Southeastern United States
The Southeastern United States, also referred to as the American Southeast or simply the Southeast, is, broadly, the eastern portion of the Southern United States and the southern portion of the Eastern United States. It comprises at least a core of states on the lower East Coast of the United States and eastern Gulf Coast. Expansively, it includes everything south of the Mason–Dixon line, the Ohio River and the 36°30' parallel, and as far west as Arkansas and Louisiana. There is no official U.S. government definition of the region, though various agencies and departments use different definitions.
GeographyThe U.S. Geological Survey considers the Southeast region to be Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee, plus Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. There is no official Census Bureau definition of the southeastern United States; instead, they divide a larger region including Texas and Oklahoma designated as the "South" into three subregions none of which are conventionally considered to define the southeast. The nonprofit American Association of Geographers defines the southeastern United States as Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia. The OSBO uses the same states, but includes Arkansas and Louisiana. The state of Delaware plus the District of Columbia are also sometimes added in some definitions of the term.
HistoryThe history of human presence in the Southeast extends to before the dawn of civilization about 11,000 BC. The earliest artifacts were from the Clovis culture.
Prior to the arrival of Europeans, Native Americans of the Woodland period tradition occupied the region for several hundred years.
The first Europeans to arrive in the region were conquistadors of the Spanish Empire. In 1541, Hernando de Soto journeyed through the south and crossed the Mississippi River.
The region hosted the first permanent European settlement in North America, by the Kingdom of England at Jamestown, Virginia in 1607.
Prior to and during the American Civil War, the Confederate States of America consisted of the southeastern states plus Texas, i.e., Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, Tennessee, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, Louisiana, Arkansas, and Texas. Kentucky and Maryland were neutral border states that eventually joined the Union.
Much of the Southeast observed Jim Crow laws during the American segregation era.
Most populous statesThe most populous states in the region are Florida, followed by Georgia and North Carolina.
|State||2017 estimate||2010 census||Change||Land area||Density|
U.S. territoriesand the U.S. Virgin Islands are located southeast of Florida, and are considered to be in the South / southeastern U.S. by the FAA, Agricultural Research Service, and the U.S. National Park Service.
|Territory||2019 estimate||2010 census||Change||Land area||Density|
|U.S. Virgin Islands||-||-|
CultureThe predominant culture of the Southeast has its origins with the settlement of the region by British colonists and African slaves in the 17th century, as well as large groups of English, Scots and Ulster-Scots, Germans, Spanish, French, and Acadians in succeeding centuries. Since the late 20th century the New South has emerged as the fastest growing area of the United States economically. Multiculturalism has become mainstream in the Southeastern states. African Americans remain a dominant demographic at around 30% of the total population of the Southeast. The New South is built upon the metropolitan areas along the Interstate 85 corridor. Cities include Birmingham, Atlanta, Greenville, Spartanburg, Charlotte, Greensboro, Winston-Salem and Raleigh-Durham.
ClimateMost of the southeastern part of the United States is dominated by the humid subtropical climate. As one nears the southern portions of Florida, the climate gradually becomes tropical as winters are freeze free and all months have a mean temperature above .
Seasonally, summers are generally hot and humid throughout the entire region. The Bermuda High pumps hot and moist air mass from the tropical Atlantic Ocean and eastern Gulf of Mexico westward toward the southeast United States, creating the typical sultry tropical summers. Daytime highs are often in the upper 80s to lower 90s F. Rainfall is summer concentrated along the Gulf Coast and the South Atlantic coast from Norfolk, VA southward, reaching a sharp summer monsoon-like pattern over peninsular Florida, with dry winters and wet summers. Sunshine is abundant across the southeastern United States in summer, as the rainfall often comes in quick, but intense downpours. The mid-South, especially Tennessee, and the northern halves of Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia, have maximum monthly rainfall amounts in winter and spring, owing to copious Gulf moisture and clashes between warm, moist air from the Gulf of Mexico and cold, dry air from Canada during the cold season. Here, December, March or April are typically the wettest months; August to October, the driest months.
Winters are cool in the northern areas like Tennessee, Virginia, Maryland, and western North Carolina, with average highs in the range in January. Farther south, winters become more mild across interior eastern North and South Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama, with average January highs in the range. As one nears the Gulf of Mexico coastal plain and coastal areas of Georgia and the Carolinas, winters become warm, with daytime highs near or over, until far enough south in central Florida where daytime highs are above. Winters tend to be very dry and sunny across Florida, with a gradual increase in winter rainfall with increasing latitude, especially west of the Appalachian Mountains.
