty? How about 5.4 percent? That is what the Census Bureau figures. The bureau says that an area is “developed” when it has 30 or more people per square mile – not exactly crowded.

Because most people live in developed areas, it is easy to get the impression that humans have trampled nature. However, you only need to take a cross-country flight and look down, to realize that our nation is mostly wide open space. There is even evidence that Mother Nature is gaining ground. The U.S. Forest Service notes that the “total area of forests has been fairly stable since about 1920.” Agricultural innovations have a lot to do with this. Farmers can raise more on less land.

American houses are getting larger (averaging 2,260 square feet in 2000), but homeowners are using land more efficiently. Between 1970 and 2000, the average lot size shrank from 14,000 square feet to 10,000.

Housing in this country takes up less space than most people realize. If the nation was divided into four- person households and each household had an acre, everyone would fit in an area half the size of Texas.

So enjoy the wide open spaces of your rural communities! And welcome newcomers!