Census 2010: You Can Count on Counties

With so many changes in life, it would be nice to be able to count on counties to be there when you need them. For the most part, you can. Of the 3,234 counties listed in the 2000 Census, 3,221 were still around in 2010.* Of the counties that disappeared, one is in Guam, five are in American Samoa, four are in the Northern Mariana Islands, three are in the US Virgin Islands, and two are in Alaska. Astute readers may have noticed that these numbers don’t add up: the county count only dropped by 13, but we lost 15 counties! What happened? Turns out, unlike matter, counties can be both created and destroyed. In addition to losing two counties, Alaska added two.

* Figures may differ depending on what you count as a county. Should you count municipios in Puerto Rico as counties? What about New York City boroughs? Or Census Areas? Experts disagree.