What percentage of the American population lives near the coast?

As of 2014, nearly 40% of the population lived in counties on the coast.

photo of a crowded shoreline

Though home to almost 40% of the U.S. population, coastal areas account for less than 10% of the total land in the contiguous United States.

In the U.S., 127 million people live in coastal counties. That’s as much as the entire population of Japan. If they were their own nation, the coastal counties of the U.S. would rank third in the world in gross domestic product, beaten only by China and the U.S. as a whole. The outsize U.S. marine economy is fueled by tourism and recreation, offshore energy, shipbuilding, and aquaculture, to name just a few.

Though home to almost 40% of the U.S. population, coastal areas account for less than 10% of the total land in the contiguous United States. Coastal areas are also far more crowded than the U.S. as a whole; population density is over five times greater in coastal shoreline counties than the U.S. average. This means that issues that affect the coasts affect a large proportion of Americans.  

Coastal communities also face different issues than inland communities. These include increased risks from high-tide flooding, hurricanes, sea level rise, erosion, and climate change. State and local governments work with NOAA’s Office for Coastal Management to effectively manage coastal areas with the goals of providing public access for recreation, maintaining water quality, protecting the coastal population, preserving important habitats, and encouraging economic development.

Did you know?

NOS’s Office for Coastal Management provides coastal data for the general public, coastal managers, and state and federal partners. Their Fast Facts pages give snapshots of U.S. data on everything from demographics, to the cost of hurricanes, to the issue of marine debris.

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Last updated:
02/26/21

Author: NOAA

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