Maps That Might Make You Rethink How You See the World

Nearly Half of the United States of America is Uninhabited.

This map, created by Nick Freeman, fills in the blanks about where people actually live in the United States. “Human geographers spend so much time thinking about where people are,” Freeman writes. “I thought I might bring some new insight by showing where they are not.”

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Maps By Nik

The dark green area represents U.S. census blocks where the reported population equals zero, meaning no one calls it home. Out of the 11,078,300 “U.S. Census Blocks,” an astonishing 4.8+ million blocks have no population to them, meaning there are 4.61 million square unoccupied kilometers in the U.S (or 1.78 million square miles). Although the population of the U.S. exceeds 310 million people, 47% of the country remains unoccupied. Some of these areas are simply uninhabitable (i.e., lakes, rivers, deserts or land where settlement is prohibited). But others are just empty because, well, apparently nobody wants to live there.

A critical question arises, however, when we calculate the relative electoral power of some of these sparsely inhabited states. According to Slate.com’s Chris Kirk, “The average electoral vote represents 436,000 people, but that number rises and falls per state depending on that state’s population over 18 years of age.” The power of a state’s electoral vote skews higher if it has decreased population, meaning that votes cast in North Dakota, Vermont, and Wyoming’s hold more power than in other states with larger numbers of voting residents. Wyoming far undercut the benchmark of 436,000 residents per electoral vote with a population of just 143,000 people in the 2012 election but an electoral count of three, especially in comparison to states like New York which has approximately 500,000 citizens per electoral vote. Kirk writes, “In other words, one Wyoming voter has roughly the same vote power as four New York voters.” Voters in these smaller states thus hold greater influence when it comes to determining the outcome of an election.

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