EconomyThe Southeast has changed dramatically in the last two generations. Since 1980, there has been a boom in its service economy, manufacturing base, high technology industries, and the financial sector. Examples of this include the surge in tourism in Florida and along the Gulf Coast; numerous new automobile production plants such as Mercedes-Benz in Tuscaloosa, Alabama; Hyundai in Montgomery, Alabama; Toyota Motors in Blue Springs, Mississippi; Kia in West Point, Georgia; the BMW production plant in Greer, South Carolina; Volkswagen in Chattanooga, Tennessee; the GM manufacturing plant in Spring Hill, Tennessee; the Volkswagen manufacturing plant in Pulaski, Virginia;and the Nissan North American headquarters in Franklin, Tennessee; the two largest research parks in the country: Research Triangle Park in the Triangle area of North Carolina and the Cummings Research Park in Huntsville, Alabama ; and the corporate headquarters of Verso Paper in Memphis, as well as FedEx, which is one of the world's largest shipping companies.
Fortune 500 companies having headquarters in the region include 20 in Virginia, 16 in Florida, 15 in North Carolina, and 14 in Georgia. This economic expansion has enabled parts of the South to have of some of the lowest unemployment rates in the United States. In Alabama, there is a large-scale manufacturing project owned by the German steel megacorporation ThyssenKrupp, which operates a massive, state-of-the-art facility in Mobile.
Research and development, in the Raleigh-Durham urban area of North Carolina, has emerged as a major hub of technology, governmental, and biotechnological research and development, as has the Virginia BioTechnology Research Park in Richmond. The Cummings Research Park in the Huntsville, Alabama area is the second largest research complex in the nation. Located in Huntsville is the Redstone Arsenal, United States Army Missile Command, the U.S. Space & Rocket Center, NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center and many other key government, military, and aerospace agencies. Tullahoma, TN contains Arnold Air Force Base. The base is home to the Arnold Engineering Development Complex, the most advanced and largest complex of flight simulation test facilities in the world.
The National High Magnetic Field Laboratory in Tallahassee, Florida, is the largest laboratory in the world devoted to the study of magnetism. The University of South Carolina is currently constructing a research campus in downtown Columbia, and the university is the nation's only National Science Foundation-funded Industry/University Cooperative Research Center for Fuel Cells.
Higher educationThe region includes a number of notable universities, public and private, whose research exert influence globally. Chief among these are:
There are a number of well-known private institutions, as well. Notable among these are:
The region is home to the greatest number of historically black colleges and universities in the nation. The three largest in the region are:
Largest citiesThese are the largest cities in the Southeastern region of the United States by population, according to the United States Census Bureau:
|3||Washington||District of Columbia|
|—||San Juan||Puerto Rico|
Metropolitan Statistical AreasThese are the metropolitan areas of the Southeastern region which exceed 1 million in population according to the United States Census Bureau's 2019 estimates:
|Rank||Metropolitan area||Anchor city||Population||State or territory|
|1||Washington-Arlington-Alexandria||Washington||6,280,487||District of Columbia / Virginia /|
Maryland / West Virginia
|2||Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach||Miami||6,166,488||Florida|
|6||Charlotte-Concord-Gastonia||Charlotte||2,636,883||North Carolina / South Carolina|
|—||San Juan–Caguas–Guaynabo||San Juan||2,020,000||Puerto Rico|
|9||Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News||Virginia Beach||1,768,901||Virginia / North Carolina|
|12||Memphis||Memphis||1,346,045||Tennessee / Mississippi / Arkansas|
|14||New Orleans-Metairie-Kenner||New Orleans||1,270,530||Louisiana|
|15||Louisville-Jefferson County||Louisville||1,265,108||Kentucky / Indiana|
Combined Statistical AreasBeyond Megalopolis by Virginia Tech's Metropolitan Institute, an attempt to update Jean Gottmann's work with current trends, defines two "megapolitan areas" contained within the Southeast, out of a total of ten such areas in the United States:
