Published On: Tue, Aug 29th, 2017

Have you ever wondered how many Americans actually have a passport?

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How many Americans have a passport? This was a question a British friend had asked me a few years ago, probably based upon the assumption that much of the world has about Americans, which is that the majority of Americans do not have passports. I had no idea what the answer was, so I decided to do a little research, and the answer is somewhat surprising.

The quick answer is that yes, the majority of Americans do not have a passport. The percentage of Americans who have a valid passport, according to the most recent statistics as tabulated by the State Department, is about 46%. This number excludes passport cards, which are identification cards that only allow sea and overland entry to the U.S. from Canada, Mexico and certain parts of the Caribbean, but not the rest of the world.

To get this number I took the number of outstanding valid passports in circulation as estimated by the State Department — the number is 138,675,021 — and divided that by the total U.S. population according to the Census Bureau, which as of December, 2016, was 325,103,000 (minus the approximately 11.1 million people who are undocumented residents and 13.3 million legal permanent residents that live in the U.S. but cannot obtain passports or have valid passports issued from other countries).

For those keeping score, the fact that 46% of Americans have a passport means that a little less than half the population can’t fly to Canada, let alone travel to any other country in the world.

Has This Number Been Going Up or Down Year-Over-Year?

As reflected in the graphic above courtesy of the U.S. Department of State, 2016 showed a pretty healthy increase in the number of passports issued from 2015, and an overall trend upwards since the 10-year low of 2011. However, given the increase in population year-over-year, the percentage hasn’t actually gone up from 46% over the past few years.

Which States Have the Highest Percentage of Passports?

Here comes the fun part. I decided to take this data and see which U.S. states have the highest and lowest percentage of their population with valid passports. As can be viewed in the top graphic, those states with the lowest percentages are clustered in the South, Midwest, Upper Midwest, and the Great Plains States.

Perhaps not surprisingly, those states with the highest percentages tended to be on the border of Canada and Mexico, along both coasts, and those states with higher urban populations.

Mississippi was the lowest, with just 17%, followed by West Virginia (19%), Alabama (22%), Arkansas (22%) and Kentucky (23%). The state with the highest percentage was New Jersey with 62%, followed by New York (59%), Massachusetts (58%), and Alaska, Connecticut and Delaware (all were at 55%).


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