Can you tell me how many people in the U.S. live at 3,000 feet or higher?
May 25, 2010 7:04 AM   Subscribe

Can you tell me how many people in the U.S. live at 3,000 feet or higher? I'm asking, because I'm interested in the size of the market for high-altitude baking advice.
posted by markcmyers to Grab Bag (16 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
This table lists US states by average elevation.

I would sum up the states' populations where average elevation is >= to 3,000 feet. Of course, populous places like Los Angeles are in low-lying parts of a mountainous state, so this will skew your numbers a bit. But this method should give you a rough estimate.

It's possible there's a list of this on a county basis.
posted by dfriedman at 7:19 AM on May 25, 2010

Keep in mind that baking advice for 3k feet is different again from advice for 9k feet; you might want to have more breakdowns of population than just above/below 3k.

This list contains counties with mean elevation above 7k feet, and East Coast counties to a much lower level.
posted by nat at 7:34 AM on May 25, 2010

Honestly I haven't found an issue with baking until I reach around 6,000 or 7,000 feet.
posted by TheBones at 7:52 AM on May 25, 2010

You can buy a zipcode database that includes elevation and population data but I believe there is a free source out there, I just can't find it all in one place. is a good starting point. Their US list of placenames includes elevation and population but I don't know if it is safe to assume that there is no overlap between placenames.
posted by ChrisHartley at 8:16 AM on May 25, 2010

This isn't what you're asking for specifically, but speaking as someone who lives in Denver, I can tell you that there is not really much out there about high altitude baking. There's a book that was written almost twenty years ago, but not a whole lot of modern advice. I think the biggest challenge would not be whether or not there would be a big enough audience, but how you would get the word out.

The other issue might be the people who have lived at altitude for many years - their whole lives and whether or not they've just figured it out for themselves.
posted by Kimberly at 8:41 AM on May 25, 2010

This paper looks at worldwide, rather than US, population, but eyeballing Fig. 2a, it looks like about 15% of the world's population lived above 900m (about 3000 feet) at the time of the paper (1998).

Probably not so useful, but this chart shows 1.8% of the US population living above 3000 feet—in 1890.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 9:30 AM on May 25, 2010

Don't forget Alberta, particularly Calgary, which has an elevation of 1050 m (over 3400 ft) and a metro population of over a million. (Edmonton's only slightly smaller population-wise, but 1000 ft lower).
posted by hangashore at 9:34 AM on May 25, 2010

(And I know that Alberta's not part of the U.S., but it would potentially expand the scope of your potential market.)
posted by hangashore at 9:37 AM on May 25, 2010

At 4000 ft, I bake with the same fearless undeflatiness as I do at sea level, without altering recipes. You may need to raise your minimum elevation to get a more accurate estimate.
posted by Sallyfur at 10:49 AM on May 25, 2010

Best answer: Cool question. If you have access to GIS or know somebody who does, the Census website will provide you with shapefiles and population counts for each census tract in the US, and a general elevation map can then be used pretty easily to find average elevation in each tract. That would give you very good numbers -- better than county averages (e.g., King County WA contains both Seattle and many areas over 3000 feet, but nobody in Seattle lives at 3000 feet).

(Similar principles no doubt apply to other countries)
posted by zvs at 11:10 AM on May 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I don't know if you'll find your answer here, but you might want to look at existing cookbooks like this (example). Amazon doesn't have a preview, but if you can find it in a bookstore, you could look in its introduction and see if they give any statistics along these lines. ("If you're one of the X-million Americans who live at 3,000 feet...") Also, since your interest is in the size of the market, you could look at how much success those books have had; for instance, the book at that link is #48 on Amazon among baking books that focus on "bread," and it's #78 for "desserts." Being in the top 100 for all cookbooks on Amazon that address those very popular topics would seem to be a sign that the market is very large.
posted by Jaltcoh at 12:55 PM on May 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

Echoing Sallyfur, I live over 5000 ft and bake a lot. I don't use high-altitude recipes, don't think I changed much about how I cook when I moved from sea level, and would probably not spend any money for help with high-altitude cooking. At most, I reduce the amount of baking soda or powder in a recipe very slightly (but I hardly ever measure stuff like that anymore anyway).

You may have to look higher still, which gets to be a pretty small target market.
posted by richyoung at 3:23 PM on May 25, 2010

I can't get Alpha to answer your question, but maybe you'll have better luck mixing and matching some of the terminology in other answers.
posted by ecsh at 3:32 PM on May 25, 2010

I think this is a really interesting question, but I can say that as someone who's lived at about 5,000 feet my entire life, I've found most high-altitude cooking and baking instructions to be pretty unnecessary. The vast majority of recipes, even baking ones, I've found, don't need a lot of adjustments.

The only people I know who really rely on them are those who are recent newcomers to high-altitude places, who are trying to get their brownies to turn out like they did when they lived in Virginia. You might want to focus on high-altitude places with a lot of newcomers, who might find the information more useful than people who've been cooking at altitude for their entire lives.
posted by heurtebise at 3:36 PM on May 25, 2010

Best answer: OK<>
17 states have NO real estate above 3,000'.
To a first approximation, nobody east of the 100th meridian lives above 3,000'. (E.g., the Berkshires hit 3500', but the towns at their base are at 700'.)

So, to a first approximation, "residents over 3000 feet " is pretty much is limited to the US Mountain States: the residents of Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, Montana, and Wyoming.
You're talking mostly these five states - 12 or 13 million people - plus some loose change.

So it's

Colorado 5m,
Utah 3m,
New Mexico 2m;
Idaho 1.5m (and metro Boise isn't over 3000', that removes 0.5m, so really, ~1m in Idaho),
Montana 1m
Wyoming 0.5m,

some of Arizona (metro Phoenix is half the population of the state, and under 3,000') ,
and Nevada (metro Las Vegas is half the state, and under; Reno is up there, but only 1/4 of a million people)
and bits of Texas (el Paso, 3/4 million), Wash, Oregon (town of Bend etc), California (Tahoe).
Maybe a handful of folks on the west edge of Nebraska, Kansas, the Dakotas.
Maybe a few more people in southern Cal.
Now you're down to "residents of mountaintop observatories and fire-watch towers"
in places like New Hampshire and Hawaii.

Total: say 16-18 million, tops.
That's about 5-6% of the US.

posted by AsYouKnow Bob at 5:21 PM on May 25, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks, AsYouKnow Bob. I did a similar exercise, though not in quite as much detail as you, and came up with about 20 million.
posted by markcmyers at 7:01 AM on May 26, 2010

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