The Western United States has, for decades, been one of the fastest growing areas of the country – but how do you define the West?
Generally, the Western United States is considered to be any state that includes, or is West of the Rocky Mountains. That definition includes the states of Colorado, Wyoming, New Mexico, Montana, Idaho, Utah, Arizona, Nevada, California, Oregon, and Washington. Some even go further in differentiating the Inter-Mountain West, the area of the country between the Rocky, Sierra Nevada, and Cascade Mountain Ranges, from the West Coast, including the states of California, Oregon, and Washington.
While there are an infinite number of ways to “slice” the West from a human and geographic perspective, a few characteristics define the Western United States.
- Western states are very large, with unique geographic characteristics that are not found in the rest of the country.
- Urban areas in the West are more densely populated than much of the rest of the country, and rural areas are, generally, less densely populated than many other areas of the country.
- Western population centers have grown and developed as a result of migration throughout the latter half of the 20th century, less so as a result of economic growth spurring out of the Industrial Revolution.
The Western United States’ core characteristics often require different and unique approaches to public policy, ones that take the unique physical and social geography of place into account.