Rust Belt

Change in total number of manufacturing jobs in metropolitan areas, 1954-2002. (Figures for New England are from 1958.)
Maroon=greater than 58% loss
Red=43%-56% loss
Pink=31%-43.2% loss
Yellow=8.7%-29.1% loss
[United States average: 8.65% loss]
Light green=7.5% loss—54.4% gain
Green=greater than 62% gain
Three metropolitan areas lost more than four fifths of their manufacturing jobs: Augusta, ME; Johnstown, PA, and Wheeling, WV.
Change in per capita personal income in metropolitan counties, 1980-2002, relative to metropolitan average.
Dark green=income above average, growth faster than average
Green=income above average, growth average or below average
Yellow-green=income above average but decreasing
Pink=income below average, growth faster than average
Red=income below average, growth average or below average
Maroon=income below average and further decrease

The Rust Belt is a term that gained currency in the 1980s[1] as the informal description of an area straddling the Midwestern and Northeastern United States, in which local economies traditionally garnered an increased manufacturing sector to add jobs and corporate profits.[2] After 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 conditions later in the 20th century, such as the movement of manufacturing facilities to the southeastern states with their lower labor costs, the rise of automation in industrial processes, a decreased need for labor in making steel products, and the liberalization of foreign trade policies. Places that struggled the most with these conditions soon encountered several difficulties in common, including population loss, depletion of local tax revenues, and chronic high unemployment.

A partial deindustrialization effect on the industrial North has been uneven in terms of geography and social class. Some regions, particularly along the Eastern Seaboard, saw an offset from an increased service sector. Problems associated with the Rust Belt persist elsewhere, particularly around the eastern Great Lakes, and many once-booming cities slowed economically on average in the latter half of the 20th century. Together with the neighboring Golden Horseshoe of Southern Ontario, Canada, cities in this area still compose one of the world's three pre-eminent manufacturing regions.[3] Manufacturing recovered faster from the late-2000s recession than other sectors of the economy,[4] and a number of initiatives, both public and private, are encouraging the development of alternative fuel technologies.[5]



Since the term described a set of economic and social conditions rather than denote a region of the United States per se, the Rust Belt has no precise boundaries. The extent to which a community within the northern United States may have been described as a Rust Belt city depends at least as much on how great a role industrial manufacturing has played in its local economy—and, moreover, on how well it has adapted to the decline of manufacturing—as it does on geography alone.

A patchwork of cities across the northern United States, because of their vibrant industrial economies, were referred to collectively as "the Foundry of the Nation".[6] These are also referred to as the Manufacturing Belt or the Factory Belt. This includes most of the cities of the Midwest out to the Mississippi River, and many of those in the New England and Mid-Atlantic states, particularly those away from the Eastern Seaboard. After World War II, the cities in the area among the nation's 100 largest in the middle-20th century had population that had fallen most by the century's end.[7] At the center lies an area stretching from northern Indiana and southern Michigan in the west to Upstate New York in the east, where local tax revenues still rely more heavily on manufacturing than on any other sector (by far the largest contiguous area of the U.S. where this is the case).[8] At or near the periphery are four of the nation's largest metropolitan areas—New York, Boston, Philadelphia, and Chicago—parts of which fall squarely within the Rust Belt while their core cities are not always considered as such.

In The Nine Nations of North America (1981), journalist and law professor Joel Garreau included both the industrial northern U.S. and southern Ontario in a region named "The Foundry"[9].


The linking of the former Northwest Territory with the once-rapidly industrializing East Coast was effected through several large-scale infrastructural works, most notably the Erie Canal in 1825, the Baltimore and 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 are 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 of the 1893 Colombian Exposition[10].

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 center of textile production in the United States, was described in the magazine Harper's as "a depressed industrial desert" as early as 1931,[11] as its textile concerns were being uprooted and sent southward, primarily to the Carolinas. After the 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.[12]), and the declining role of manufacturing in the American economy.

