A federal economist has used land records, Census data, satellite images, and more to devise an estimate for the land value of the continental United States.
The would-be price for the 1.99 billion acre parcel that is the lower 48 states? Nearly $23 trillion dollars, according to William Larson, who works in the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. Nearly half (47%) of those nearly 2 billion acres are agricultural land, which contributes just 8% of the total land value.
Trends in property values tend to be popular with researchers—and farmers alike—but Larson’s approach is a little different than his colleagues.
Calling it a “micro-based strategy,” he combined data from a variety of sources to arrive at his numbers, which are based on 2009 data. His data set includes federally owned land, which is often excluded from such calculations, and adjusts for the value of improvements such as homes or buildings.
“In this method, the quantity of land is one dimensional and consists of its area,” he writes in his paper. “All variation in lot desirability is therefore captured by land prices, which vary dramatically over space.”
You can see that variation from coast to coast, of course, but it also pops up in the Corn Belt and neighboring states. The most valuable state in the Midwest in terms of 2009 land value? Ohio at $838 billion, which just nudged out Illinois at $833 billion.
Click the chart below to see a larger image of Midwestern state land values and value per acre, based on Larson's research.
Still, Illinois and the rest of the I States remain quite a force. Collectively, their land is worth an estimated $1.455 trillion, according to Larson’s research.
What other agricultural states lack in land value, though, they make up in the share of land dedicated to farming and ranching. Six states—Kansas, South Dakota, North Dakota, Oklahoma , Nebraska, and yes, Iowa—have more than 80% of their land in agricultural use.