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There is no longer much justification for this view of rural dominance. About 70 percent of Americans live in urban areas, and more than 40 percent are in areas of 1 million people or more. In 1990, the U.S. farm population numbered about 5 million (2 percent of the population), a figure that has declined steadily since the first national census in 1790, when over 90 percent of all Americans were farmers.
Several elements of urbanization are emphasized in our discussion. Cities have a particular form, a particular layout. Most American cities have a rectangular-grid pattern, partly a result of cultural attitudes, partly a result of a desire for efficient transport before the automobile, and partly because that pattern is an easy way to survey the land. Within cities, there is a collection of industrial and commercial centers, residential areas, warehouses, and so on.
Today, there is substantial regional specialization in manufacturing, partly as the result of variations in the availability of industrial raw materials and partly as the result of industrial linkages; manufacturing concerns that produce component parts of some final product are located near each other as well as near the final assembly site to minimize total movement costs.
Other important sources of variation include differences in labor availability or labor skills, in the quality of transportation facilities, and in local political attitudes. Regions tend to specialize in the production of whatever it is that they can best produce. And with this regional specialization has come regional interdependence; few sections of America are truly self-sufficient in manufacturing, in spite of what local pride might lead us to believe.
High Mobility America's extensive transportation network is an important element in its high level of economic interaction. Goods and people move freely within and between regions of the country. Regional interdependence is great; it is made possible by these interregional flows. Relative isolation is uncommon, but it does exist.
Until the last decade of the 19th century, there was a strong westward population shift toward frontier agricultural lands. The focus of opportunity then changed and migration shifted to urban areas. More recently, the U.S. economy has entered what some call a post-industrial phase; employment growth is primarily in professions and services rather than primary (extractive) or secondary (manufacturing) sectors. Such employment is much more flexible in its location, and there has been a more rapid growth in such employment in areas that appear to contain greater amenities.
Resources About 25 percent of the land in row crops in the United States produces exports. Also, the country is able to satisfy much of its gigantic demand for industrial raw materials domestically. The United States has the potential to be a major supplier for a few nonagricultural raw materials internationally and is the world's leading exporter of coal.
Although the U.S. population is predominantly urban, the taking of natural resources from its abundant base requires a large non-urban labor force. Furthermore, particularly for agriculture, the development of these resources often involves a substantial land area. As a result, the relationship between the physical environment and human adaptations to that environment are clearly visible. Government plays an important role in this relationship by establishing controls on land use and agricultural production and by regulating the development of many resources. It is partly because processes inherent in urbanization and industrialization lead to high demand for raw materials that the United States has become dependent on imported raw materials in spite of great natural resource abundance.
High Income & High Consumption The high U.S. national income is achieved through high worker productivity, which requires a significant use of machines. And modern machines are fueled by inanimate energy sources. Mobility also implies heavy use of energy resources. High income spread somewhat evenly among a large share of the population will generate high product demand. All this increases energy consumption
Americans consume about 25 percent of the world's total energy production. The United States imports half the petroleum it consumes, an increasing share of the iron ore and natural gas used, nearly all of its tin and aluminum, and large quantities of many other mineral ores.
Environmental Impact One consequence of high consumption combined with resource abundance and dependence is a strong disruption of the physical environment. Resources seldom can be removed from the natural landscape without some impact, and the manufacture and use of these resources often harm the air and water. The increased severity of such environmental impacts has enlivened the argument between development and conservation--an argument that has stimulated greater governmental intervention in both processes in an attempt to establish a middle ground. As domestic resources become increasingly scarce and their costs of extraction and production increase, the importance of this conflict will grow.
Below the state level, the complexity of the political structure can present a major problem in the effective and efficient distribution of governmental services. Counties, townships, cities, and towns are all governed by their own elected officials. Many special administrative units oversee the provision of specific services, such as education, public transportation, and water supply. The resulting administrative pattern is often nearly impossible to comprehend, because many overlapping jurisdictions may provide one service or another in a given area.
Cultural Origins The United States has grown from a diverse cultural background. African Americans have made important contributions to the national culture. A distinctive cultural region has developed in the Southwest, with an admixture of Hispanic Americans, American Indians, and European Americans. The Chinese contributed to the life of such cities as San Francisco and New York. This cultural diversity is an important element in the distinctive character of the country.
Cultural Regions of USA Megalopolis, the American Manufacturing Core, the Bypassed East, Appalachia and the Ozarks, the Deep South, the Southern Coastlands, the Agricultural Core, the Great Plains and Prairies, the Empty Interior, the Southwest Border Area, California, the North Pacific Coast, the Northlands, and Hawaii.
The Manufacturing Core The northeastern United States, excluding northern New England, is the country's single most significant region of manufacturing. This region is loosely defined on three sides by the Ohio River Valley, Megalopolis, and the southern Great Lakes. Its factories produce most of the country's steel, as well as a significant percentage of its motor vehicles and motor vehicle parts.
The Bypassed East The Bypassed East is not an easy place in which to live and work. Its harsh climate, hilly terrain, and thin, rocky soils limit agriculture. The small size of the major regional centers is a good indication of what may be the greatest single reason for the relatively low per capita income levels found in the region.
The Deep South Production of plantation cotton had become so successful that the region's economy was dominated by this one crop. With the loss of the Civil War, the South's economic underpinnings were badly damaged. Economic diversity is replacing simple dependency on agriculture.
Major Cities 1 ~ New York, New York: 7,333,253 2 2~ Los Angeles, California: 3,448,613 3 ~ Chicago, Illinois: 2,731,743 4 ~ Houston, Texas: 1,702,086 5 ~ Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: 1,524,249 6 ~ San Diego, California: 1,151,977 7 ~ Phoenix, Arizona: 1,048,949 8 ~ Dallas, Texas: 1,022,830 9 ~ San Antonio, Texas: 998,905 10 ~ Detroit, Michigan: 992,038
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