Characteristics of the Southwest Region

Southwest Region Map

The data from the State Similarity Index groups the Western states of Nevada, Arizona, and New Mexico into the Southwest region. Here are some of the characteristics most of these states share:

Nevada, Arizona, and New Mexico are in the Basin and Range Province, a large physiographic region of the United States, which has many abrupt changes in elevation. These states are mountainous and also landlocked. The Southwest region has some of the lowest average rainfall totals in the entire country, so it is mostly desert. Because of their lack of water, they have few lakes or wetlands. These states have relatively little forested land or farmland. Much of their land has little to no vegetation. However, some coniferous forests do exist in the region. Furthermore, these states are sparsely populated and a vast majority of their people are concentrated in their few urban areas, like Las Vegas, Phoenix, and Albuquerque.

The Southwest region has some of the highest percentages of Latinos in the country, although New Mexico is the only majority Latino state. Most are immigrants from Mexico. They also have a significant percentage of Native Americans, since the Navajo reservation is located across Arizona and New Mexico. In addition to their similar ancestry, the average age of their people is about the same as well. Furthermore, a relatively low percentage of the people in these states graduated from high school. Their people tend to have lower incomes than the United States average. A lower than average percentage of their people are married as well.

Most of this region was the territory of Mexico, before the United States expanded into this area. Due to immigration from Mexico, a high percentage of their population natively speaks Spanish. Their native English speakers have a similar accent as well. These states are the most religious or least religious in the country. While a high percentage of their people are Catholic, most people in these states are Protestant. The people in this region are known to be laid-back and creative. Although many people in Nevada, Arizona, and New Mexico have guns, few have hunting licenses. In addition, football as important of a sport in these states as the rest of the country.

Since the Southwest region has grown quickly in the past decades, most of their buildings and infrastructure tend to be quite new. A relatively high percentage of the houses in the Southwest region are mobile homes. There are many gold, silver, and copper mines in these states. However, relatively little manufacturing is done in the region. Because these states are so sparsely populated, roads and railways are few and far between in this region. Since these states are landlocked and do not have navigable rivers, they have little port infrastructure. Another aspect these states have in common is that they are part of the Western Interconnection power grid.

Politics is one aspect in which these states have some significant differences. New Mexico’s government is significantly more liberal than Arizona’s. New Mexico’s policies are much more favorable to immigrants. Arizona has far more restrictions on abortion. First cousin marriage is legal in New Mexico but criminalized in Nevada. Still, these states have some laws in common as well. They have few gun restrictions. They also have few restrictions on marijuana. Furthermore, these states tend to have low property and sales taxes. In the past 20 years, all these states have had both Democratic and Republican governors.

The Southwest’s Most Representative State: Arizona (75.6 regional average)

Most Similar Region to the Southwest: Pacific Coast region

(Statistics as of 2020)

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