Here's a Map of the 47 Percent of America Where No One Lives

As anyone who's driven through Middle America knows, it feels like there's very few places in the U.S. that don't have at least a few inhabitants. But as a map by cartographer Nik Freeman proves, there are still some amber waves of grain and fruited plains that remain. Emphasis on some.

Highlighted on the Washington Post's Know More blog today, Freeman's map shows us the places where no one—really, no one—lives. "Human geographers spend so much time thinking about where people are," explains Freeman. "I thought I might bring some new insight by showing where they are not, adding contrast and context to the typical displays of the country's population geography."

Here's a Map of the 47 Percent of America Where No One Lives


How did he define "where no one lives?" Simple: By choosing census tracts listed with population zero—in all, over 4.8 million individual tracts. How big is each tract? Freeman explains on his website:

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.

As he also points out, this is really a map of the pieces of the country that are either physically impossible to live (sections of mountain ranges, for example) or legally protected by the federal government, like Yellowstone and the Everglades.

It's not so much that these places are "empty" for lack of people who want to live there—it's that we've made laws that forbid them to. [Nik Freeman; Washington Post]