The RUST BELT is a region of the
United States , made up mostly of
places in the Midwest and
Great Lakes . Rust refers to the
deindustrialization , or economic decline, population loss , and urban
decay due to the shrinking of its once-powerful industrial sector. The
term gained popularity in the U.S. in the 1980s.
Rust Belt begins in western New York and traverses west through
West Virginia ,
Indiana , and the Lower
Michigan , ending in northern
Illinois , eastern
Wisconsin . Previously known as the industrial
heartland of America, industry has been declining in the region since
the mid-20th century due to a variety of economic factors, such as the
transfer of manufacturing further West , increased automation , and
the decline of the US steel and coal industries. While some cities
and towns have managed to adapt by shifting focus towards services and
high-tech industries, others have not fared as well, witnessing rising
poverty and declining populations.
* 1 Background
* 2 Geography
* 3 History
* 3.1 Outcomes
* 3.2 Transformation
* 4 International equivalents
* 5 See also
* 6 References
* 7 Further reading
* 8 External links
In the 20th century, local economies in these states specialized in
large-scale manufacturing of finished medium to heavy industrial and
consumer products, as well as the transportation and processing of the
raw materials required for heavy industry. The area was referred to
as the MANUFACTURING BELT, FACTORY BELT, or STEEL BELT as distinct
from the agricultural Midwestern states forming the so-called Corn
Great Plains states that are often called the "bread-basket
The flourishing of industrial manufacturing in the region was caused
in part by the close proximity to the
Great Lakes waterways, and
abundance of paved roads, water canals and railroads. After the
transportation infrastructure linked the iron ore found in northern
Wisconsin and Upper
Michigan with the coal mined from
Appalachian Mountains , the
Steel Belt was born. Soon it developed
into the Factory Belt with its great American manufacturing cities:
Chicago , Buffalo ,
Milwaukee , Gary ,
Cincinnati , Toledo ,
Cleveland , Bridgeport , Akron , Youngstown ,
St. Louis , Cedar Rapids
Pittsburgh among others. This region for decades served as a
magnet for immigrants from Austria-Hungary, Poland and Russia who
provided the industrial facilities with inexpensive labor.
Following several "boom" periods from the late-19th to the mid-20th
century , cities in this area struggled to adapt to a variety of
adverse economic and social conditions. They include the decline of
the iron and steel industry , the movement of manufacturing to the
southeastern states with their lower labor costs, the layoffs due to
the rise of automation in industrial processes, the decreased need for
labor in making steel products , the internationalization of American
business, and the liberalization of foreign trade policies due to
globalization . Cities struggling with these conditions shared
several difficulties, including population loss , lack of education,
declining tax revenues, high unemployment and crime, drugs, swelling
welfare rolls, deficit spending, and poor municipal credit ratings.
Regional economics and
Shrinking cities in the United
Rust Belt of the
United States (red)
As people migrate, they often coin new names for their destinations.
Since the term "Rust Belt" pertains to a set of economic and social
conditions rather than to an overall geographical region of the United
States per se, the
Rust Belt has no precise boundaries. The extent to
which a community may have been described as a "
Rust Belt city"
depends at least as much on how great a role industrial manufacturing
played in its local economy in the past and how it does now, as on
perceptions of the economic viability and living standards of the
News media occasionally refer to a patchwork of defunct centres of
heavy industry and manufacturing across the
Great Lakes and
United States as the snow belt, the manufacturing belt,
or the factory belt - because of their vibrant industrial economies in
the past. This includes most of the cities of the Midwest as far west
Mississippi River , including St. Louis, and many of those in
Great Lakes and Northern New York.. At the centre of this expanse
lies an area stretching from northern
Indiana and southern
the west to
Upstate New York
Upstate New York in the east, where local tax revenues as
of 2004 relied more heavily on manufacturing than on any other
World War II
World War II , the cities in the
Rust Belt region were among
the largest in the United States. However, by the twentieth century's
end their population had fallen the most in the country.
The linking of the former
Northwest Territory with the once-rapidly
industrializing East Coast was affected through several large-scale
infrastructural projects , most notably the
Erie Canal in 1825, the
Ohio Railroad in 1830, the
Allegheny Portage Railroad in
1834, and the consolidation of the New York Central after the American
Civil War . A gate was thereby opened between a variety of burgeoning
industries on the interior North American continent and the markets
not only of the large Eastern cities, but of
Western Europe as well.
Coal, iron ore and other raw materials were shipped in from
surrounding regions which emerged as major ports on the Great Lakes
and served as transportation hubs for the region with a proximity to
railroad lines. Coming in the other direction were millions of
European immigrants, who populated the cities along the Great Lakes
shores with then-unprecedented speed. Chicago, famously, was a rural
trading post in the 1840s but grew to be as big as
Paris by the time
1893 Columbian Exposition . Sectors of the US Economy as
percent of GDP 1947–2009.