- "Piedmont" extending from North Carolina to Alabama
- "Peninsula" covering South Florida and Central Florida
- "Gulf Coast" extending as far east as the western tip of Florida
- "Northeast" including much of Maryland and eastern Virginia
|Rank||Combined Statistical Area||Population||Constituent Core Based Statistical Areas|
|1||Washington-Baltimore-Arlington, DC-MD-VA-WV-PA Combined Statistical Area||9,814,928||Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV Metropolitan Statistical Area|
Baltimore-Columbia-Towson, MD Metropolitan Statistical Area
Hagerstown-Martinsburg, MD-WV Metropolitan Statistical Area
Chambersburg-Waynesboro, PA Metropolitan Statistical Area
Winchester, VA-WV Metropolitan Statistical Area
California-Lexington Park, MD Metropolitan Statistical Area
Easton, MD Micropolitan Statistical Area
Cambridge, MD Micropolitan Statistical Area
|2||Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Port St. Lucie, FL Combined Statistical Area||6,889,936||Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach, FL Metropolitan Statistical Area|
Port St. Lucie, FL Metropolitan Statistical Area
Sebastian-Vero Beach, FL Metropolitan Statistical Area
Okeechobee, FL Micropolitan Statistical Area
|3||Atlanta–Athens-Clarke County–Sandy Springs, GA Combined Statistical Area||6,853,392||Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell, GA Metropolitan Statistical Area|
Athens-Clarke County, GA Metropolitan Statistical Area
Gainesville, GA Metropolitan Statistical Area
LaGrange, GA Micropolitan Statistical Area
Jefferson, GA Micropolitan Statistical Area
Calhoun, GA Micropolitan Statistical Area
Cedartown, GA Micropolitan Statistical Area
Thomaston, GA Micropolitan Statistical Area
|4||Orlando-Deltona-Daytona Beach, FL Combined Statistical Area||4,160,646||Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford, FL Metropolitan Statistical Area|
Deltona-Daytona Beach-Ormond Beach, FL Metropolitan Statistical Area
The Villages, FL Metropolitan Statistical Area
|5||Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater||3,194,831||MSA only|
|6||Charlotte-Concord, NC-SC Combined Statistical Area||2,797,636||Charlotte-Concord-Gastonia, NC-SC Metropolitan Statistical Area|
Shelby, NC Micropolitan Statistical Area
Albemarle, NC Micropolitan Statistical Area
|7||Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill, NC Combined Statistical Area||2,079,687||Raleigh, NC Metropolitan Statistical Area|
Durham-Chapel Hill, NC Metropolitan Statistical Area
Dunn, NC Micropolitan Statistical Area
Oxford, NC Micropolitan Statistical Area
Sanford, NC Micropolitan Statistical Area
Henderson, NC Micropolitan Statistical Area
|8||Nashville-Davidson–Murfreesboro, TN Combined Statistical Area||2,062,547||Nashville-Davidson–Murfreesboro–Franklin, TN Metropolitan Statistical Area|
Shelbyville, TN Micropolitan Statistical Area
Lawrenceburg, TN Micropolitan Statistical Area
Lewisburg, TN Micropolitan Statistical Area
|9||Virginia Beach-Norfolk, VA-NC Combined Statistical Area||1,859,197||Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News, VA-NC Metropolitan Statistical Area|
Elizabeth City, NC Micropolitan Statistical Area
Kill Devil Hills, NC Micropolitan Statistical Area
|10||Greensboro–Winston-Salem–High Point, NC Combined Statistical Area||1,689,151||Greensboro-High Point, NC Metropolitan Statistical Area|
Winston-Salem, NC Metropolitan Statistical Area
Burlington, NC Metropolitan Statistical Area
Mount Airy, NC Micropolitan Statistical Area
|11||Jacksonville-St. Marys-Palatka, FL-GA Combined Statistical Area||1,688,701||Jacksonville, FL Metropolitan Statistical Area|
Palatka, FL Micropolitan Statistical Area
St. Marys, GA Micropolitan Statistical Area
|12||New Orleans-Metairie-Hammond, LA-MS Combined Statistical Area||1,507,017||New Orleans-Metairie, LA Metropolitan Statistical Area|
Hammond, LA Metropolitan Statistical Area
Picayune, MS Micropolitan Statistical Area
Bogalusa, LA Micropolitan Statistical Area
|13||Louisville/Jefferson County–Elizabethtown–Bardstown, KY-IN Combined Statistical Area||1,489,142||Louisville/Jefferson County, KY-IN Metropolitan Statistical Area|
Elizabethtown-Fort Knox, KY Metropolitan Statistical Area
Bardstown, KY Micropolitan Statistical Area
Scottsburg, IN Micropolitan Statistical Area
