Big land

Bloomberg investigated the people that own the most land in America and this map of Maine speaks for itself:

The report found that:

 The 100 largest owners of private property in the U.S., newcomers and old-timers together, have 40 million acres, or approximately 2% of the country’s land mass, according to data from the Land Report and reporting by Bloomberg News. Ten years ago, the top 100 had fewer than 30 million acres.

Many of these individuals own more land area than the entire state of Rhode Island and altogether, these 100 landowners control an area about as big as the entire state of Florida. If anything this investigation understates the concentration of land ownership because a lot of properties is held by private corporations whose owners are hard to identify and sometimes the corporations are owned by other corporations as in the case of President Trump’s holdings. Trump owns approximately 500 business entities (although the exact number is unclear) that are collectively known as the Trump Organization and only about half of them use the Trump name. Even though Trump’s holdings have gotten much more scrutiny than other wealthy people, even here we don’t know exactly what he owns, how wealthy he is, nor how many companies he actually controls. And there are hundreds of Americans who are wealthier than Trump and whose holdings are probably even more complicated and secretive.

Here is a zoom in on another part of the USA that is particularly popular with the biggest 100.

Here is where all of it is located. They haven’t bought much in agricultural Midwest.

In contrast, the government still owns a lot more land than the 100 biggest private landowners:

This map shows the distribution of federally owned land.

Because this map only shows federal ownership, it leaves out vast territories owned by the state governments. For example, this map shows that the federal government owns nearly 3/4 of Alaska and then the state government owns another quarter of the state of Alaska leaving less than 1% of Alaskan territory that is owned by private citizens.

There is a lot more land in the east that is owned by state and local governments including roads, parks, schools, and rivers…

The expensive publically-owned road system connects all of the most important places together as you can see in this a map of nothing but the roads in Florida. The most valuable regions pop out visibly because they have more roads. (This map and many other states are available for purchase from Fathom).

Local government ownership is much more valuable than most privately-held real estate because roads are extremely valuable, particularly in urban areas where road density is concentrated. A newly paved road costs anywhere from a minimum of about $2 million per mile in rural areas to more than $10 million in urban areas. Maintenance is also very expensive. Resurfacing a 4-lane road costs about $1.25 million per mile.  Despite this cost, we call our most expensive roads freeways.

Posted in Public Finance

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