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Gaining Insights into US States and Putting it in Perspective

In a recent post, I shared some images of the state of Oregon. In a comment made by Indexer, he made an excellent point that got me to thinking. I’ll admit that the idea of me thinking can be a dangerous thing, but in this instance, it occurred to me that too many people underestimate the size of many US states and overestimate the size of European countries.

A lot of this is due to the fact that there is often a tendency of comparing the area of a given state with other states or comparing the size of a European country with other European countries. Most of the time, the area covered by states isn’t compared to the area covered by countries. 

Doing such a comparison can be enlightening and can give a different perspective. In turn, this can increase appreciation of the place that is being discussed.

For example, in the point that John (Indexer) made, Oregon is larger than all of the United Kingdom. That is true. The UK covers a bit more than 93, 630 square miles. Oregon covers over 98, 370 square miles. Montana has an area of 147,000 square miles, so it is almost half again larger than either Oregon or the UK.

Montana is a little larger than Japan (145,894 square miles) and a little smaller than Romania (148,129 square miles). 

California (~163,700 square miles) is somewhat smaller than Iraq (169,235 square miles), ignoring that Iraq isn’t in Europe. 

Taking it a step farther, the largest of the 36 counties in Oregon, Harney County, is 10,135 square miles in size. That is larger than Macedonia (9,928 sq mi), Israel (8,522 sq mi), Kuwait (6,880 sq mi), Lebanon (4,036 sq mi), or Cyprus (3,572 sq mi). That is just a single country. Then again, Harney County is around 2/3 the size of the smallest US state, Rhode Island (1,544 sq mi).

Adding to the perspective, Yellowstone National Park covers 3,468 sq mi. This makes the national park just a little smaller than Cyprus. 

That isn’t even comparing Texas (268,596 sq mi) or Alaska (665,384 sq mi) with the size of countries. Texas is larger than Afghanistan (251,773 sq mi) and almost the size of Morocco (274,461 sq mi). 

It gets really wild if we start comparing the population, though. As of 1 July 2019, the population of the UK was estimated to be 66,957,907. The estimate for Oregon on July 1, 2018, was 4,190,713. This means that in terms of population, the UK is far larger than Oregon. In fact, it is well over 10 times larger, population-wise. The population density of the UK is about 705 people per square mile. The population density of Oregon is about 40 per square mile. The population density for Montana is about 6 people per square mile.

  • Question of

    Do you find comparisons like this interesting or enlightening?

    • Yes
    • No
    • It is too much information to grasp all at once
    • I’m not really interested in things like this
  • Question of

    Did you previously know any of this information?

    • Yes
    • No
    • I did at one time, but had forgotten
    • I’ve never been interested


What do you think?

11 Points

Written by Rex Trulove


  1. Many things need to be taken into account. Has the country fought.
    Were the men’s population losing wars?
    Is there a problem of population migration?
    Natural wealth xemle.
    Gross personal income per capita.
    Percentage of unemployment in the country.
    And let’s not count on it.
    Very complex.

    • None of that changes a country’s or state’s area, though there can be a fluctuation in the borders due to war and annexation of land. Still, the borders of US states don’t fluctuate, so it is possible to compare the area of those states with the area of some countries as they currently exist.

    • I sometimes think about little tidbits like this. Sometimes, it just takes a nudge for inspiration to come, too, and Indexer gave that nudge, though he might not have realized he was doing it. 🙂

  2. There is clearly an awful lot of nothing in Oregon! Despite the fact that the UK appears to be grossly overcrowded by comparison, I could take you to places where you can walk all day and be unlikely to see another human being.

    • I’m sure that is very true. A great deal of Oregon isn’t populated, either, simply because it is nowhere near any major roads or railways. A lot of it is in forests, too.

      Most of the population in Oregon is concentrated in what is called the “I-5 corridor”, a reference to Interstate Highway 5 that runs through the Willamette Valley in Oregon. Without looking it up, I’d guess that about 80% of the population lives in or near three cities on the I-5 corridor; Eugene, Salem, and Portland. Counting the suburbs, Portland, Oregon has a greater population than the entire state of Montana.

      Interesting things would happen if the populations of the three largest cities were disregarded in the total. In the UK, if I’m not mistaken, that would be London, Birmingham, and Leeds. Such is the case of densely-packed population centers. There are usually far more people per square mile than in the land that is away from those population centers.