A Geographic Overview of the Rust Belt

The term “Rust Belt” refers to what once served as the hub of American Industry. Located in the Great Lakes region, the Rust Belt covers much of the American Midwest. Also known as the “Industrial Heartland of North America”, the Great Lakes and nearby Appalachia were utilized for transportation and natural resources. Today, the landscape is characterized by the presence of old factory towns and post-industrial skylines.

An abundance of natural resources made this 19th-century industrial growth possible. The mid-Atlantic region has significant coal and iron ore reserves, which are used to produce steel. Industries based on these resources arose. Midwestern America has the water and transportation resources necessary for production and shipment. Factories and plants for coal, steel, automobiles, automotive parts, and weapons dominated the industrial landscape of the Rust Belt.

Between 1890 and 1930, immigrants from Europe and migrants from the American South came to the region in search of work. During the World War II era, the economy was fueled by the manufacturing sector and a high demand for steel. By the 1960s and 1970s, increased globalization and competition from overseas factories caused a decline in this industrial center. The designation “Rust Belt” originated at this time because of the deterioration of the industrial buildings.


Rust Belt cities remain centers of American commerce, and today they have American social and cultural significance.

Source: A Geographic Overview of the Rust Belt
By Erin Mahaney © ThoughtCo.com

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