How Much Land does the U.S. Military Control in Each State?
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How Much Land does the U.S. Military Control in Each State?

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How Much Land does the U.S. Military Own in Each State?

The United States spends an unparalleled amount of money on its military⁠—about $778 billion each year to be precise.

Additionally, the U.S. military also owns, leases, or operates an impressive real estate portfolio with buildings valued at $749 billion and a land area of 26.9 million acres⁠, of which around 98% is located within the United States.

This visual, using data from the Department of Defense (DoD) reveals how much of each state the U.S. military owns, leases, or operates on.

This map visualizes the share of a state comprised by military sites, which the Department of Defense defines as a specific geographic location that has individual land parcels or facilities assigned to it. The geographical location is leased to, owned by, or otherwise under the jurisdiction of the DoD.

What is Military Land Used For?

The DoD is the larger government umbrella under which the military falls and the department operates on over 26 million acres of land stateside.

To further break it down the U.S. military is divided into four main branches:

  • Army
  • Navy
  • Air Force
  • Marine Corps

There is also the Space Force, the Coast Guard, and the National Guard. However, most of the land is dedicated to the Army, which is the military’s largest branch.

Military bases are used for training and housing soldiers, testing weapons and equipment, conducting research, and running active operations, among other things. A large majority of the square footage is actually designated for family housing.

For example, Fort Bragg, North Carolina, which is one of the most famous U.S. Army bases, is home to more than 260,000 people including the families of soldiers. The base, which is virtually its own city, is the largest U.S. Army installation with 53,700 troops—nearly 10% of the Army—and over 14,000 civilian employees.

Which States Have the Biggest Military Presence?

Looking at the largest total sites, the top 10 combined cover an astonishing 13,927,470 acres, larger than 10 individual states including New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Hawaii.

Here’s a look at the size of the military’s sites in each state and how much of that state’s land the sites take up:

StateSite (Acres)Share of State's Total Land
Hawaii228,6395.6%
Nevada3,541,9495.0%
New Mexico3,889,6385.0%
Arizona3,042,0284.2%
District of Columbia1,5253.9%
California3,655,1803.7%
Utah1,883,2343.6%
Washington941,1462.2%
Florida690,9942.0%
Maryland115,1581.9%
Georgia589,0601.6%
New Jersey71,8221.5%
North Carolina411,1521.3%
Virginia289,8151.2%
Texas1,690,7251.0%
Louisiana272,3571.0%
Massachusetts39,1070.8%
Colorado476,0560.7%
Kentucky180,8520.7%
Indiana160,1030.7%
Mississippi176,7450.6%
South Carolina109,9380.6%
Alaska2,057,3510.6%
Tennessee147,8390.6%
Alabama166,8000.5%
Oklahoma223,6320.5%
New York152,6110.5%
Wisconsin155,5000.5%
Rhode Island2,2800.3%
Delaware4,1700.3%
Kansas140,9730.3%
Arkansas88,0720.3%
Idaho136,3500.3%
Oregon140,2940.2%
Pennsylvania61,3230.2%
Missouri88,2400.2%
Vermont1,15200.2%
Ohio35,1500.1%
Maine18,7420.1%
Illinois31,1650.1%
North Dakota31,9370.1%
Iowa24,5060.1%
Montana56,9980.1%
Connecticut1,7530.1%
New Hampshire3,2250.1%
Wyoming31,9840.1%
Nebraska21,2720.04%
Michigan14,0040.04%
West Virginia3,0840.02%
South Dakota9,6810.02%
Minnesota2,7360.01%

In Hawaii, 5.6% of the state belongs to the military. The historic Pearl Harbor on the island of Oahu is still an active base, housing both the Navy and the Air Force.

In the nation’s capital, Washington D.C., 3.9% of the small district is owned or operated on by the military—there are approximately 18 independent sites in the city.

Most of the DoD’s land is in the southwestern United States. One major benefit is that there are areas large enough in these states to test hugely destructive weapons without harming anyone. The atomic bomb was first detonated in the middle of nowhere in New Mexico at the White Sands Missile Range, the biggest military site in the country.