Deteriorating U.S. net international investment position (NIIP) has caused concern among economists over the effects of outsourcing and high U.S. trade deficits over the long-run.[13]

Outsourcing of manufacturing jobs in tradeable goods is 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.[14][15] 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).[13][16][17] Some economists contend that the U.S. is borrowing to fund consumption of imports while accumulating unsustainable amounts of debt.[13][17] 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.[18]

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 pattern emerged. Competitive devaluation combined with each successive downturn saw traditional U.S. manufacturing workers experience lay-offs. 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 those in retail and government in the service sector when the economy recovered.[19][20] 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 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.[16][17] Some economists believe that GDP and employment can be dragged down by large long-run trade deficits.[19][20][21][22]

A February 2009 report by the Economic Policy Institute shows that unionization does not hinder international competitiveness, and may in fact encourage it[23] 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. Ohio is a 'closed shop' state, which means workers can be forced to join a union whether they wish to or not. Many companies – especially foreign-owned – say they will not even consider such locations for new sites. States with 'right to work' laws that make union organizing more difficult had twice the job growth of Ohio and other closed shop states from 1995–2005, according to the National Institute for Labor Relations. Texas, for example, is a right to work state and has been adding jobs by the tens of thousands. Nearly 1,000 new plants have been built in Texas since 2005, from the likes of Microsoft, Samsung and Fujitsu. Foreign-owned companies supplied the state with 345,000 jobs."[24] 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, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and Texas."[25] Unfortunately, the jobs created in Texas are low paying. The state had a per capita income of $24, 318 as of 2009.


Other types of advanced manufacturing have emerged in these states such as biotech, infotech, and nanotech. Automation has led to other types of manufacturing output which require fewer workers with varying skills. Moreover, job gains in these areas have not been nearly enough to keep pace. As a result, middle class incomes and savings in the United States have been negatively impacted.

States in the Midwest have had to keep their tax structures competitive. A May 16, 2006 opinion column by Lawrence J. McQuillan and Hovannes Abramyan of the Pacific Research Institute stated, "Jobs are flocking to low-tax states for a reason... The Pacific Research Institute has crunched the tax numbers in all 50 states and published the 'U.S. Economic Freedom Index' ranking all states according to how friendly or unfriendly their policies were toward free enterprise and consumer choice in 2004... In 2005, per capita personal income grew 31% faster in the 15 most economically free states than it did in the 15 states at the bottom of the list. And employment growth was a staggering 216% higher in the most free states."[26]

Since the 1980s, presidential candidates have devoted much of their time to the economic concerns of the region, which contains the populous swing states of Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin.

See also

  • Early 1980s recession in the United States
  • Steel crisis


  1. ^ "rust.". Online Etymology Dictionary. Douglas Harper. Retrieved September 22, 2011. 
  2. ^ ""rust belt"". Merriam-Webster. Retrieved September 21, 2011. 
  3. ^ Beyers, William. "Major Manufacturing Regions of the World". Department of Geography, the University of Washington. Retrieved September 21, 2011. 
  4. ^ "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. 
  5. ^ "Greening the rustbelt: In the shadow of the climate bill, the industrial Midwest begins to get ready". The Economist. August 13, 2009. Retrieved September 21, 2011. 
  6. ^ "Sun On The Snow Belt (editorial)". Chicago Tribune. August 25, 1985. Retrieved September 22, 20111. 
  7. ^ Hansen, et al., Jeff (March 10, 2007). "Which Way Forward?". The Birmingham News. Retrieved September 21, 2011. 
  8. ^ "Measuring Rurality: 2004 County Typology Codes". USDA Economic Research Service. Retrieved September 21, 2011. 
  9. ^ Garreau, Joel (1981). The Nine Nations of North America. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. ISBN 9780380578856. 
  10. ^ Kunstler, James Howard (1996). Home From Nowhere: Remaking Our Everyday World for the 21st Century. New York: Touchstone/Simon and Schuster. ISBN 0684837374. 
  11. ^ Marion, Paul (November 2009). "Timeline of Lowell History From 1600s to 2009". Yankee. 
  12. ^ "1990 Population and Maximum Decennial Census Population of Urban Places Ever Among the 100 Largest Urban Places, Listed Alphabetically by State: 1790-1990". United States Bureau of the Census. Retrieved September 22, 2011. 
  13. ^ a b c Bivens, L. Josh (December 14, 2004). Debt and the dollar Economic Policy Institute. Retrieved on June 28, 2009.
  14. ^ Roberts, Paul Craig (August 7, 2003).Jobless in the USA Newsmax. Retrieved on June 23, 2009.
  15. ^ 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.
  16. ^ a b Cauchon, Dennis and John Waggoner (October 3, 2004).The Looming National Benefit Crisis. USA Today.
  17. ^ a b c Phillips, Kevin (2007). Bad Money: Reckless Finance, Failed Politics, and the Global Crisis of American Capitalism. Penguin. ISBN 9780143143284. 
  18. ^ Bailey, David and Soyoung Kim (June 26, 2009).GE's Immelt says U.S. economy needs industrial renewal.UK Guardian.. Retrieved on June 28, 2009.
  19. ^ a b David Friedman, New America Foundation (2002-06-15).No Light at the End of the Tunnel Los Angeles Times.
  20. ^ a b Sir Keith Joseph, Centre for Policy Studies (1976-04-05).Stockton Lecture, Monetarism Is Not Enough, with forward by Margaret Thatcher. (Barry Rose Pub.) Margaret Thatcher Foundation (2006).
  21. ^ Free Trade Bulletin no. 27: Are Trade Deficits a Drag on U.S. Economic Growth? | Cato's Center for Trade Policy Studies
  22. ^ Causes and Consequences of the Trade Deficit: An Overview
  23. ^ Bivens, Josh (February 25, 2009).Unions do not undermine international competitiveness. Economic Policy Institute.
  24. ^ Texas v. Ohio, Wall St. Journal, March 3, 2008
  25. ^ If You Like Michigan's Economy, You'll Love Obama's, Wall St. Journal, September 13, 2008
  26. ^ 'Live Free or Move', by Lawrence J. McQuillan and Hovannes Abramyan, May 16, 2006


