Los Angeles County, CA
Los Angeles County is the most populous county in the United States, with more than 10 million inhabitants, as of 2018. In fact, LA County is the largest non-state-level government entity in the country. Just how big is LA County? It's more populous than 41 states! And as a metropolitan area, Los Angeles County is the third-largest economy in the world!
Kalawao County, HI
Kalawao County is the smallest county in the United States, in both population AND land size (see below). The county is located on the north coast of the island of Moloka'i. If you would like to visit the smallest county in the U.S., don't forget your mule because Kalawao County's only land access is by mule trail. But you can't stay long. Visitors are only permitted as part of an official visit.
County Land Area
San Bernardino County, CA
San Bernardino County is located in the southeastern portion of California, and is the largest county in the country - equivalent to the state of West Virginia. In fact, San Bernardino is geographically larger than 9 U.S. states! It is very impressive, but if you were to include county-equivalents, the Yukon-Koyukuk Census area is seven times that - coming in at 145,899 square miles!!
Kalawao County, HI
Kalawao County is not only one of the least populated counties in the U.S. but also the smallest in land area (not including water area). If we include total land area, then New York County (aka Manhattan) would be the smallest at around 23 square miles. Kalawoa County was used from 1866 to 1969 as a settlement for the treatment of quarantined people with Hansen's disease, more commonly known as leprosy.
County Population Density
New York County, NY
It probably comes as no surprise that the most densely populated part of the country is Manhattan. But did you know that Manhattan is also a county? The Borough of Manhattan is layered over the same area as a county called New York County. There are over 1.6 million people in this small area, making it more populous than 11 states and the District of Columbia.
Loving County, TX
Loving County, Texas almost wins in 2 categories ... but is edged out by Kalawao County for smallest population (with a population almost double, at 169 residents). But based on population density, Loving County is the clear winner with a population density of .2/sq mi, or just one person per every five square miles.
When it comes to U.S. counties, not all counties are created equal. In fact, some counties are not counties at all. In the U.S., there are 3007 counties in total. Some sources say 3006. Other resources say 3,243 if you include the 136 county-equivalents in the 50 states and District of Columbia and 100 county-equivalents in the U.S. territories.
Some states have boroughs and parishes rather than counties but function like counties. The boroughs of New York City are also counties. Manhattan shares the same border as New York County. Then there is Alaska with its 19 organized boroughs and 11 census areas - the largest of these being the Yukon-Koyukuk Census Area, a massive 147,805 square miles (roughly the size of Montana).
But it is more than just a name. The specific governmental powers of counties can vary widely from state to state. Most states have counties with significant functions. But not in Rhode Island and Connecticut, where county governments have been abolished, but the entities remain for principally administrative or statistical reasons.
There are also several county variations. For example, consolidated city-counties simultaneously are a city (a municipality) and a county (an administrative division of the state). There are other county-equivalents like in Alaska with its census areas, and parishes in Louisiana. Finally, we can't forget independent cities that are not part of a county, such as Baltimore, Maryland, Carson City, Nevada, and St. Louis, Missouri.
Did You Know These County Statistics?
The Last County to Get COVID-19
On November 17, 2020, Loving County Texas was the last county in the contiguous United States to confirm at least one case of COVID-19 when 3 cases were confirmed in the area.
The State with the Fewest Counties
The State of Delaware has the fewest number of counties in the United States with just three: New Castle, Kent and Sussex counties.
The State with the Largest Number of Counties
The State of Texas loves their counties with a whopping 254 - more than any other U.S. state. The next closest is Georgia with 159, followed by Virginia with 134.
The Oldest County in the United States
In 1619, The Virginia Company of London divided the settled portions of Virginia into four large 'citties', but it wasn't until 1634 when the local government regions were changed to 'shires' - later called 'counties'. Of the original 'citties' James City County, and Henrico County remain, and would be considered two of the oldest counties in the United States.
The U.S. County with the Largest GDP
You might think that the U.S. county with the largest gross domestic product would be New York County (aka Manhattan), but actually New York County is second. #1 goes to Los Angeles County with a GDP of $726.9 billion annually. That's about equal to the GDP of Switzerland!