Placing an accurate dollar value on America’s land — from natural features such as rivers and mountains to developed lands that include farms and skyscrapers — is virtually impossible.
Some experts, though, have attempted to arrive at a rough approximation. Based on the work of economist William D. Larson, the total value of the 1.9 billion acres in the contiguous 48 states is nearly $23 trillion — or about $12,000 an acre on average. The federal government’s stake in this land, nearly one-quarter of the acreage, is worth $1.8 trillion.
While an acre of land is valued at less than $2,000 in the least valuable state, an acre goes for more than 100 times that in the most valuable state. 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the estimated value of land in each of the contiguous 48 states using data from Larson’s 2015 study, “New Estimates of Value of Land of the United States.”
Nearly half of the land in the contiguous United States is used for agriculture — the largest or one of the largest industries in several states. With three-quarters or more of the acreage in eight states used for agriculture, farming is concentrated in some states a great deal more than others. In total, according to the latest estimate by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, farmland and agricultural buildings in the United States are worth, combined, over $200 billion.
Whether an acre of land is part of a sprawling farm or a dense metro area, its value is mostly determined by its use. Developed land, defined as area covered by roads and buildings, accounts for only 6% of the acreage in the contiguous 48 states, yet it holds more than half of the total value. Developed tracts in many cases house some of the nation’s largest economic engines — and many people live inside dense urban areas where demand for real estate is high. Many of the most valuable states are home to some of America’s richest cities.