The Washington, DC region is great >> and it can be greater.


What counties are larger than whole states?

We know that DC has more people than Wyoming and about to pass Vermont. Reddit user desert_wombat created a map of all US counties that are more populous than some states.

With 9.8 million people, Los Angeles County is larger than North Carolina, the 10th most populous US state. (It's also geographically larger than Rhode Island and Delaware, combined).

Baltimore County (which doesn't include Baltimore City) is more populous than Wyoming, Vermont, North Dakota and Alaska; Prince George's is also larger than South Dakota; Montgomery County larger than Delaware; and Fairfax County has more people than all of those as well as Montana and Rhode Island.

Thanks to Dan Malouff for the tip via Twitter.

David Alpert is the founder of Greater Greater Washington and its board president. He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He now lives with his wife and two children in Dupont Circle. 


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There's also a companion map that was geography-based (net land area) rather than population based... one of Alaska's counties is bigger than Pennsylvania.

by Bossi on Apr 5, 2013 2:12 pm • linkreport

Oh. I thought you meant larger in term of land area.

by Steve on Apr 5, 2013 2:19 pm • linkreport

Hey David, I dont think Desert Wombat was the original map creator. I read an article about the original map creator who was pretty ticked that Reddit had this up without proper denotation of who created or a backlink. Just a heads up

by Tysons Engineer on Apr 5, 2013 2:22 pm • linkreport

Oops, sorry, just realized Desert wombat was that person, this map was his retort to the other one for geographic size that he was annoyed at reddit about.

by Tysons Engineer on Apr 5, 2013 2:24 pm • linkreport

A couple years back when Fairfax County was debating changing to themselves to a city (for purposes related to transportation funding) a story in the post mentioned that if they went ahead that the county would automatically jump to the 20th largest city in the nation.

by drumz on Apr 5, 2013 2:36 pm • linkreport

And looking at wikipedia's list of the country's largest cities Fairfax would actually make it into the top 10.

by drumz on Apr 5, 2013 2:40 pm • linkreport

This is why I call Sarah Palin "the half-term mayor of Alaska".

by Frank IBC on Apr 5, 2013 2:45 pm • linkreport

Fairfax would be twice as big of a city as DC by population and obviously much bigger area wise (just about the same size as NYC). I think it's really interesting how random the different scales of cities/counties/states are in this country, though I understand how it happened.

by Alan B. on Apr 5, 2013 3:16 pm • linkreport

No counties in Ohio?

by ceefer66 on Apr 5, 2013 3:26 pm • linkreport

@ ceefer66 -

Cuyahoga (Cleveland), Franklin (Columbus) and Hamilton (Cincinnati). All three are pale colors so they're hard to see.

by Frank IBC on Apr 5, 2013 3:29 pm • linkreport

Of the following states - Arkansas, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, South Carolina, South Dakota, Vermont, West Virginia, Wyoming - none of these have any county with a population larger than that of Wyoming.

by Frank IBC on Apr 5, 2013 3:34 pm • linkreport

If Wyoming were a city, it would be #31 in population, between Las Vegas and Albuquerque.

If Alaska were a city, it would be #18 in population, between Charlotte and Detroit.

by Frank IBC on Apr 5, 2013 3:38 pm • linkreport

Actually I was the original author. Desert wombat created a very nice spinoff though. Here's the post that started it all:

by Twelve Mile Circle on Apr 5, 2013 4:03 pm • linkreport

Here's the equivalent, looking at area.

by Jasper on Apr 5, 2013 4:40 pm • linkreport

Ah, should have read all the comments first. Sorry.

by Jasper on Apr 5, 2013 4:42 pm • linkreport

Very interesting map. LA County is huuuge. Always knew it was #1 in pop., but never realized it was that big. More people than NC...Wow

Still, it's really the physical size that makes LAC so large, rather than very high density (such as in the NYC counties/boroughs). One has to wonder why they never subdivided the county to create smaller ones with more local control.

