Southeastern United States

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Southeast Region of the United States of America
Southeastern United States
US map-South East.png
Dark red states are usually included in definitions of the Southeastern United States. Light red states are considered "Southeastern" with less frequency and included in other regions of the United States.
  Total580,835 sq mi (1,504,360 km2)
  Land540,511 sq mi (1,399,920 km2)
  Water40,324 sq mi (104,440 km2)  6.9%
  Density150.5/sq mi (58.1/km2)
Time zone EST (UTC-5)/CST (UTC-6)
  Summer (DST) EDT (UTC-4)/CDT (UTC-5)

The Southeastern United States is broadly, the eastern portion of the Southern United States, and the southern portion of the Eastern United States. It comprises at least a core of states on the lower East Coast of the United States and eastern Gulf Coast. Expansively, it includes everything south of the Mason–Dixon line, the Ohio River and the 36°30' parallel, and as far west as Arkansas and Louisiana. [1] There is no official U.S. government definition of the region, though various agencies and departments use different definitions.



The U.S. Geological Survey considers the Southeast region to be Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee, plus Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. There is no official Census Bureau definition of the southeastern United States; instead, they divide a larger region including Texas and Oklahoma designated as the "South" into three subregions none of which are conventionally considered to define the southeast. The nonprofit American Association of Geographers defines the southeastern United States as Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia. [2] The OSBO (American small business support organization) uses the same states, but includes Arkansas and Louisiana. The state of Delaware plus the District of Columbia are also sometimes added in some definitions of the term.


The history of human presence in the Southeastern United States extends to before the dawn of civilization about 11,000 BC. The earliest artifacts were from the Clovis culture.

Prior to the arrival of Europeans, Native Americans of the Woodland period tradition occupied the region for several hundred years.

The first Europeans to arrive in the region were conquistadors of the Spanish Empire. In 1541, Hernando de Soto journeyed through the south and crossed the Mississippi River.

The region hosted the first permanent European settlement in North America, by the Kingdom of England at Jamestown, Virginia in 1607.

Prior to and during the American Civil War (1861-1865), the Confederate States of America consisted of the southeastern states plus Texas, i.e., Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, Tennessee, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, Louisiana, Arkansas, and Texas. Kentucky and Maryland were neutral border states that eventually joined the Union.

Much of the Southeast observed Jim Crow laws during the American segregation era.


Most populous states

The most populous states in the region are Florida (20,612,439), followed by Georgia (10,310,371) and North Carolina (10,146,788). [3]

State 2017 Estimate2010 CensusChangeLand AreaDensity
Alabama 4,874,7474,779,736+1.99%50,645 sq mi (131,171 km2)
Arkansas 3,004,2792,915,918+3.03%52,035 sq mi (134,771 km2)
Florida 20,984,40018,801,310+11.61%53,625 sq mi (138,887 km2)
Georgia 10,429,3799,687,653+7.66%57,513 sq mi (148,959 km2)
Kentucky 4,454,1894,339,367+2.65%39,486 sq mi (102,269 km2)
Louisiana 4,684,3334,533,372+3.33%43,204 sq mi (111,898 km2)
Mississippi 2,984,1002,967,297+0.57%46,923 sq mi (121,531 km2)
North Carolina 10,273,4199,535,483+7.74%48,618 sq mi (125,920 km2)
South Carolina 5,024,3694,625,364+8.63%30,061 sq mi (77,857 km2)
Tennessee 6,715,9846,346,105+5.83%41,235 sq mi (106,798 km2)
Virginia 8,470,0208,001,024+5.86%39,490 sq mi (102,279 km2)
West Virginia 1,815,8571,852,994−2.00%24,038 sq mi (62,259 km2)
Total83,715,07678,385,623+6.80%526,874 sq mi (1,364,597 km2)


The predominant culture of the Southeast has its origins with the settlement of the region by British colonists and African slaves in the 17th century, as well as large groups of English, Scots and Ulster-Scots, Germans, Spanish, French, and Acadians in succeeding centuries. Since the late 20th century the New South has emerged as the fastest growing area of the United States economically. Multiculturalism has become mainstream in the Southeastern states. African Americans remain a dominant demographic at around a 30% of the total population of the Southeast. The New South is built upon the metropolitan areas along the interstate 85 corridor. Cities include Birmingham, Atlanta, Greenville, Spartanburg, Charlotte, Greensboro, Winston-Salem and Raleigh-Durham.


