Dr. Jeremy Posadas
Dr. Jeremy Posadas
... a new way to map the diverse lands that make up the United States. Unlike a traditional classroom map, this uses counties rather than states as the building blocks for its regions. The United Regions of America map solves the problem that many states actually lie in more than one distinct region (for example: Ohio, Texas, Virginia, Colorado, California, or New York, to name a few). And since there are 3,142 counties (including areas equivalent to counties), the regional boundaries can be drawn much more precisely than with just 50 states.
The Deep South stretches from the Lowcountry to the Piney Woods, up from the Delta to the Bootheel, up the Piedmont as far as Charlotte, and down to northern Florida.
Appohzarka (a region newly devised by this map) joins Appalachia (from New York's Southern Tier down to Birmingham) and the Ozarks-Ouachitas with the plateaus and great river valleys that lie between them (the “oh” refers to the Ohio River basin).
The Gulf Coast extends from New Orleans and Houston out to Mobile and Corpus Christi, a zone that plays a crucial role in oil/gas extraction and the chemical industry.
This is the portion of the state that lies south of an Ocala-Daytona line, or roughly from the I-4 corridor on down.
Mid-Atlantic South (also newly devised by this map) is roughly a triangle bounded on the west by the Blue Ridge, on the east by the Chesapeake/Outer Banks coast, and on the south by North Carolina’s tobacco belts; the DMV sits at its apex.
Mid-Atlantic North encompasses the New York City, Philadelphia, and Baltimore metro areas plus their broader rural environs up to the edge of northern Appalachia.
The Northeast attaches Albany and the Mohawk Valley to the coastal lowlands of southern New England and the Adirondacks to the forested uplands of northern New England.
These two regions acknowledge the overlaps between the Rust Belt and the Farm Belt. Using empirical measures, counties where farming predominates or plays a major role alongside manufacturing were assigned to Heartland; counties around the Lakes where it does not (including the northern forests) were assigned to Great Lakes.
The Great Plains keeps together the northern and southern portions of the Plains, given the shared importance of cattle ranching and, more recently, oil/gas extraction in both.
Mountain West joins the Rocky and Cascade-Sierra systems with the “cold desert” basins and plateaus that lie within them, plus the Sacramento Valley and Alaska above its panhandle.
The Southwest includes the Mojave, Sonoran, and Chihuahuan deserts (with the Mogollon Rim and the Texas brush country as buffer-zones) and the upper Rio Grande.
The West Coast is comprised of California’s southern and central coasts and San Joaquin Valley as well as Hawai‘i.
The Northwest is defined by the largest and one of the only temperate rainforests in the world, ranging from Southeast Alaska to Monterey Bay.
This map’s greatest strength is that its regions are defined by calibrating areas that are already widely referred to — Deep South, Mountain West, etc. — with major natural landscapes. So these regions correspond to how they are perceived by many of their inhabitants but are simultaneously rooted in the physical environment. (One of the major drawbacks with this other regional map that you may have seen is the utter lack of alignment with inhabitants’ own perceptions of their “home”.) There are two regions, however, that have been newly coined for this map — combining certain sub-regions that are also commonly recognized. This map intends to demonstrate how useful it is to think of them as regions unto themselves.
The United Regions of America uses the “ecoregions” delineated by the EPA for its basic definition of natural landscapes, because they holistically take into account terrain, soil types, climate, water features, and characteristic vegetation and wildlife. Most of this map’s regions are fairly obvious from looking at the EPA's ecoregions maps, while a few more of them can be distinguished by a combination of natural landscape and the economic predominance of farming & ranching, and/or manufacturing, and/or natural resource extraction.
This map doesn’t just put highly urban areas into some regions and rural areas into others. Major metropolises remain grouped with rural areas for which they serve as a hub. (In addition, the counties of each OMB-defined metropolitan area are, with only a few exceptions, kept within the same region.) This allows us to appreciate how every region of the United States is a mix of urban and rural. Moreover, it allows us to explore how urban or rural areas differ by region, rather than being monolithic like they’re usually portrayed.
It’s important to note several things this map isn’t. Counties were not assigned on the basis of racial, ethnic or religious concentrations or migration flows, nor on the basis of cultural patterns of the people who live in them, nor some ambiguous notion of “what people there are like.” The reasons for this will be explained in additional commentary of the project (linked below), along with other principles that were used for assigning counties to regions.
Counties were also not assigned on the basis of election results, so that the 14 regions can be used as an independent variable in future political analyses while avoiding circular reasoning (“Oh look, Republican areas vote Republican, and Democratic ones vote Democratic!”). Lastly, this is not meant to be a historical map, and in particular it may not be suitable for analyses prior to WW2.
Over time I’ll be posting here regularly about this map, including an overview of each region and the major decisions behind it. I'll also be exploring the basic demographic and electoral analysis of each region and its urban and rural areas. In the meantime, you can click here for a spreadsheet listing each county and its region.
I offer deep thanks to the following people whose comments on areas they know well helped shape and refine this map: Nate B., Brennan B., Bradley B., Sarah L., Karla M., Meredith M., Josh R., Jen S., Zia S., Kim B., Peter B., Chris B., Ben B., Letitia C., Jessica C. W., Ashon C., Kellyann F. W., Jessica H., Andrew K., Kevin L., Ellen L. D., Jay M., Doug O., Deb O., Christine P., Joanne P., Ormond S., Chris W., Erma W., Francis B., Suzanne E., Patrick E., Loriann G., Keith G., Nicholas H., Susannah L. K., Dennis L., Kevin M., Andrea O., Erik S., Randi T., Becca T., Tom V., Lesley W., and several others.
Conceptually, I drew some initial inspiration (while ultimately differing significantly) from this 2014 map by Reddit user miguecolombia, as well as from Pete Saunders’ “Five Midwests” and Lyman Stone’s delineation of Appalachia’s sub-regions. And the forums on City-Data.com, particularly its “General U.S.” forum, provided a massive trove of local inhabitants’ perceptions about nearly every area in the country.
I used the awesome, easy-for-laypersons website MapChart.net, by Minas Giannekas, to prototype this map. And then the multi-modal talents of auut studio turned the final concept into this high-quality cartographic design and website.
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Use hashtag #URAmericaMap