Early signs of the difficulty in the northern states were evident
early in the 20th century, before the "boom years" were even over.
Lowell, Massachusetts , once the centre of textile production in the
United States, was described in the magazine Harper's as a "depressed
industrial desert" as early as 1931, as its textile concerns were
being uprooted and sent southward, primarily to the Carolinas. After
Great Depression , American entry into the Second World War
effected a rapid return to economic growth, during which much of the
industrial North reached its peak in population and industrial output.
The northern cities experienced changes that followed the end of the
war, with the onset of the outward migration of residents to newer
suburban communities, and the declining role of manufacturing in the
American economy . Deteriorating U.S. net international
investment position (N.I.I.P.) has caused concern among economists
over the effects of outsourcing and high U.S. trade deficits over the
Outsourcing of manufacturing jobs in tradeable goods has been an
important issue in the region. One source has been globalization and
the expansion of worldwide free trade agreements. Anti-globalization
groups argue that trade with developing countries has resulted in
stiff competition from countries such as
China which pegs its currency
to the dollar and has much lower prevailing wages, forcing domestic
wages to drift downward. Some economists are concerned that long-run
effects of high trade deficits and outsourcing are a cause of economic
problems in the U.S. with high external debt (amount owed to foreign
lenders) and a serious deterioration in the
United States net
international investment position (NIIP) (−24% of GDP).
Some economists contend that the U.S. is borrowing to fund
consumption of imports while accumulating unsustainable amounts of
debt. On June 26, 2009, Jeff Immelt, the CEO of General Electric,
called for the
United States to increase its manufacturing base
employment to 20% of the workforce, commenting that the U.S. has
outsourced too much in some areas and can no longer rely on the
financial sector and consumer spending to drive demand. A
disused grain elevator in Buffalo
Since the 1960s, the expansion of worldwide free trade agreements
have been less favorable to U.S. workers. Imported goods such as steel
cost much less to produce in
Third World countries with cheap foreign
labor (see steel crisis ). Beginning with the recession of 1970–71,
a new pattern of deindustrializing economy emerged. Competitive
devaluation combined with each successive downturn saw traditional
U.S. manufacturing workers experiencing lay-offs. In general, in the
Factory Belt employment in the manufacturing sector declined by 32.9%
between 1969 and 1996.
Wealth-producing primary and secondary sector jobs such as those in
manufacturing and computer software were often replaced by
much-lower-paying wealth-consuming jobs such as those in retail and
government in the service sector when the economy recovered.
A gradual expansion of the U.S. trade deficit with
China began in
1985. In the ensuing years the U.S. developed a massive trade deficit
with the East Asian nations of China, Japan, Taiwan, and South Korea.
As a result, the traditional manufacturing workers in the region have
experienced economic upheaval. This effect has devastated government
budgets across the U.S. and increased corporate borrowing to fund
retiree benefits. Some economists believe that GDP and employment
can be dragged down by large long-run trade deficits.
A March 3, 2008 Wall Street Journal editorial claimed that, while
Ohio lost 10,000 jobs in the past decade, Texas created 1.6 million
new jobs. The editorial stated, "Ohio's most crippling handicap may be
that its politicians—and thus its employers—are still in the grip
of such industrial unions as the United Auto Workers." A September
13, 2008 opinion column by
Phil Gramm and Mike Solon stated, "Yes,
Michigan lost 83,000 auto manufacturing jobs during the past decade
and a half, but more than 91,000 new auto manufacturing jobs sprung up
in Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky, Georgia, South Carolina, Virginia and
Francis Fukuyama considers the social and cultural consequences of
deindustrialization and manufacturing decline that turned a former
thriving Factory Belt into a
Rust Belt as a part of a bigger
transitional trend that he called the Great Disruption: "People
associate the information age with the advent of the Internet, in the
1990s but the shift from the industrial era started more than a
generation earlier, with the deindustrialization of the
Rust Belt in
United States and comparable movements away from manufacturing in
other industrialized countries. … The decline is readily measurable
in statistics on crime, fatherless children, broken trust, reduced
opportunities for and outcomes from education, and the like".
Problems associated with the
Rust Belt persist even today,
particularly around the eastern
Great Lakes states, and many
once-booming manufacturing metropolises dramatically slowed down.
From 1970 to 2006, Cleveland, Detroit, Buffalo, and
about 45% of their population and median household incomes fell: in
Detroit by about 30 percent, in Buffalo by 20 percent,
Pittsburgh by 10 percent.
