Monday Trivia, No. 121 [Mark Thompson wins!]

The table below depicts a ratio, sorted from lowest to highest. All data was taken from the United States Census Bureau.

For each entry, the numerator is the present estimated population of each state as of July 1, 2012.

The denominator is current as of July 1, 2007 but is unlikely to have changed appreciably in the past five years. What is it?

South Dakota 1,172.09   Louisiana 1,804.66   Massachusetts 2,791.32
Vermont 1,225.07   North Carolina 1,833.44   Delaware 2,839.29
Mississippi 1,252.59   New Hampshire 1,865.42   Pennsylvania 2,849.00
Alabama 1,317.49   Missouri 1,888.36   Colorado 2,909.47
Maine 1,391.82   Wisconsin 2,030.64   Illinois 2,950.33
North Dakota 1,399.26   New Mexico 2,038.65   Alaska 3,022.52
Wyoming 1,416.25   Kansas 2,046.74   Washington 3,133.58
Iowa 1,468.09   Minnesota 2,072.09   New Jersey 3,142.36
West Virginia 1,557.86   Virginia 2,131.74   Utah 3,158.50
Nebraska 1,620.55   Idaho 2,168.11   Maryland 3,281.96
Montana 1,647.77   Texas 2,225.00   Oregon 3,459.94
Arkansas 1,650.33   Indiana 2,289.78   New York 3,489.08
South Carolina 1,669.16   Michigan 2,363.87   Nevada 3,532.56
Tennessee 1,676.95   Ohio 2,644.73   Arizona 3,632.62
Georgia 1,698.33   Rhode Island 2,706.94   California 4,337.18
Oklahoma 1,774.33   Connecticut 2,742.82   Hawaii 4,520.50
Kentucky 1,774.88   Florida 2,752.18   District of Columbia 8,004.09
UPDATE: I added the commas in the table.

Burt Likko

Pseudonymous Portlander. Homebrewer. Atheist. Recovering litigator. Recovering Republican. Recovering Catholic. Recovering divorcé. Recovering Former Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. House Likko's Words: Scite Verum. Colite Iusticia. Vivere Con Gaudium.


  1. Using Hawaii as an example, their population is (approximately) 1.392 million people. Divide that by their figure in the table (4520.50) yields a rounded result of 308. So if I’m understanding the question right, this means that whatever the denominator is, Hawaii had 308 of it in 2007. South Dakota, on the other hand, had 711 of these.

      • If the numbers are static over 5 years, I can’t imagine it being either of the last two. I would think it has to be something geographic or something political that requires a major effort to shift (e.g., representatives in state legislatures).

  2. So there are 74 of these in DC and 757 of them in South Dakota and 8,800 of them in CA. At first I thought public schools, but that number is ~1/3 how big it should be in DC. Hmmm.

    • Can’t be that, since NJ would be Number 50 on that list.

      Since DC is last, I have to assume that the stat is bad.

      • Tuesday hint: Some people would say it’s a good stat but others would say it’s bad. Most of us probably go back and forth on our opinions, to the extent we have any.

        The denominator is necessarily an integer. Kazzy was right about it being a specific kind of thing measured against the state’s population.

  3. So basically this is reversed per-capita. The lower the thing to the population, the higher the number. But we also have a tendency of urban towards having a higher number, even when the population is high. HUD expenditures?

  4. Some mighty good guesses today. None right, but Will’s analysis is correct. I hadn’t thought about it in urban-rural terms.

    The number that kind of surprises me is Texas, smack dab there in the middle. I’d have thought that Texas, of all places, would be near the top of the list where the Dakotas are.

  5. Wednesday hint: I use a service like this about once a week, and my strong suspicion is that most Readers probably use a service like this with some frequency too. Whether as frequently or less frequently or more frequently than me, well, that’s an individual thing.

  6. To clarify, NJ has more gas stations than would be predicted by its density, since NJ is 42 on this chart, and would be 50 on a population density chart.

    • I actually didn’t think to compare number of gas stations to population density. I was looking for the number of people each gas station would have to service as an indicator of market saturation. It seems odd to me that the more rural central and southern states would have greater saturation — more gas stations per person, evidencing greater supply and thus inferring greater demand. Where is demand for gasoline higher than California — yet an average gas stations services more than three times as many people here than in Wyoming.

      • There should be more gas stations per person in a rural area. The cost of filling a tank includes the cost of the gas, the cost of the station itself, and the cost to the consumer of getting to the station. In an area with low population density, the cost of getting to/from the station becomes more important, which should increase the frequency of stations with respect to the population served. If Wyoming had approximately the same frequency of stations as California — one per every 8800 people, distributed more-or-less uniformly, Niobrara and Weston counties in Wyoming (adjacent to one another, with total population of 9,051) would have a single station servicing an area of over 5,000 square miles. That’s not practical. In very rural areas, the situation is probably more extreme, as the number of gas “stations” is grossly undercounted. My Kansas brother-in-law has a 150-gallon tank on his property that is filled periodically by the same sort of tank truck that delivers to small gas stations in town; he almost never fills a vehicle from an actual gas station.

        I’d have to go hunt for statistics, but I recall reading that per capita vehicle miles in California are surprising low relative to their reputation. IIRC, Vermont leads that particular measurement.

        • Here’s a screen shot of a graphic from a Brookings study. California is in the bottom third for per capita vehicle miles traveled. The high-mileage areas are, for the most part, the Southeast, the Great Plains, the Rockies, and the upper three states of New England.

          • Vermont’s placement in both of these surveys surprises me. Yes, it’s a rural state by northeastern standards, but it’s only about the 20th least densely populated state in the country. There are also counties in a number of states that are larger than it geographically, so it doesn’t make that much sense for its denizens to have a ton of miles travelled.

            Maybe its numbers are inflated by the relatively high number of tourists that go there from the rest of the northeast to ski?

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