|14||Greenville-Spartanburg-Anderson, SC Combined Statistical Area||1,475,235||Greenville-Anderson-Mauldin, SC Metropolitan Statistical Area|
Spartanburg, SC Metropolitan Statistical Area
Greenwood, SC Micropolitan Statistical Area
Seneca, SC Micropolitan Statistical Area
Gaffney, SC Micropolitan Statistical Area
|15||Memphis-Forrest City, TN-MS-AR Combined Statistical Area||1,371,039||Memphis, TN-MS-AR Metropolitan Statistical Area|
Forrest City, AR Micropolitan Statistical Area
|16||Birmingham-Hoover-Talladega, AL Combined Statistical Area||1,317,702||Birmingham-Hoover, AL Metropolitan Statistical Area|
Talladega-Sylacauga, AL Micropolitan Statistical Area
Cullman, AL Micropolitan Statistical Area
|18||Cape Coral-Fort Myers-Naples, FL Combined Statistical Area||1,197,501||Cape Coral-Fort Myers, FL Metropolitan Statistical Area|
Naples-Immokalee-Marco Island, FL Metropolitan Statistical Area
|19||Knoxville-Morristown-Sevierville, TN Combined Statistical Area||1,146,049||Knoxville, TN Metropolitan Statistical Area|
Morristown, TN Metropolitan Statistical Area
Sevierville, TN Micropolitan Statistical Area
Newport, TN Micropolitan Statistical Area
|20||North Port-Sarasota, FL Combined Statistical Area||1,063,906||North Port-Sarasota-Bradenton, FL Metropolitan Statistical Area|
Punta Gorda, FL Metropolitan Statistical Area
Arcadia, FL Micropolitan Statistical Area
SportsAlthough American football is prevalent across the United States, it is especially pervasive in the Southeast. With a total of nine franchises — the Atlanta Falcons, the Baltimore Ravens, the Carolina Panthers, the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Miami Dolphins, the New Orleans Saints, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Tennessee Titans, and the Washington Football Team — across the region, the National Football League maintains a stronger commercial presence than any other major North American professional sports league.
The Southeast has seven National Basketball Association franchises: the Atlanta Hawks, the Charlotte Hornets, the Memphis Grizzlies, the Miami Heat, the New Orleans Pelicans, the Orlando Magic, and the Washington Wizards.
Major League Baseball maintains five teams in the Southeast: the Atlanta Braves, the Baltimore Orioles, the Miami Marlins, the Tampa Bay Rays, and the Washington Nationals.
The Southeast has five National Hockey League franchises: the Carolina Hurricanes, the Florida Panthers, the Nashville Predators, the Tampa Bay Lightning, and the Washington Capitals.
Major League Soccer currently holds three clubs — Atlanta United FC, DC United, and Orlando City SC— in the region. This number will increase to six when Nashville SC and Inter Miami CF begin play in March 2020, and Charlotte's unnamed team joins in 2021.
The Atlantic Coast Conference is an NCAA Division 1 conference of mainly Southeastern college teams, including the Florida State Seminoles, Louisville Cardinals, Miami Hurricanes, Clemson Tigers and Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, Wake Forest Demon Deacons, Duke Blue Devils, North Carolina Tar Heels, NC State Wolfpack, Virginia Tech Hokies, and Virginia Cavaliers. The Sugar Bowl, Orange Bowl, Peach Bowl, and Citrus Bowl are notable college football bowls held in Southeastern cities.
The Southeastern Conference is also an NCAA Division 1 conference of Southeastern college teams, including the Alabama Crimson Tide, Arkansas Razorbacks, Auburn Tigers, Kentucky Wildcats, Ole Miss Rebels, Florida Gators, South Carolina Gamecocks, Tennessee Volunteers and Georgia Bulldogs, Mississippi State Bulldogs, and Vanderbilt Commodores.
The majority of NASCAR teams are headquartered in the Charlotte area along with the sports operations headquarters and media outlets. Tracks in the region include Daytona International Speedway, Homestead-Miami Speedway, Talladega Superspeedway, Bristol Motor Speedway, Charlotte Motor Speedway, Atlanta Motor Speedway, Darlington Raceway, Kentucky Speedway, Martinsville Speedway, and Richmond International Speedway.
The southeast also hosts two of the three legs of the American Triple Crown: the Kentucky Derby, in Kentucky, and the Preakness Stakes are also located in the Southeast, being run in Baltimore. The Derby is considered the western leg of the crown and the Preakness is traditionally considered the southern leg.