Over 18 million Americans live in areas with high noise levels

Andrey Kamenov

Andrey Kamenov, Ph.D. Probability and Statistics

According to a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency press release dating back as far as 1974, average outdoor noise levels below 55 dB “are identified as preventing activity interference and annoyance.” At the same time, more than 18.5 million Americans live in areas where the average existing noise levels are above this threshold.

Two states, New York and Illinois, stand out on the map below. The share of the total population living in areas with high noise levels in these states is 18.1 percent and 15.7 percent respectively. The percentage registered in California is surprisingly small for such a densely-populated and urbanized area: only 1.5 percent.

As one may expect, most of the areas with high noise levels are located within large cities. For example, out of 42 ZIP code tabulation areas that we marked as such in Illinois, 41 are located within Cook County (which has Chicago as its administrative center).

Not all people living in large cities are subjected to average outdoor noise levels that are high enough to be annoying. Less than half of all New Yorkers are affected (shown on the treemap below), while less than 400,000 people live in noisy areas in Los Angeles. And California, despite being the most populous state, is only in sixth place on this list.

Texas cities can also be considered quiet — particularly San Antonio, in which less than 85,000 people affected (which is fewer than in Houston or Dallas).

Source(s): NPS Sound pressure data

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About Andrey Kamenov

Andrey Kamenov

Andrey Kamenov, Ph.D. Probability and Statistics

Andrey Kamenov is a data scientist working for Advameg Inc. His background includes teaching statistics, stochastic processes and financial mathematics in Moscow State University and working for a hedge fund. His academic interests range from statistical data analysis to optimal stopping theory. Andrey also enjoys his hobbies of photography, reading and powerlifting.

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