From the sky, the Western half of the United States looks like the emptiest part of the country. A nighttime satellite image shows the country in two halves, divided by a line running roughly from Dallas to Fargo: East of that line, the night sparkles, but west of that line is mostly dark until you reach the populated Pacific coast.
In that sense, you might think the most room is out West. In an America where people often insist their cities are too “full” to accommodate growth, this is where you would want to build more.
But that’s not quite the right way to look at the question. Most of us aren’t aiming to maximize the amount of land we own. We want some space, but space within commuting distance of jobs, stores and schools. Looking only among metropolitan areas, it turns out that the roomiest ones are not in the West. They’re in the South.
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