Big land

Bloomberg investigated the 100 people that own the most land in America and this map shows where they have bought land:

 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.

Altogether, these 100 landowners control an area about as big as the entire state of Florida and many of these individuals own more land area than the entire state of Rhode Island.  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 are a couple close-ups of areas that are particularly popular with the top100 landowners:

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

A lot of this land is located in relatively cheap areas according to this estimate:

The blue areas are owned by the government and the tan areas are owned by tribal governments. The lack of color contrast makes it hard to see how vast the government-owned area is, so here it is again without any of the land that is owned by state & local government or private individuals.

This map shows the distribution of federally owned land [plus tribal-owned land in pink].

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 publicly-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
One comment on “Big land
  1. […] Check out this map of land values across the USA. Almost half of the cheap land in northern Maine is owned by just a few families! […]

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