Study: Land in RI is second-most-valuable in the US

Rhode Island's 673,000 acres said to be worth an average of $133,370 each

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Rhode Islanders, here’s a silver lining to think about next time you get stuck in traffic: your car is stopped on some of the most valuable land in the United States.

Land in Rhode Island is worth an average of $133,370 per acre, according to a new study by the federal Bureau of Economic Analysis examined by The Wall Street Journal. Among the lower 48 states, that’s second in value only to the $196,410 average for land in New Jersey.

Scarcity is at work: Rhode Island is also the smallest state in the union, with only about 673,000 acres of land inside its borders. It’s also the second-densest state, behind only – you guessed it – New Jersey.

The average acre of land in the second-smallest state – Delaware, with 1.25 million acres – is less than half as valuable as Rhode Island’s. In Massachusetts, the average value of its 5.1 million acres is $102,210; in Connecticut, with 3.1 million acres, it’s $128,820. No other state’s average is north of $100,000 an acre.

All the land in Rhode Island was worth an estimated $90 billion combined as of 2009, the study suggests, though the author, William Larson, cautioned that the dollar figures in the study are only estimates and not exact measures. The amounts only represent the value of the land itself – not any buildings, roads or other structures constructed on it.

“Land has long been recognized as a primary input in production and as a store of wealth,” Larson writes. “Despite its fundamental role in nearly all economic activity, there is no current and complete estimate of the value of the land area of the United States.”

Rhode Island and New Jersey are also the most developed states, with 31% of the land in each already developed. (Washington, D.C., would outpace both Rhode Island and New Jersey on all counts if it were a state.) Just 0.7% of the land in Rhode Island is owned by the federal government, while 9.7% is dedicated to agriculture.

Larson’s study puts the value of all land in the lower 48 states and Washington, D.C., at approximately $23 trillion as of 2009.

Ted Nesi (tnesi@wpri.com) covers politics and the economy for WPRI.com. He hosts Executive Suite and writes the Nesi’s Notes blog. Follow him on Twitter: @tednesi

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