Most of the southeastern part of the United States is dominated by the humid subtropical climate (Cfa/Cwa). As one nears the southern portions of Florida, the climate gradually becomes tropical as winters are freeze free and all months have a mean temperature above 64.4 °F (18.0 °C) (the defined coldest monthly mean temperature of tropical climates).

Seasonally, summers are generally hot and humid throughout the entire region. The Bermuda High pumps hot and moist air mass from the tropical Atlantic Ocean and eastern Gulf of Mexico westward toward the southeast United States, creating the typical sultry tropical summers. Daytime highs are often in the upper 80's to lower 90's F. [4] [5] Rainfall is summer concentrated along the Gulf Coast and the South Atlantic coast from Norfolk, VA southward, reaching a sharp summer monsoon like pattern over peninsular Florida, with dry winters and wet summers. Sunshine is abundant across the southeastern United States in summer, as the rainfall often comes in quick, but intense downpours. The mid-South, especially Tennessee, and the northern halves of Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia, have maximum monthly rainfall amounts in winter and spring, owing to copious Gulf moisture and clashes between warm, moist air from the Gulf of Mexico and cold, dry air from Canada during the cold season. Here, December, March or April are typically the wettest months; August to October, the driest months (for example, at Tupelo, MS, Huntsville, AL and Memphis, TN).

Winters are cool in the northern areas like Tennessee, Virginia, Maryland, and western North Carolina, with average highs in the 45 °F (7 °C) range in January. Farther south, winters become more mild across interior eastern North and South Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama, with average January highs in the 53 °F (12 °C) range. As one nears the Gulf of Mexico coastal plain and coastal areas of Georgia and the Carolinas, winters become warm, with daytime highs near or over 60 °F (16 °C), until far enough south in central Florida where daytime highs are above 70 °F (21 °C). Winters tend to be very dry and sunny across Florida, with a gradual increase in winter rainfall with increasing latitude, especially west of the Appalachian Mountains.


The Southeast has changed dramatically in the last two generations. Since 1980, there has been a boom in its service economy, manufacturing base, high technology industries, and the financial sector. Examples of this include the surge in tourism in Florida and along the Gulf Coast; numerous new automobile production plants such as Mercedes-Benz in Tuscaloosa, Alabama; Hyundai in Montgomery, Alabama; Toyota Motors in Blue Springs, Mississippi; Kia in West Point, Georgia; the BMW production plant in Greer, South Carolina; Volkswagen in Chattanooga, Tennessee; the GM manufacturing plant in Spring Hill, Tennessee; the Volkswagen manufacturing plant in Pulaski, Virginia;and the Nissan North American headquarters in Franklin, Tennessee; the two largest research parks in the country: Research Triangle Park in the Triangle area of North Carolina (the world's largest) and the Cummings Research Park in Huntsville, Alabama (the world's fourth largest); and the corporate headquarters of Verso Paper in Memphis, as well as FedEx, which is one of the world's largest shipping companies.

Fortune 500 companies having headquarters in the region include 20 in Virginia, 16 in Florida, 15 in North Carolina, and 14 in Georgia. This economic expansion has enabled parts of the South to have of some of the lowest unemployment rates in the United States. [6] In Alabama, there is a large-scale manufacturing project owned by the German steel megacorporation ThyssenKrupp, which operates a massive, state-of-the-art facility in Mobile.

Research and development

Research Triangle Park, in the Raleigh-Durham urban area of North Carolina, has emerged as a major hub of technology, governmental, and biotechnological research and development, as has the Virginia BioTechnology Research Park in Richmond. The Cummings Research Park in the Huntsville, Alabama area is the second largest research complex in the nation. Located in Huntsville is the Redstone Arsenal, United States Army Missile Command, the U.S. Space & Rocket Center, NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center and many other key government, military, and aerospace agencies.

