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The period from the end of World War II to the present has also seen major changes in the regional distribution of population as shown in Table 2-1. The movement from "frostbelt" to "sunbelt" has been driven by many forces, some of which are the same as those that powered the movement from city to suburb.
One overriding force has simply been the growth in real per capita income. As people become more affluent, they are able to give more
TABLE 2-1 Regional Population, 1950-2010 (in thousands)
Note: a These regions are standard U.S. Bureau of the Census groupings, as follows: New England: Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut; MidAtlantic: New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania; East North-central: Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin; West North-central: Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas; South Atlantic: Delaware, Maryland, District of Columbia, Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida; East South-central: Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi; West South-central: Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Texas; Mountain: Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, Nevada; Pacific: Washington, Oregon, California, Alaska, Hawaii.
Source: U.S. Bureau of the Census, Census of the Population, 1950, 1970, 1990, 2000, and 2010.
weight to their preferences and less weight to pure economic necessity. That trend has clearly favored warmer climates and places with superior natural amenities. The increase in average life span coupled with a younger retirement age has increased the number of people who receive "mailbox income" (Social Security, pensions, and so on) and are thus free to live where they like. Many of these people have migrated southward.
The Interstate Highway System and electronic communications have made many southern and southwestern locations much more accessible than they previously were. The development of air-conditioning made many parts of the South, especially the Deep South, far more attractive than they once were.
One trend which the state figures in Table 2-1 do not capture has been the coastward movement of population. By the end of the twentieth century, one-half of the U.S. population lived within 50 miles of a coast. One reason for this is the attractiveness of coastal areas both for scenic and recreational reasons, and also, in some cases, a more moderate climate. Again, it is affluence and mailbox income that facilitate this trend.
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