10/17/12 - sunbelt vs. snowbelt

In today's selection -- the presidential election contest between Barack Obama of Illinois and Mitt Romney of Massachusetts represents a departure from the long-term shift in power from "snowbelt" states to "sunbelt" states. From the outset of World War II, snowbelt states have declined from 57 percent of the U.S. population to only 40 percent, and sunbelt states have risen from 30 percent to 46 percent. From 1900 to the 1964 election, snowbelt states provided every U.S. president but one, and from the 1964 election until Barack Obama's election in 2008, sunbelt states provided every one:

"For a century after the Civil War, American national power was centered in the North, es­pecially in the Northeast and Midwest. Almost all American presi­dents hailed from the North. Industry, too, was concentrated in the North, as was great wealth. The South lagged for many complex reasons beyond the obvious one of defeat in the Civil War: an agrar­ian rather than industrial economy, low technological skills, poor public education, and the burdens of tropical diseases such as yel­low fever, malaria, and hookworm. All those factors meant that eco­nomic power remained concentrated in the North.

"Then came the great political change. Between 1900 and 1960, the Snowbelt states provided every U.S. president but one. But between 1964 and Obama's election in 2008, the Sunbelt states provided every one. The civil rights movement created a stark dividing line between the Snowbelt and Sunbelt presidential eras. Starting with Nixon, Republican candidates garnered the bulk of the South's elec­toral votes. Until Obama, only two Democratic candidates (Carter and Clinton), both from the Sunbelt, were able to shake loose even a few electoral votes in the now strongly Republican region. North­ern Democrats tended to face a wall of southern white middle-class opposition, making them nearly unelectable. (Lower-income white voters tended to remain in the Democratic Party column.)

"The rise of the Sunbelt to presidential power in the 1960s and af­terward was far more than merely a civil rights backlash, however. It ... reflected the gradual rise in economic power of the South after World War II, especially as electrification, air-conditioning, public investments in infrastructure (such as western dams and large-scale water projects), and greatly improved health care and education all made possible the migration of industries such as textiles and apparel from the high-cost, highly unionized Northeast to the low-cost, nonunionized Sunbelt. The shift of industries from the Snowbelt to the Sunbelt was, in many ways, a dry run of the later transfer of industry from the high-wage United States to the low-wage Asia. As the Sunbelt economy boomed and the U.S. population (includ­ing both native-born Americans and Hispanic immigrants) increas­ingly settled in the Sunbelt, political power necessarily gravitated to the South.

"[Author's note] 1: I have categorized the Sunbelt and Snowbelt as follows: The Sunbelt: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, and Virginia. The Snowbelt: Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New-York, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Ver­mont, and Wisconsin."


Jeffrey Sachs


The Price of Civilization: Reawakening american Virtue and Prosperity


Random House


Copyright 2011 by Jeffrey Sachs


73-74, 283
barns and noble booksellers
Support Independent Bookstores - Visit

All delanceyplace profits are donated to charity and support children’s literacy projects.


Sign in or create an account to comment