The National High Magnetic Field Laboratory in Tallahassee, Florida, is the largest laboratory in the world devoted to the study of magnetism.[ citation needed ] The University of South Carolina is currently constructing a research campus in downtown Columbia, and the university is the nation's only National Science Foundation-funded Industry/University Cooperative Research Center for Fuel Cells. [7]


Higher education

University of Miami in Coral Gables, Florida University of Miami Otto G. Richter Library.jpg
University of Miami in Coral Gables, Florida

The region includes a number of notable universities, public and private, whose research exert influence globally. Chief among these are:

There are a number of well-known private institutions, as well. Notable among these are:

The region is home to the greatest number of historically black colleges and universities in the nation. The three largest in the region are North Carolina A&T University, Florida A&M University, and Jackson State University.

Largest cities

These are the largest cities in the Southeastern region of the United States by population, according to the United States Census Bureau: [8]

RankCityStatePopulation (2015)
1 Jacksonville [a] Florida 868,031
2 Charlotte North Carolina 827,097
3 Washington District of Columbia 672,228
4 Nashville [a] Tennessee 660,388
5 Memphis Tennessee 652,717
6 Baltimore Maryland 621,849
7 Louisville [a] Kentucky 615,366
8 Atlanta Georgia 463,878
9 Virginia Beach Virginia 452,745
10 Raleigh North Carolina 451,066
11 Miami Florida 441,003
12 New Orleans [a] Louisiana 389,617
13 Tampa Florida 369,075
14 Lexington Kentucky 314,488
15 Greensboro North Carolina 285,342
16 Orlando Florida 270,394
17 Durham North Carolina 257,636
18 Saint Petersburg Florida 257,083
19 Norfolk Virginia 246,393
20 Winston-Salem North Carolina 241,218
21 Hialeah Florida 237,069
22 Chesapeake Virginia 235,429
23 Baton Rouge Louisiana 228,590
24 Richmond Virginia 220,289
25 Birmingham Alabama 212,461
26 Fayetteville North Carolina 201,963
27 Montgomery Alabama 200,602
28 Columbus Georgia 200,579

Metropolitan Statistical Areas

These are the metropolitan areas of the Southeastern region which exceed 1 million in population according to the United States Census Bureau's 2016 estimates: [9]

RankMetropolitan areaAnchor cityPopulation (2016)State(s)
1 Washington-Arlington-Alexandria Washington 6,131,977 District of Columbia / Virginia / Maryland / West Virginia
2 Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach Miami 6,066,387 Florida
3 Atlanta–Sandy Springs-Roswell Atlanta 5,789,700 Georgia
4 Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater Tampa 4,310,524 Florida
5 Baltimore-Columbia-Towson Baltimore 2,798,886 Maryland
6 Charlotte-Concord-Gastonia Charlotte 2,474,314 North Carolina / South Carolina
7 Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford Orlando 2,441,257 Florida
8 Nashville-Davidson-Murfreesboro-Franklin Nashville 1,865,298 Tennessee
9 Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News Virginia Beach 1,726,907 Virginia / North Carolina
10 Jacksonville Jacksonville 1,478,212 Florida
11 Memphis Memphis 1,342,842 Tennessee / Mississippi / Arkansas
12 Raleigh Raleigh 1,302,946 North Carolina
13 Louisville-Jefferson County Louisville 1,283,430 Kentucky / Indiana
14 Richmond-Petersburg Richmond 1,281,708 Virginia
15 New Orleans-Metairie-Kenner New Orleans 1,268,883 Louisiana
16 Birmingham-Hoover Birmingham 1,147,417 Alabama

Combined Statistical Areas

Beyond Megalopolis by Virginia Tech's Metropolitan Institute, an attempt to update Jean Gottmann's work with current trends, defines two "megapolitan areas" contained within the Southeast, out of a total of ten such areas in the United States:

Two others tie some areas on the margins of the Southeast to urban centers in other regions:

These are the combined statistical areas of the Southeastern region which exceed 1 million in population according to the United States Census Bureau's 2016 estimates. Note that the metropolitan areas of Tampa and Richmond are not included in any CSAs, so they are included in the table without constituent areas. [10]

