How I Define Regions of the United States

Different people define regions of the United States differently. Here’s where I draw the boundaries for 22 regions. Ample notes follow.


  • Each state is in exactly one of Northeast, South, Midwest, and West, usually referred to with “The” before (for instance, “The Midwest”). This is the top-level division. Divisions of the United States should occur with this property for the four major regions.
  • This being said, quite a few of the boundaries among the four major regions are rather debatable, particularly between The Midwest and The South. I tend to refer to Oklahoma, Missouri, Kentucky, and West Virginia as The Midwest, but it’s definitely quite valid to consider some subset of them The South as well. Honestly, I believe I am myself sometimes inconsistent about this. Note that categorizing all four states as The Midwest makes The South coterminous with the Former Confederacy, and there’s a fair argument about making The South constitute more than that (and calling this set the “Former Confederacy”). I am less sympathetic to considering Maryland and Delaware as The South. I am not sympathetic at all to considering Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, or New Jersey The South. That’s just wrong.
  • The Colonial States include not just the 13 states corresponding to the original 13 colonies, but also states that are not these 13 states but were part of the 13 original colonies. Note that this doesn’t include, for instance, Kentucky for Virginia, because that acquisition really happened way too late.
  • New England plus the Mid-Atlantic is precisely The Northeast.
  • The Great Lakes States are in fact precisely the set of states that border the Great Lakes somewhere. Of course, that causes the awkwardness that a Great Lakes State borders the Atlantic Ocean.
  • The Deep South is precisely the states Goldwater won minus Goldwater’s home state.
  • The Former Free States comprises of three disjoint portions: a large chunk of states in the general Northeast, Kansas, and Oregon and California on the Pacific coast.
  • The Mountain States are precisely the states for which the majority of the state is in Mountain Time.
  • The Pacific States are the states with a coast on the Pacific Ocean. Note that this is not the set of states in Pacific Time. For this reason, I think considering Nevada a Pacific State is actually an okay definition, although not optimal.
  • There’s quite a fair argument to consider Nevada the Southwest as well, really. Half the state’s population is already that Southwest.
  • Viewing the finished map, one (lack of) feature that surprises me is the fact that northing separates Wyoming from Colorado. I think my gut expected that at least something significant distinguishes the two. Maybe some name for “cluster of states in the north with barely any population” could help make that separation happen.

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