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Regional Trends

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)

Regiona

1950

1970

1990

2000

2010

Percentage

Change

2000-2010

Percentage

Change

1950-2010

Northeast

39,478

49,061

50,976

53,610

55,411

3.3

40.4

New

England

9,314

11,848

13,197

13,983

14,448

3.3

55.1

MidAtlantic

30,164

37,213

37,779

39,672

40,963

3.3

35.8

North-central

44,461

56,589

60,225

64,429

67,115

4.5

50.1

East

North-

central

30,399

40,262

42,414

45,155

46,544

3.0

53.1

West

North-

central

14,061

16,327

17,811

19,274

20,571

6.7

46.3

South

47,197

62,812

86,916

100,237

115,051

14.8

143.8

South

Atlantic

21,182

30,678

44,421

51,769

60,030

16.0

183.4

East

Southcentral

11,477

12,808

15,347

17,023

18,508

8.7

61.3

West

Southcentral

14,538

19,326

27,148

31,445

36,513

16.1

151.2

West

20,190

34,838

54,060

63,198

72,173

14.2

257.5

Mountain

5,075

8,289

14,035

18,172

22,141

21.8

336.2

Pacific

15,115

26,549

40,025

45,026

50,032

11.1

230.2

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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