RankCombined Statistical AreaPopulation (2016)Constituent Core Based Statistical Areas
1 Washington-Baltimore-Arlington, DC-MD-VA-WV-PA Combined Statistical Area 9,882,634 Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV Metropolitan Statistical Area
Baltimore-Columbia-Towson, MD Metropolitan Statistical Area
Hagerstown-Martinsburg, MD-WV Metropolitan Statistical Area
Chambersburg-Waynesboro, PA Metropolitan Statistical Area
Winchester, VA-WV Metropolitan Statistical Area
California-Lexington Park, MD Metropolitan Statistical Area
Easton, MD Micropolitan Statistical Area
Cambridge, MD Micropolitan Statistical Area
2 Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Port St. Lucie, FL Combined Statistical Area 6,723,472 Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach, FL Metropolitan Statistical Area
Port St. Lucie, FL Metropolitan Statistical Area
Sebastian-Vero Beach, FL Metropolitan Statistical Area
Okeechobee, FL Micropolitan Statistical Area
3 Atlanta–Athens-Clarke County–Sandy Springs, GA Combined Statistical Area 6,451,262 Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell, GA Metropolitan Statistical Area
Athens-Clarke County, GA Metropolitan Statistical Area
Gainesville, GA Metropolitan Statistical Area
LaGrange, GA Micropolitan Statistical Area
Jefferson, GA Micropolitan Statistical Area
Calhoun, GA Micropolitan Statistical Area
Cedartown, GA Micropolitan Statistical Area
Thomaston, GA Micropolitan Statistical Area
4 Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater 4,310,524MSA only
5 Orlando-Deltona-Daytona Beach, FL Combined Statistical Area 3,202,927 Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford, FL Metropolitan Statistical Area
Deltona-Daytona Beach-Ormond Beach, FL Metropolitan Statistical Area
The Villages, FL Metropolitan Statistical Area
6 Charlotte-Concord, NC-SC Combined Statistical Area 2,632,249 Charlotte-Concord-Gastonia, NC-SC Metropolitan Statistical Area
Shelby, NC Micropolitan Statistical Area
Albemarle, NC Micropolitan Statistical Area
7 Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill, NC Combined Statistical Area 2,156,253 Raleigh, NC Metropolitan Statistical Area
Durham-Chapel Hill, NC Metropolitan Statistical Area
Dunn, NC Micropolitan Statistical Area
Oxford, NC Micropolitan Statistical Area
Sanford, NC Micropolitan Statistical Area
Henderson, NC Micropolitan Statistical Area
8 Nashville-Davidson–Murfreesboro, TN Combined Statistical Area 1,987,778 Nashville-Davidson–Murfreesboro–Franklin, TN Metropolitan Statistical Area
Shelbyville, TN Micropolitan Statistical Area
Lawrenceburg, TN Micropolitan Statistical Area
Lewisburg, TN Micropolitan Statistical Area
9 Virginia Beach-Norfolk, VA-NC Combined Statistical Area 1,830,629 Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News, VA-NC Metropolitan Statistical Area
Elizabeth City, NC Micropolitan Statistical Area
Kill Devil Hills, NC Micropolitan Statistical Area
10 Greensboro–Winston-Salem–High Point, NC Combined Statistical Area 1,650,019 Greensboro-High Point, NC Metropolitan Statistical Area
Winston-Salem, NC Metropolitan Statistical Area
Burlington, NC Metropolitan Statistical Area
Mount Airy, NC Micropolitan Statistical Area
11 Jacksonville-St. Marys-Palatka, FL-GA Combined Statistical Area 1,603,497 Jacksonville, FL Metropolitan Statistical Area
Palatka, FL Micropolitan Statistical Area
St. Marys, GA Micropolitan Statistical Area
12 Louisville/Jefferson County–Elizabethtown–Madison, KY-IN Combined Statistical Area 1,510,945 Louisville/Jefferson County, KY-IN Metropolitan Statistical Area
Elizabethtown-Fort Knox, KY Metropolitan Statistical Area
Bardstown, KY Micropolitan Statistical Area
Madison, IN Micropolitan Statistical Area
13 New Orleans-Metairie-Hammond, LA-MS Combined Statistical Area 1,501,213 New Orleans-Metairie, LA Metropolitan Statistical Area
Hammond, LA Metropolitan Statistical Area
Picayune, MS Micropolitan Statistical Area
Bogalusa, LA Micropolitan Statistical Area
14 Greenville-Spartanburg-Anderson, SC Combined Statistical Area 1,442,117 Greenville-Anderson-Mauldin, SC Metropolitan Statistical Area
Spartanburg, SC Metropolitan Statistical Area
Greenwood, SC Micropolitan Statistical Area
Seneca, SC Micropolitan Statistical Area
Gaffney, SC Micropolitan Statistical Area
15 Memphis-Forrest City, TN-MS-AR Combined Statistical Area 1,369,038 Memphis, TN-MS-AR Metropolitan Statistical Area
Forrest City, AR Micropolitan Statistical Area
16 Birmingham-Hoover-Talladega, AL Combined Statistical Area 1,361,299 Birmingham-Hoover, AL Metropolitan Statistical Area
Talladega-Sylacauga, AL Micropolitan Statistical Area
Cullman, AL Micropolitan Statistical Area
17 Richmond-Petersburg 1,245,764MSA only
18 Knoxville-Morristown-Sevierville, TN Combined Statistical Area 1,117,758 Knoxville, TN Metropolitan Statistical Area
Morristown, TN Metropolitan Statistical Area
Sevierville, TN Micropolitan Statistical Area
Newport, TN Micropolitan Statistical Area
19 Cape Coral-Fort Myers-Naples, FL Combined Statistical Area 1,087,472 Cape Coral-Fort Myers, FL Metropolitan Statistical Area
Naples-Immokalee-Marco Island, FL Metropolitan Statistical Area
20 North Port-Sarasota, FL Combined Statistical Area 1,002,722 North Port-Sarasota-Bradenton, FL Metropolitan Statistical Area
Punta Gorda, FL Metropolitan Statistical Area
Arcadia, FL Micropolitan Statistical Area