It seemed that during the mid-1990s in several
Rust Belt metro areas
the negative growth was suspended as indicated by major statistical
indicators: unemployment, wages, population change. However, during
the first decade of the 21st century, a negative trend persisted:
Detroit lost 25.7% of its population; Gary,
Indiana – 22%;
Ohio – 18.9%; Flint,
Michigan – 18.7%; and Cleveland,
Ohio – 14.5%. An abandoned Fisher auto body plant in
A steel plant in
Bethlehem, PA . Though the blast furnaces
themselves remain intact, part of the property was sold in 2007 and
turned into the
Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem . The Huber
Breaker (in Ashley ,
Pennsylvania ) was one of the largest anthracite
coal breakers in North America. It was built in the 1930s; it closed
in the 1970s.
2000–2016 population change in
Rust Belt cities
Niagara Falls, New York
Buffalo, New York
Buffalo, New York
St. Louis, Missouri
St. Louis, Missouri
In the late-2000s, American manufacturing recovered faster from the
Great Recession of 2008 than the other sectors of the economy, and a
number of initiatives, both public and private, are encouraging the
development of alternative fuel, nano and other technologies.
Together with the neighboring
Golden Horseshoe of Southern Ontario,
Canada , the so-called
Rust Belt still composes one of the world's
major manufacturing regions.
Since the 1980s, presidential candidates have devoted much of their
time to the economic concerns of the
Rust Belt region, which contains
the populous swing states of
Ohio , and
Those states were also critical and decisive to
Donald Trump 's
victory in the
2016 US Presidential Election .
Different strategies were proposed in order to reverse the fortunes
of the former Factory Belt including building casinos and convention
centers, retaining the so-called "creative class" through arts and
downtown renewal, encouraging the “knowledge” economy type of
entrepreneurship, etc. Lately, analysts suggested that industrial
comeback might be the actual path for the future resurgence of the
region. That includes growing new industrial base with a pool of
skilled labor, rebuilding the infrastructure and infrasystems,
creating R&D university-business partnerships, and close cooperation
between central, state and local government and business.
New types of R&D-intensive nontraditional manufacturing have emerged
recently in Rust Belt, such as biotechnology , the polymer industry,
infotech , and nanotech . Infotech in particular creates a promising
venue for the Rust Belt's revitalization. Among the successful recent
examples is the
Detroit Aircraft Corporation, which specializes in
unmanned aerial systems integration, testing and aerial cinematography
In Pittsburgh, robotics research centres and companies such as
National Robotics Engineering Center and Robotics Institute, Aethon
Inc., American Robot Corporation, Automatika, Quantapoint, Blue Belt
Technologies and Seegrid are creating state-of-the-art robotic
technology applications. Akron , a former "Rubber Capital of the
World" that lost 35,000 jobs after major tire and rubber manufacturers
Goodrich , Firestone and
General Tire closed their production lines,
is now again well known around the world as a centre of polymer
research with four hundred polymer-related manufacturing and
distribution companies operating in the area. The turnaround was
accomplished in part due to a partnership between Goodyear Tire
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* Early 1980s recession in the
* Decline of
* Economy of Youngstown,
Shrinking cities in the
* Economy of the
* List of belt regions of the
* ^ Crandall, Robert W. The Continuing Decline of
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IL, (paperback: ISBN 0-941702-21-9 ; clothbound: ISBN 0-941702-20-0 ),
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Rust Belt Woes:
Steel out, drugs in," The Northwest Florida
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foundry of the nation, are known now as the
Rust Belt or the Snow
Belt, in invidious comparison to the supposedly booming Sun Belt.
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1600s to 2009". Yankee Magazine.
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Urban Places Ever Among the 100 Largest Urban Places, Listed
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Census. Retrieved September 22, 2011.
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Economic Policy Institute. Retrieved on June 28, 2009.
* ^ Roberts, Paul Craig (August 7, 2003).Jobless in the USA
Newsmax. Retrieved on June 23, 2009.
* ^ Hira, Ron and Anil Hira with forward by Lou Dobbs, (May 2005).
Outsourcing America: What's Behind Our National Crisis and How We Can
Reclaim American Jobs. (AMACOM) American Management Association.
Citing Paul Craig Roberts, Paul Samuelson, and Lou Dobbs, pp. 36–38.
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Looming National Benefit Crisis. USA Today.
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Failed Politics, and the Global Crisis of American Capitalism.
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* ^ Bailey, David and Soyoung Kim (June 26, 2009).GE\'s Immelt says
U.S. economy needs industrial renewal.UK Guardian.. Retrieved on June
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decline." Journal of Urban Economics 46, no. 3 (1999): 360–376.
* ^ A B David Friedman (Senior Fellow at the New America
Foundation). No Light at the End of the Tunnel, Los Angeles Times,
June 16, 2002.
* ^ Texas v. Ohio, Wall Street Journal, March 3, 2008
* ^ "If You Like Michigan\'s Economy, You\'ll Love Obama\'s", Wall
Street Journal, September 13, 2008
* ^ Fukuyama, Francis. The Great Disruption: Human Nature and the
Reconstitution of Social Order. New York: Free Press, 1999.
