72 Square Feet Per Person

Redacted: This post is withdrawn because I can’t do math. It’s not 72 square feet per person, it’s more like 236,806 square feet per person. Doh! I made a silly conversion error, effectively assuming 1 square yard would equal three square feet, since 1 yard equals three feet. Of course 1 square yard is actually 9 square feet. And I made that error twice. Doh indeed.

Anyway, 236,806 square feet per person. That’s about 5.4 acres (again, if I did my math right), but being a city boy I have no concept for the size of an acre. As a commenter pointed out, agriculture and uninhabitable land probably changes that number quite a bit. But it doesn’t change the fact that I was wrong.

I think my point still makes sense (to whom much is given, much is required), but the math totally sucks. This is why my dad and brother are engineers, while I majored in writing and art.

Redacted. (But we’ll keep the original post after the jump as an object lesson to less than eager math students.)

72 square feet. That’s your personal chunk of earth.

If everybody on the planet got their own equal plot of land, that’s how much space we’d each have. 72 square feet. That’s a 9×8 room.

My house has a foundation size of 796 square feet. My lot is a total of 4,800 square feet. That’s how much space I take up. Though to be fair, there are four of us in this house, so I only take up 1,200 square feet. That’s still more than 16 times what I’d get if everybody on the planet had the same size space.

In 2005 the average home in the U.S. was 2,414 square feet. It’s hard to determine foundation size or lot size from that, but it’s fair to say in the U.S. most of us are taking up more than our 72 square feet.

Much like I argued yesterday, I’m not sure what we’ve done to earn that, other than be born luckier than other people on the planet. Certainly most of us homeowners work hard for our money and have hopefully earned our plot of land, but I don’t think I’ve worked any harder than other people around the world. And if I’ve got 16 times the average chunk of land, that means some poor bastard somewhere has 4.5 square feet to live on. Ouch.

My point is pretty simple: We’re rich. We’re incredibly wealthy here in the U.S. We live on 16 times what the rest of the world does. What are we doing to share our incredible excess with those who have so much less? This isn’t about socialism or any political anything (let’s not even get into the concept of owning property). I’m just talking about people taking care of people.

To whom much is given, much is required. Or as an arachnid-themed superhero often rephrases that snippet from Luke 12:48, ‘With great power comes great responsibility.’

Let’s Do the Math:
I readily admit that I suck at math (Have I mentioned that the only college math course I took was Math for Elementary Education Majors? We made graphs.), so how about I show my work?

The surface area of the land on the planet is 148,940,000 square kilometers. That’s only the land, since it’d really suck to get a plot of water. And it’s probably a fudged number just a bit, since stuff like glaciers and ice shelves complicates things. But we’ll say that’s pretty close.

148,940,000 square kilometers is 92,547,025.4 square miles (thanks Google). And 92,547,025.4 square miles is 488,648,294,112 square feet (again, thanks Google).

World population is currently estimated at 6.77 billion.

Divide 488 billion square feet (and change) by 6.77 billion people and you get (carry the one) 72.178 square feet.

Of course it’s a silly comparison because not all land is the same. Some poor sap would get a 9×8 patch of the Sahara and somebody else would get a beautiful meadow in Colorado. And it doesn’t make any sense because we have to grow our food and all that jazz, and you’re not going to grow enough food on a 9×8 plot of land. And of course you can also pack more people into tiny spaces with a neat little thing called building up. And there are all kinds of fun questions like whether or not the surface area of the planet should be divided equally (again, the whole property owning concept). So it’s more complicated, duh.

But I think the basic idea still holds true. And wow. There are a lot of people on this tiny planet.

13 thoughts on “72 Square Feet Per Person”

  1. I wonder how you could factor in the impact of tall condos or hotels? For example, I imagine there are quite a few buildings with many stories of 1000 sq ft units, so with 2 people per unit, 15 or more stories would approx. hit your figure.

  2. Anthony: And that’s why the world needs to live by a new principle.

    Ed: Tall buildings definitely help increase the density, but it’s still pretty staggering. Imagine how many people live in cramped spaces in the world (or how many tall buildings we need) to offset the average American home.

  3. I don’t disagree with your point, or think your point should change, but we do have more square feet per person on Earth:


    1.60317682 × 10^15 total square feet of land on Earth.

    Divide that by 6.77 billion:


    236,806 square feet per person. Now, if I had to guess and pull numbers out of the air, I wouldn’t be surprised if after factoring in land for agriculture and land that can’t be inhabited for one reason or another, if that number doesn’t come down at least an order of magnitude, maybe more.

  4. So did I do my math wrong? I guess I assumed kilometers to miles would have the same conversion rate as square kilometers to square miles. Is that not correct? (Cuz, um, doh!)

  5. Square km to square mi is a different conversion than km to mi (e.g. 2.58998811:1 vs. 1.609344:1). As is square mi to square ft vs mi to ft (e.g. 1:27,878,400 vs. 1:5,280).

  6. It’s because to get the area of a square, you square the length of a single side. So a 1-mile-long line is 5280 feet, while a 1-mile by 1-mile square is 5280 feet by 5280 feet.

    The same goes with squaring miles and kilometers. A cubic foot would get multiplied a third time. Adding a fourth dimension would result in the fetal position and headaches.

  7. So the real size is a square about 148 meters per side. To visualize, that’s roughly four times the size of a football field.

  8. 196,940,000 sq miles on earth.

    27,878,400 sq feet in a sq mile. (5,280 x 5,280)

    5,490383,247,360,000 sq feet on earth

    people on earth = roughly 6,998,000,000

    size of texas = 268,820 sq miles, 7,494,271,488,000 sq feet

    Sq feet for every person on earth if they were all in texas = 1,071

    Sq feet for every person on earth = 784,565 or roughly 18 acres (acre is 43,560 sq feet)

    Everyone on earth, if given your original 72 sq feet, could fit in a circle 154 miles in diameter.

    The earth is not tiny, nor overcrowded.

  9. round the population to 7 billion a square mile is 640 acres. If everyone received a 1/4 acre would take 2734375 square miles.
    this would be a 1654 mile square. If you had everyone standing in a 2ftx2ft square they would fit in a 31.69 mile square.

  10. Your math is wrong again, my friend. The reference to the world population being 6.7 billion was somewhere in the 1990s. Today, according to your references on Wikipedia, it is 7.6 billion. I think you reversed the numbers. Not your day. Interesting article, none the less. Thanks.

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