Prince George's for instance, (itself once part of Calvert/Charles) used to encompass what is now Frederick, Allegany, Garrett, Montgomery, and Washington Counties (with a combined pop. of 2,378,475 today). Frederick County was later split off from PGC, and the other 4 were split from Frederick.

by King Terrapin on Apr 5, 2013 4:50 pm • linkreport

Frank IBC,

Thanks. I see them now.

by ceefer66 on Apr 5, 2013 5:38 pm • linkreport

So Alaska's Unorganized Borough is bigger (in area) than every state except Montana, Texas and California. (And of course Alaska itself.) Wow.

Also, I didn't realize that Florida had so many large counties.

by Frank IBC on Apr 5, 2013 7:50 pm • linkreport

King Terrapin - PG County also used to include the part of Carroll County west of Parr's Ridge, and the portion of Charles County north of Mattawoman Creek (Indian Head).

by Frank IBC on Apr 5, 2013 7:54 pm • linkreport

Though not legal entities it would be interesting to see the same kind of map for metropolitan areas.

by Tom on Apr 5, 2013 9:08 pm • linkreport

Georgia has extremely small counties- 153 of them while similar size Alabama only has 52. Texas could have split into up to 5 states as a term of admission while CA didn't get that option-probably because TX was the last slave state.

With horse travel states the size of the western ones were considered the maximum that people could travel to the state capitol.

by Tom Coumaris on Apr 5, 2013 11:46 pm • linkreport

@ Tom -

Population of New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA MSA: 19,831,858

Larger than every state except California and Texas. Even New York State, which is only 19,570,261.

by Frank IBC on Apr 6, 2013 11:24 am • linkreport

If we were starting from scratch we'd probably have city-states like ancient Greece. We're not though and probably stuck with the extra power small states have in the Senate and the Electoral College.

While the last 40 years has certainly been about the population moving to metropolitan areas, the paradox is that the greatest growth by far was in the exurbs, areas that often were politically opposed to urban values as much as rural ones. Hopefully what we're beginning to see is exurbs identifying more with urban areas.

Atlanta is a huge metro but doesn't show up as much because it's counties are so tiny geographically. Also as an example, major exurb counties there like Cobb are hotbeds of extreme right-wingers (and anti-transit even I believe).

by Tom Coumaris on Apr 7, 2013 1:19 pm • linkreport

@ Tom

The Senate concept would probably not have worked at all if somehow there were fewer and larger states out West (North/South Dakota, the "four corners" states, and the entire West Coast were each single states for instance). It would have shifted the balance of power dramatically to the East. So, it's a good thing that they determined the sizes of states by the "horse ride to the capitol" as you mentioned.

by King Terrapin on Apr 7, 2013 9:30 pm • linkreport

I always though the House should be elected by district just as it is now and the Senate should be nationwide somehow. Of course it will never happen because that would force a good chunk of states to support an amendment against their own interests.

by Alan B. on Apr 8, 2013 9:26 am • linkreport

@Tom, Georgia has so many counties to give a disproportionate vote to rural counties. Originally, each county had a minimum of two representatives in the legislature with a maximum of six. So, the tiniest wisp of a county (even one with population as small as 1000) would have two votes, while Fulton (home of the city of Atlanta) with a population in six digits (or a minimum of 100X of a small county) would only have 6. It's the same philosophy that gives California (38 million population) two US Senators while granting Wyoming (600k population) the same number.

Rural populations want greater-than-equal representation (tax dollars, etc.) to make sure they get their largesse, but they don't want to pay the bills to cover it. (I come from such a rural area, so I'm not just some Inside-the-Beltway snob.)

by rogerwilco on Apr 9, 2013 1:00 am • linkreport

@Tom - California actually did almost split - I think it got s far as the Congress, but the Civil War intervened.

I think the territory that we annexed from Mexico did become quite a few states (Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, New Mexico, and Colorado).

by TomA on Apr 9, 2013 10:02 am • linkreport

Can we just cut to the chase here and say it: Wyoming needs to lose its U.S. Senators!

by Ward 1 Guy on Apr 9, 2013 10:19 am • linkreport

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