  • American Steel, Richard Preston (1991), Prentice Hall. ISBN 013029604X
  • Images of the Rust Belt, James Jeffery Higgins (1999), Kent State University Press. ISBN 0873386264
  • Industrial Sunset, Steven High (2003), University of Toronto Press. ISBN 0802085288
  • Meyer, David R (1989). "Midwestern Industrialization and the American Manufacturing Belt in the Nineteenth Century". The Journal of Economic History 49 (4 December 1989): 921–937. doi:10.1017/S0022050700009505. ISSN 0022-0507. JSTOR 2122744. 
  • People and folks: gangs, crime, and the underclass in a rust- belt city, John Hagedorn and Perry Macon (1988), Lake View Press. ISBN 0941702219
  • Reorganizing the Rust Belt, Steven Henry Lopez (2004), University of California Press. ISBN 0520235657
  • Revival in the rust belt, Daniel R. Denison and Stuart L. Hill (1987), University of Michigan Press. ISBN 0879443227

External links

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Rust Belt — Saltar a navegación, búsqueda Manufacturing Belt, marcado en rojo El Rust Belt (literalmente cinturón de óxido), también conocido como el Manufacturing Belt (que al pie de la letra vendría a traducirse por cinturón de las manufacturas lo correcto …   Wikipedia Español

  • Rust Belt — AmE the Rust Belt an area in the northern US, including parts of the states of Illinois, Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, and Wisconsin, where many large, older industries, especially the steel and car industries, have become less successful and many… …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • rust-belt — rustˈ belt adjective Of or relating to such an area • • • Main Entry: ↑rust …   Useful english dictionary

  • rust belt — rust′ belt n. (sometimes caps.) the Great Lakes states and adjacent areas of the eastern U.S. in which much of the work force has traditionally been employed in manufacturing and metals production • Etymology: 1980–85 …   From formal English to slang

  • Rust Belt — ☆ Rust Belt [also r b ] that part of the U.S. comprising many of the states of the Midwest and the Northeast, characterized as an area marked by diminishing population, aging factories, decreasing production as of steel and automobiles, etc …   English World dictionary

  • rust belt — noun also rust bowl Usage: often capitalized R&B Etymology: so called from the declining heavy industry taken to be characteristic of the region s economy : the northeastern and midwestern states of the United States * * * (sometimes caps.) the… …   Useful english dictionary

  • Rust Belt — Verbreitung des Manufacturing/Rust Belt Der Rust Belt („Rostgürtel“), früher Manufacturing Belt, ist das älteste Industriegebiet der USA.[1] Es erstreckt sich im Nordosten der USA entlang der Großen Seen von Chicago über Boston, Washington D. C.… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Rust Belt — En rouge, la Rust Belt La Rust Belt (en anglais « ceinture de la rouille ») était nommée jusque dans les années 1970 la Manufacturing Belt (« ceinture des usines »). Ce changement d appellation en dit long sur l évolution… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Rust Belt — A slang term for a geographic region in the United States stretching from New York through the Midwest that was once involved in steel production and manufacturing. The Rust Belt became an industrial hub due to its proximity to the Great Lakes,… …   Investment dictionary

  • Rust Belt — also rust belt N SING: the N In the United States and some other countries, the Rust Belt is a region which used to have a lot of manufacturing industry, but whose economy is now in difficulty. the rust belt of the mid west …   English dictionary

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