The Sun Belt is a region of the United States generally considered to stretch across the Southeast and Southwest. Another rough definition of the region is the area south of the 36th parallel. The region is noted for its mild winter, frequent sunny skies, and growing economic opportunities. The sun belt is the fastest growing region in the United States. Within the region, desert/semi-desert (California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas), Mediterranean (California), humid subtropical (Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Tennessee), and tropical (South Florida) climates can be found.
The Sun Belt has seen substantial population growth since the 1960s from an influx of people seeking a warm and sunny climate, a surge in retiring baby boomers, and growing economic opportunities. The advent of air conditioning created more comfortable summer conditions and allowed more manufacturing and industry to locate in the sunbelt. Since much of the construction in the sun belt is new or recent, housing styles and design are often modern and open. Recreational opportunities in the sun belt are often not tied strictly to one season, and many tourist and resort cities, such as Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami, Myrtle Beach, New Orleans, Orlando, Palm Springs, Phoenix, St. George, and San Diego support a tourist industry all year.
The Sun Belt comprises the southern tier of the United States, including the states of Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico, South Carolina, Texas, roughly two-thirds of California (up to Greater Sacramento), and parts of Arkansas, North Carolina, Oklahoma and Nevada. Five of the states—Arizona, California, Florida, Nevada, and Texas—are sometimes collectively called the Sand States because of their abundance of beaches or deserts.
First employed by political analyst Kevin Phillips 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. In this period, economic and political prominence shifted from the Midwest and Northeast to the South and West. Factors such as the warmer climate, the migration of workers from Mexico, and a boom in the agriculture industry allowed the southern third of the United States to grow economically. The climate spurred not only agricultural growth, but also the migration of many retirees to retirement communities in the region, especially 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 region (due to more recent industrialization, 1930s–1950s) and the proximity of military installations that were major consumers of their products. The oil industry helped propel states such as Texas and Louisiana forward, and tourism grew in Florida and Southern California. More recently, high tech and new economy industries have been major drivers of growth in California, Florida, Texas, and other parts of the Sun Belt. Texas and California rank among the top five states in the nation with the most Fortune 500 companies.
In 2005, the U.S. Census Bureau projected that approximately 88% of the nation's population growth between 2000 and 2030 would occur in the Sun Belt. California, Texas, and Florida were each expected to add more than 12 million people during that time, which would make them by far the most populous states in America. Nevada, Arizona, Florida, and Texas were expected to be the fastest-growing states.
Events leading up to and including the 2008–2009 recession led some to question whether growth projections for the Sun Belt had been overstated. The economic bubble that led to the recession appeared, to some observers, to have been more acute in the Sun Belt than other parts of the country. Additionally, the traditional lure of cheaper labor markets in the region compared with America's older industrial centers has been eroded by overseas outsourcing trends.