Climate Change in the Midwest: Impacts, Risks, Vulnerability, and Adaptation

By S. C. Pryor | Go to book overview

2.
The Midwestern United States:
Socioeconomic Context and Physical Climate

S. C. Pryor and R. J. Barthelmie


socioeconomic Overview

The terms “Midwestern United States” and “Midwest” have been applied to a range of sub-regions of the contiguous United States. The Census Bureau defines the Midwest region as comprising 12 states (listed from northwest to southeast): North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan, Indiana, and Ohio. The U.S. Global Change Research program excludes the four most westerly states (North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, and Kansas). The Midwestern Governors Association is an alliance of 10 states; Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Ohio, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, South Dakota, and Wisconsin. Thus there is no universally accepted definition of the region. In this chapter we provide data for the most inclusive definition of the Midwest—the thirteen states listed in Table 2.1 and shown in Figure 2.1. Using this domain definition, the Midwest has a combined population of about 71 million people, around 23 percent of the U.S. total population, and a total land area of approximately 505 million acres, which is about 22 percent of the U.S. total. Agriculture continues to be a key economic sector in the region. Accordingly, the percentage of the population defined as “urban” by the U.S. Department of Agriculture ranges from 46 percent in South Dakota to 87 percent in Illinois, the latter being the only state in the region that has a higher fraction of the population that is urban than the national average (Table 2.1). However, the Midwest is also home to a number of major metropolitan areas (including Chicago, Illinois; Detroit, Michigan; Indianapolis, Indiana; and St Louis, Missouri).


INFRASTRUCTURE AND
TRANSPORTATION

Although the precise needs vary from location to location, there is evidence that critical infrastructure will be put under increasing strain by demographic, socioeconomic and potentially climate shifts (Stern 2007). Globally, damage associated with natural catastrophes increased from

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