A "sun belt" is a strip of territory that receives high amounts of sunshine. In the US, the Sun Belt is the southern region roughly below the 36th parallel which runs across from Florida to California. The area encompasses almost a third of the US and includes states such as California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, Tennessee, Utah, Arkansas, Florida, and North and South Carolina. The political analyst Kevin Philips first used the term in 1969 in his book The Emerging Republican Majority. During this period, the Sun Belt region experienced increased economic and political growth. Existing industries in defence, agriculture, oil, and aerospace thrived following the industrialization of the region in the 1930s.
Before the 20th century, the Sun Belt region remained sparsely populated with low economic growth. However, the establishment of thriving industries in the southern region of the US led to the migration of northerners to the Sun Belt region. Retirees from the northern region found the southern area an attractive place to settle due to its natural beauty and warm climate. The warm temperatures also encouraged an agricultural lifestyle. The establishment of oil and defense industries in the region led to a significant boost in the economy. Currently, the region has a well developed technology industry.
The Sun Belt region has primarily warm temperatures and a variety of climates. The climates include desert and semi-desert, Mediterranean, humid subtropical, and tropical. Warmer than the northern areas, these climates experience long summers and short, mild winters. However, temperatures can reach more than 100ºF in places such as Arizona. Winter temperatures average around 55ºF. Tourists find the warm climate attractive especially during winter. The sunny beaches along the coastal regions of the Sun Belt are popular holiday destinations.
The political, economic, and social culture of the Sun Belt has grown in diversity due to interactions with northern communities. Before the industrialization in the Sun Belt, the cultures of the southerners were only recognized among themselves. The growth of the region saw the increase in the influence of Hispanic culture. Country and western music also became popular. The cultural practices of the Sun Belt differ from one state to the other. Some prominent cultures in the region include Chicano-Mexican and African American cultures. There is an outstanding Republican population in the region. Interactions with other political factions has led to the development of more liberal individuals.
The Sun Belt region has a relatively high population of more than 144 million people. The region experienced a population surge in the 20th century in pursuit of better economic opportunities. Economic growth in some of the Sun Belt states continues to attract large numbers of Americans from the north. By 2000, the Sun Belt had about 60% of the total American population. Los Angeles, the largest city in the belt, has a population of 13,971,883.