North America covers an area of about 24,709,000 square kilometers (9,540,000 square miles), about 16. 5% of the earth's land area and about 4. 8% of its total surface. North America is the third largest continent by area, following Asia and Africa, and the fourth by population after Asia, Africa, and Europe. In 2013, its population was estimated at nearly 579 million people in 23 independent states, or about 7. 5% of the world's population, if nearby islands (most notably the Caribbean) are included.