* ^ Francis Fukuyama. The Great Disruption, The Atlantic Monthly,
May 1999, Volume 283, No. 5, pages 55–80.
* ^ Feyrer, James, Bruce Sacerdote, and Ariel Dora Stern. Did the
Rust Belt Become Shiny? A Study of Cities and Counties That Lost Steel
and Auto Jobs in the 1980s. Brookings-Wharton Papers on Urban Affairs
* ^ Daniel Hartley. "Urban Decline in Rust-Belt Cities." Federal
Reserve Bank of
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* ^ Glenn King. Census Brief: "Rust Belt" Rebounds, CENBR/98-7,
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* ^ Mark Peters, Jack Nicas. "
Rust Belt Reaches for Immigration
Tide", The Wall Street Journal, May 13, 2013, A3.
* ^ "Annual Estimates of the Resident Population for Incorporated
Places: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2016". Retrieved May 25, 2017.
* ^ "Rustbelt recovery: Against all the odds, American factories
are coming back to life. Thank the rest of the world for that". The
Economist. March 10, 2011. Retrieved September 21, 2011. PDF
* ^ "Greening the rustbelt: In the shadow of the climate bill, the
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* ^ Beyers, William. "Major
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Department of Geography, the University of Washington. Retrieved
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Rust Belt is still the heart of U.S. manufacturing
* ^ Michael McQuarrie (2017-11-08). "The revolt of the Rust Belt:
place and politics in the age of anger". Wiley Online Library.
* ^ Joel Kotkin, March Schill, Ryan Streeter. Clues From The Past:
The Midwest As An Aspirational Region. Sagamore Institute, February
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* ^ DetroitAircraft.com
* ^ Sherry Karabin. Mayor says attitude is key to Akron’s
revitalization. The Akron Legal News, May 16, 2013.
* ^ "Conference in
Pittsburgh shows growing allure of 3-D
printing". By Len Boselovic /
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. June 13, 2013.
* ^ "Coming home: A growing number of American companies are moving
their manufacturing back to the United States". The Economist. Jan 19,
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* ^ Faberman, R. Jason. "Job flows and labor dynamics in the US
Rust Belt." Monthly Labor Review. 125 (2002): 3.
* ^ John C. Austin, Jennifer Bradley and Jennifer S. Vey. The Next
Economy: Economic Recovery and Transformation in the Great Lakes
Brookings Institution Paper, September 27, 2010.
* Broughton, Chad (2015). Boom, Bust, Exodus: The Rust Belt, the
Maquilas, and a Tale of Two Cities. Oxford University Press. ISBN
* Cooke, Philip. The Rise of the Rustbelt. London: UCL Press, 1995.
* Coppola, Alessandro. Apocalypse town: cronache dalla fine della
civiltà urbana. Roma: Laterza, 2012. ISBN 9788842098409
* Denison, Daniel R., and Stuart L. Hart. Revival in the rust belt.
Ann Arbor, Mich: University of
Michigan Press, 1987. ISBN
* Engerman, Stanley L., and Robert E. Gallman. The Cambridge
Economic History of the United States: The Twentieth Century. New
York: Cambridge University Press, 2000.
* Hagedorn, John, and Perry Macon. People and Folks: Gangs, Crime,
and the Underclass in a Rust-Belt City. Chicago: Lake View Press,
1988. ISBN 0-941702-21-9
* High, Steven C. Industrial Sunset: The Making of North America's
Rust Belt, 1969–1984. Toronto: University of
Toronto Press, 2003.
* Higgins, James Jeffrey. Images of the Rust Belt. Kent, Ohio: Kent
State University Press, 1999. ISBN 0-87338-626-4
* Lopez, Steven Henry. Reorganizing the Rust Belt: An Inside Study
of the American Labor Movement. Berkeley: University of California
Press, 2004. ISBN 0-520-23565-7
* Meyer, David R. (1989). "Midwestern Industrialization and the
Manufacturing Belt in the Nineteenth Century". The Journal of
Economic History. 49 (4): 921–937. doi :10.1017/S0022050700009505 .
ISSN 0022-0507 .
JSTOR 2122744 .
* Preston, Richard. American Steel. New York: Avon Books, 1992. ISBN
* Rotella, Carlo. Good with Their Hands: Boxers, Bluesmen, and Other
Characters from the Rust Belt. Berkeley: University of California
Press, 2002. ISBN 0-520-22562-7
* Teaford, Jon C. Cities of the Heartland: The Rise and Fall of the
Industrial Midwest. Bloomington:
Indiana University Press, 1993. ISBN
* Warren, Kenneth. The American
Steel Industry, 1850–1970: A
Geographical Interpretation. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1973. ISBN
* Industrial Heartland map and photographs
Rust Belt map
* Changing Gears