The Smallest Counties in America by Population

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small town main street
Texas and Nebraska are home to seven of the nation's 10 smallest counties by population.
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Disclaimer: The below is solely intended for informational purposes and in no way constitutes legal advice or specific recommendations.

Some people dream of living in a small town with a charming downtown where everyone knows each other. While you might be unaware of them, there are many U.S. counties, especially in the Midwest, with that exact feel.

According to U.S. Census Data, here are the 10 smallest counties in America, listed according to population:

  1. Kalawao County, Hawaii – 88
  2. Loving County, Texas – 134
  3. King County, Texas – 296
  4. Kenedy County, Texas – 417
  5. Arthur County, Nebraska – 457
  6. Blaine County, Nebraska – 482
  7. McPherson County, Nebraska – 499
  8. Petroleum County, Montana – 523
  9. Yakutat Borough, Alaska – 605
  10. Loup County, Nebraska – 609

What Are the Causes and Effects of Small Populations?

If you’ve ever wondered why small towns stay small — or why large towns become smaller — here are some of the main causes and effects of declining populations.

Causes

Some small towns today might have been larger towns years ago, before losing many of their residents. There are several main causes of population decline:

  • Fewer children are being born.
  • Families with children are moving to larger towns or cities.
  • Young and higher-educated individuals are moving to larger towns or cities.
  • Residents are leaving once-thriving towns due to climate change-related threats and shrinking areas of livable land, particularly in coastal regions.

The citizens who do remain often start and raise families of their own in the small town, thus sustaining a modest population there.  

Effects

With the causes in mind, you might consider the impact this can have the community itself. Here are a few common results:

Fewer schools. Because there are fewer children, there’s less of a need for schools within the town. That’s why many kids and teens from small towns attend a neighboring town’s public school system.

Slow real estate market. If you settle in a small town, you’re likely going to be there for a while: A tiny population typically means fewer opportunities to buy, sell, or rent property in the area due to lack of demand. However, if you’re looking for a place to spend your golden retirement years, a small town property might be the perfect investment for you.

Decreased turnover for businesses. If a shop or restaurant exists in a small town, it will likely be there for decades. It’s much rarer for areas with low populations to attract new businesses. That’s why many small towns are known for their traditional, mom-and-pop stores and eateries.

Lack of public transportation. Small towns typically don’t have much in the way of public transportation. While bigger cities have trains, subways, and multiple bus lines, a low-population town may only be connected to the nearest metropolitan area by a single bus stop miles away. However, if the town is walkable or residents all have their own vehicles, this lack of public transportation may not be such an issue.

The potential for increased crime rates. Cities often get a bad rap for being dangerous places full of criminals, and thus people may move to small town to feel safer. However, some studies have shown that crime and death rates can actually be higher in areas with small populations, likely due to a lack of resources to deal with crimes and accidents.

There are plenty of good things about small-town life, and the potential negatives shouldn’t dissuade you from considering a small town as an option if that’s the life you prefer. However, if you do live in or move to a small town, be sure to look into your neighbors’ backgrounds before you implicitly trust them or leave your doors unlocked at night.

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