What Does it Mean to be “American”? I. Where Americans Live

What Does it Mean to be “American”?
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?
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
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?
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?
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?