Almost all of the largest military sites fall under the Army branch, which has over 415,000 active personnel. Here’s a look at the U.S. military breakdown in terms of population:

  • Active Duty:
    • Army: 415,967
    • Navy: 304,118
    • Marine Corps: 146,728
    • Air Force (also includes Space Force): 273,983
    • Coast Guard: 38,829
  • Reserves: 438,645

Beyond just the presence of soldiers across the states, the military also represents a lot of jobs. In total, both on U.S. soil and globally the DoD provides nearly 2.9 million jobs from active duty troops to civilian positions within the military. In California, for example, the military provides over 62,000 civilian jobs.

U.S. Military Presence Beyond its Borders

When it comes to all the land that the military both owns and leases globally, the figure is huge, coming out to 26.9 million acres. The Army controls 51% of the DoD’s land, followed by the Air Force’s 32%.

Military land owned by the DoD can be found outside the U.S. in 8 territories and 45 foreign countries. Here’s a breakdown of where the majority of the U.S.’ foreign bases are:

  • 🇩🇪 Germany: 194 sites
  • 🇯🇵 Japan: 121 sites
  • 🇰🇷 South Korea: 83 sites

In places where there are ongoing conflicts, the U.S. has a few permanent forces. In regular times in Ukraine, there are 23 active duty soldiers permanently stationed. In Russia there are 41 active duty U.S. troops. However, President Joe Biden has recently announced that he will increase the U.S.’ military presence across Europe because of the war in Ukraine.

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Real Estate

The Median Lot Size in Every U.S. State in 2022

Lot sizes in the U.S. are shrinking compared to a few decades ago. Here’s a look at the median lot size in every U.S. state.

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Comparing median lot sizes in every U.S. state

The Median Lot Size in Every U.S. State in 2022

The “American Dream” is often associated with imagery of spacious estates adorned with white picket fences, wrap-around porches, and sprawling green lawns that seem to go on forever.

But in reality, modern American life has become much more compact. Over the last few decades, the typical lot size in the U.S. has decreased significantly—from 18,760 square feet in 1978 to 13,896 in 2020.

While lot sizes are getting smaller overall, there are still large discrepancies in lot sizes from state to state. This graphic by Angi uses data from the 2022 U.S. Lot Size Index to show the median lot size in every U.S. State, using data from 312,456 Zillow listings as of May 2022.

Largest and Smallest Median Lot Sizes by State

When it comes to the states with the largest plots of land, New England dominates the ranking, with Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine at the top of the list.

RankStateMedian lot size (sq.ft.)
1Vermont78,408
2New Hampshire49,223
3Maine45,738
4Montana43,560
5Alaska42,423
6Mississippi31,799
7Connecticut30,928
8Arkansas24,829
9Tennessee24,394
10Georgia22,215

New England was one of the first regions settled by the Europeans in Colonial America. This long history, along with a large rural population, could explain why the area has strict zoning policies that limit density and require large minimum lot sizes for new builds.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, Nevada ranks as the state with the smallest median lot size:

RankStateMedian lot size (sq.ft.)
1Nevada7,405
2California8,327
3Arizona8,726
4Illinois9,025
5Texas9,540
6Colorado10,019
7Florida10,019
8North Dakota10,019
9New Jersey10,019
10Ohio10,019

One possible explanation is that Nevada’s population boom—and subsequent development—is relatively recent. Newer homes listed in the dataset tend to have smaller lot sizes, and in Nevada, 34.6% of homes included in the research were built in 2000 or later.

Comparing Lot Size to Land Price

Generally speaking, the states with the biggest lots also tend to have the cheapest land when broken down per square foot. For instance, in Vermont, properties sold for a median $5.95 per square foot.

comparing average lot sizes in the U.S. to price

View the full-size infographic

On the flip side, in Nevada, land sold for a median $82.80 per square foot—that’s the third most expensive of any state.

Of course, other factors are at play here when it comes to the cost of land. Like anything else that’s for sale, the price of a lot is governed largely by the laws of supply and demand.

For example, housing supply is scarce in Hawaii, where only 4.9% of the land is zoned for residential development, and the median home size is much smaller than in other parts of the country. Not surprisingly, the median plot of land in Hawaii costs $110.86 per square foot, the most expensive on the list.

The Future of Housing in America

Lot sizes remain relatively large in some states for now, but as the U.S. population continues to become more urbanized, living conditions in America could get even tighter.

