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Facts about the Rust Belt for Kids

Gathered by: Will

  • The Rust Belt is the informal description of a postindustrial region straddling the Northeastern and the East North Central States, referring to decline, population loss and urban decay due to shrinking of its once powerful industrial sector.

  • Rust Belt begins in central New York, traverses to the west throughout Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio, Indiana, including the Lower Peninsula of Michigan, and ends in northern Illinois and eastern Wisconsin.
  • In the twentieth 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 opposed to the agricultural Midwestern states forming the so-called Corn Belt, and Great Plains state that are often called the “breadbasket of America”.
  • 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 Minnesota 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, Detroit, Milwaukee, Gary, Cincinnati, Toledo, Cleveland, Akron, Youngstown, and Pittsburgh among others.
  • Following several “boom” periods from the late-19th to the mid-20th century, cities in this area in the end of the century started to struggle to adapt to a variety of adverse economic and social conditions.
  • Since the term describes a set of economic and social conditions rather than denote a 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 Rustbelt city depends at least as much on how great a role industrial manufacturing has played in its local economy in the past and how it does now, as well as on perceptions of the economic viability and living standards of today.
  • A patchwork of now-defunct centers of heavy industry and manufacturing across the northeastern and mid-western United States, because of their vibrant industrial economies in the past, are still referred to collectively in the media as the foundry of the nation, manufacturing belt, and the factory belt rather than the Rust Belt.
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