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The Sun Belt is a region of the United Statesmarker generally considered to stretch across the South and Southwest (the geographic southern United States). Another rough boundary of the region is the area south of the 37th or 38th parallels, north latitude. The main defining feature of the Sun Belt is its warm-temperate climate with extended summers and brief, relatively mild winters. The extreme southern parts of the Sun Belt are properly considered to be subtropical.

The Sun Belt has seen substantial population growth in recent decades, fueled by milder winters; a surge in retiring baby boomers who migrate domestically; as well as the influx of immigrants, both legal and illegal. Also, over the past several decades, air conditioning has made it easier for people to deal with the heat in portions of the region during the summertime. Water shortages are becoming common problems in the region.


The Sun Belt is known as the southern tier of the United Statesmarker and includes the states of Alabamamarker, Arizonamarker, Californiamarker, Floridamarker, Georgiamarker, Louisianamarker, Arkansasmarker, Coloradomarker, Utahmarker, Mississippimarker, Oklahomamarker, Nevadamarker, New Mexicomarker, Tennesseemarker, Texasmarker, North Carolinamarker, South Carolinamarker and southern Virginiamarker. The Bible Belt occupies much of the same geography as the Sun Belt, with the exception of the southwest.

Author and political analyst Kevin Phillips claims to have coined the term "to describe the oil, military, aerospace and retirement country stretching from Florida to California" in his 1969 book The Emerging Republican Majority.

The term "Sun Belt" became synonymous with the southern third of the nation in the early 1970s. There was a shift in this period from the previously economically and politically important northeast to the south and west. Events such as the huge migration of immigrant workers from neighboring Mexico, warmer climate, and a boom in the agriculture industry allowed for the southern third of the U.S.A. to grow by leaps and bounds economically. The climate spurred not only agricultural growth but was also a haven for many retirees who set up retirement communities throughout the region, most famously in Florida and Arizona.

Industries such as aerospace, defense and oil boomed in the Sun Belt as companies took advantage of the low involvement of labor unions in the south (due to more recent industrialization) and enjoyed the proximity to many U.S. military installations who were the major consumers of their products. The oil industry helped propel many southern states such as Texas and Louisiana forward and tourism exploded in Florida and southern California. In more recent decades high tech and new economy industries have been major drivers of growth in California and Texas as well as many other parts of the Sun Belt though hardly the only industries that have expanded in the region. More than a third of all Fortune 500 companies today are based in the belt with Texas and California among the top 3 states in the nation (New Yorkmarker currently has the second highest number).

Since 1970, the Sun Belt states have gained 25 electoral votes, many of which were shifted from northeastern and midwestern states. Since Lyndon B. Johnson's election in 1964, every elected United States President, with the exception of Barack Obama from Illinoismarker, has been from the Sun Belt. (Gerald Ford, who was from Michiganmarker, served as President following Richard Nixon's resignation but was not elected as President, and lost to Georgia's Jimmy Carter in the 1976 election.)


As of 2005 the U.S. Census Bureau projected that approximately 88% of the U.S. population growth between 2000 and 2030 will occur in the Sun Belt. California, Texas, and Florida are each expected to add more than 12 million people during that time which will make these by far the most populous states in the nation. Arizona and North Carolina are also expected to make major population gains. Nevada, Arizona, Florida, and Texas are expected to be the fastest growing states.

Events leading up to and including the 2008-2009 recession have led many to question whether growth projections for the Sun Belt have been overstated. The economic bubble that led to the recession appears, to many observers, to have been more acute in the Sun Belt than many other parts of the country. Additionally the traditional lure of cheaper labor markets in the belt compared to many of the older industrial centers has been eroded by the overseas outsourcing trend of the recent decade.

One of the greatest threats facing the Sun Belt in the coming decades is water shortages. Communities in California are making plans to build potentially multiple desalination plants to supply fresh water and avert near-term crises. Texas and Florida also face increasingly serious shortages because of their rapidly expanding populations.

Largest metropolitan areas within the Sun Belt

The following are the largest metropolitan areas in the Sun Belt representing the primary economic hubs of the region. Population and gross metropolitan product (GMP) estimates are presented.

Additionally the following major transnational metropolitan areas are partially within the U.S. Sun Belt.

Major cities within the Sun Belt

See also



  • B. L. Weinstein and R. E. Firestine, Regional Growth and Decline in the United States: The Rise of the Sunbelt and the Decline of the Northeast (1978)


  1. , reprinted by Google News Archive
  2. Sun Belt entry at, credited to the Columbia Encyclopedia.
  3. Sun Belt entry at infoplease, credited to the Columbia Encyclopedia.
  4. "How the GOP Became God's Own Party", the Washington Post, April 2, 2006
  5. Sun Belt Growth Shapes Housing's Future, Professional Builder, 1 May 2005
  6. Lewan, Todd: Has economic twilight come to the Sun Belt?, MSNBC, 31 May 2009
  7. Cetron, Marvin J.; O'Toole, Thomas: Encounters with the future: a forecast of life into the 21st century‎, Mcgraw-Hill, April 1982, pg. 34
  8. Shankman, Sabrina: California Gives Desalination Plants a Fresh Look , Wall Street Journal, 10 July 2009
  9. McGovern, Bernie: Florida Almanac 2007-2008, Pelican Publishing Company, March 2007, pg. 53
  10. U.S. Metro Economies: Gross Metropolitan Product with Housing Update, The United States Conference of Mayors, June 2008

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