Will America hold onto its spacious way of living, or could life in the U.S. start to resemble more densely populated regions in the future?

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Demographics

3D Map: The World’s Largest Population Density Centers

What does population density look like on a global scale? These detailed 3D renders illustrate our biggest urban areas and highlight population trends.

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global population density map

A 3D Look at the Largest Population Density Centers

It can be difficult to comprehend the true sizes of megacities, or the global spread of 8 billion people, but this series of population density maps makes the picture abundantly clear.

Created using the EU’s population density data and mapping tool Aerialod by Alasdair Rae, the 3D-rendered maps highlight demographic trends and geographic constraints.

Though they appear topographical and even resemble urban areas, the maps visualize population density in squares. The height of each bar represents the number of people living in that specific square, with the global map displaying 2km x 2km squares and subsequent maps displaying 1km x 1km squares.

Each region and country tells its own demographic story, but the largest population clusters are especially illuminating.

China vs U.S. — Clusters vs Sprawl

population density spikes around China

Click here to view the high resolution version.

Zooming into the most populated country in the world, China and its surrounding neighbors demonstrate massive clusters of urbanization.

Most people are familiar with the large density centers around Hong Kong, Guangzhou, and Shanghai, but the concentration in central China is surprising. The cities of Chengdu and Chonqing, in the Sichuan Basin, are part of a massive population center.

Interestingly, more than 93% of China’s population lives in the Eastern half of the country. It’s a similar story in neighboring South Korea and Taiwan, where the population is clustered along the west coasts.

population density spikes in the united states

Click here to view the high resolution version.

The U.S. also has large population clusters along the coasts, but far more sprawl compared to its Asian counterparts. Though the Boston-Washington corridor is home to over 50 million residents, major centers spread out the population across the South and the Midwest.

Clearly visible are clusters in Florida (and not exclusively focused around Miami like some might believe), Illinois, Georgia, and Texas. The population is sparse in the West as expected, but California’s Los Angeles and Bay Area metros make up for the discrepancy and are just behind New York City’s density spikes in height.

India & Southeast Asia — Massive Density in Tight Areas

population density spikes around India

Click here to view the high resolution version.

At 1.38 billion people, India’s population is just behind China’s in terms of size. However, this sizable population fits into an area just one-third of China’s total land area, with the above map demonstrating what the same amount of people looks like in a smaller region.

On one hand, you still have clear clusters, such as in Mumbai, New Delhi, Kolkata, and Bangladesh’s Dhaka. On the other, there is a finite amount of room for a massive amount of people, so those density “spikes” are more like density “peaks” with the entire country covered in high density bars.

However, we can still see geographic trends. India’s population is more densely focused in the North before fading into the Himalayas. Bangladesh is equally if not more densely populated, with the exception of the protected Sundarbans mangrove forest along the coast. And Pakistan’s population seen in the distance is clustered along the Indus River.

population density spikes in Southeast Asia

Click here to view the high resolution version.

Geographic constraints have always been the biggest deciding factor when it comes to population density, and nowhere is this more apparent than Southeast Asia.

Take Indonesia, the fourth largest country by population. Despite spanning across many islands, more than half of the country’s 269 million inhabitants are clustered on the single island of Java. The metros of Jakarta and Surabaya have experienced massive growth, but spreading that growth across oceans to entirely new islands (covered by rainforests) is a tall order.

When the distance is smaller, that cross-water growth is more likely to occur. Nearby in the Philippines, more than 100 million people have densely populated a series of islands no bigger than the state of Arizona.

Indeed, despite being one of the most populated areas in the world, each country in Southeast Asia has had its own growing problems. Some are limited by space (Singapore, Philippines), while others are limited by forests (Thailand, Vietnam).

A World of Different Density Pictures

Though the above maps cover the five most populated countries on Earth, accounting for nearly half of the world’s population, they only show a small part of the global picture.

As the full global density map at the top of the page highlights, the population patterns can accurately illustrate some geographic patterns and constraints, while others need further exploration.

For example, the map clearly gives an outline of Africa and the sparse area that makes up the Sahara Desert. At the same time, landmasses like Australia and New Zealand are almost invisible save for a few clusters along the coast.

To get a closer and more intricate picture of each country’s density map, head to Alasdair Rae’s long thread of rendered maps and start scrolling up to find yours!

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