Although American football is prevalent across the United States, it is especially pervasive in the Southeast. With a total of nine (9) franchises — the Atlanta Falcons, the Baltimore Ravens, the Carolina Panthers, the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Miami Dolphins, the New Orleans Saints, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Tennessee Titans, and the Washington Redskins — across the region, the National Football League (NFL) maintains a stronger commercial presence than any other major North American professional sports league.

The Southeast has seven (7) National Basketball Association (NBA) franchises: the Atlanta Hawks, the Charlotte Hornets, the Memphis Grizzlies, the Miami Heat, the New Orleans Pelicans, the Orlando Magic, and the Washington Wizards.

Major League Baseball (MLB) maintains five (5) teams in the Southeast: the Atlanta Braves, the Baltimore Orioles, the Miami Marlins, the Tampa Bay Rays, and the Washington Nationals.

The Southeast has five (5) National Hockey League (NHL) franchises: the Carolina Hurricanes, the Florida Panthers, the Nashville Predators, the Tampa Bay Lightning, and the Washington Capitals.

Major League Soccer currently holds three (3) clubs — Atlanta United FC, DC United, and Orlando City SC— in the region. This number will increase to five (5) when Nashville's new club and David Beckham's new club in Miami begin play in March 2020.

The Atlantic Coast Conference is an NCAA Division 1 conference of mainly Southeastern college teams, including the Florida State Seminoles, Louisville Cardinals, Miami Hurricanes, Clemson Tigers and Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, Wake Forest Demon Deacons, Duke Blue Devils, North Carolina Tar Heels, NC State Wolfpack, Virginia Tech Hokies, and Virginia Cavaliers. The Sugar Bowl, Orange Bowl, Peach Bowl, and Citrus Bowl are notable college football bowls held in Southeastern cities.

The Southeastern Conference is also an NCAA Division 1 conference of Southeastern college teams, including the Alabama Crimson Tide, Arkansas Razorbacks, Auburn Tigers, Kentucky Wildcats, Ole Miss Rebels, Florida Gators, South Carolina Gamecocks, Tennessee Volunteers and Georgia Bulldogs, Mississippi State Bulldogs, and Vanderbilt Commodores.

The majority of NASCAR teams are headquartered in the Charlotte area along with the sports operations headquarters and media outlets. Tracks in the region include Daytona International Speedway, Homestead-Miami Speedway, Talladega Superspeedway, Bristol Motor Speedway, Charlotte Motor Speedway, Atlanta Motor Speedway, Darlington Raceway, Kentucky Speedway, Martinsville Speedway, and Richmond International Speedway.

The southeast also hosts two of the three legs of the American Triple Crown. The Kentucky derby, in Kentucky. The Preakness Stakes are also located in the Southeast, being run in Baltimore, the Derby is considered the western leg of the crown and the Preakness is traditionally considered the southern leg.

See also

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Coordinates: 34°N85°W / 34°N 85°W / 34; -85