What Does it Mean to be “American”? I. Where Americans Live • The United States has an incredible variety of terrain. Americans live on mountains and prairies, in forests and deserts. Americans live in large cities, suburban communities, and rural villages. • Over the course of American history, our population has gradually spread westward (“from sea to shining sea”), and more people have moved from rural to urban areas. Most recently, we have seen a population shift from the North and East to the South and West—population growth in recent years has been largely in the Sunbelt (warm-weather states from Florida and Georgia west to Texas and Arizona). Why might Americans have moved to urban areas and, more recently, to the Sunbelt? II. The Workforce • Instead of working on farms or in factories, as most Americans did a hundred years ago, today most American workers hold service jobs (jobs in which you provide a service to other people). • Today, the American workforce is almost evenly split between men and women, a major change from one hundred years ago when most women did not work outside the home. Besides service jobs, what other types of jobs are held by members of the American workforce? III. Ages of Americans • In 1850, more than half of all Americans were under the age of 18. Today, there are more older Americans than ever before. • Two main factors help to explain this shift. First, improvements in medical care mean that life expectancy is much longer today than it was a century ago. Second, the baby boom which took place after World War II means that there are large numbers of Americans between the ages of 45 and 65. What effects might the aging American population have on American society in coming years? IV. Americans’ Varied Backgrounds • The American population is notable for its diversity. More than most other countries, Americans come from a wide range of different cultures, races, and ethnic groups. • The racial makeup of the American population is shifting rapidly, as the following chart shows: What are some of the benefits, and some of the challenges, of living in such a diverse society?