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Impact of Resources on the Movement of Products, Capital & People in the U.S.

Impact of Resources on the Movement of Products, Capital & People in the U.S.
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  • 0:01 Natural Resources in the US
  • 1:54 Movements of Products,…
  • 4:18 Lesson Summary
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Instructor: David Wood

David has taught Honors Physics, AP Physics, IB Physics and general science courses. He has a Masters in Education, and a Bachelors in Physics.

After watching this video, you will be able to explain how the natural resources of the United States affected the movement of products, capital, and people throughout history. A short quiz will follow.

Natural Resources in the US

The US was, and remains to this day, a land of abundant natural resources. Much of the success of the United States can be attributed to those resources. The US is an especially large land mass, allowing economies of scale that lower the cost of products and services. The US also contains a 95,000 mile-long coastline and only borders two other countries: Canada and Mexico. This meant that the US didn't have to spend as much money to defend itself as it developed. Having so much coastline also makes importing and exporting goods cheaper and easier.

Then there are the natural resources of the land itself. The US has temperate climates and abundant fertile soil, particularly across the Great Plains. Being a 500,000 square-mile area, this is a lot of potential farmland, though it needed to be irrigated first. The United States is particularly fertile because the country was once underwater. Even to this day, there is a lot of water in the US, with 80% of used water coming from lakes, rivers, and streams. Very little needs to be pumped out of the ground, unlike many places.

And then there are the big ticket items: oil, coal, and precious metals. The US has the world's largest coal reserves: 490 billion short tons. This is 27% of the world's coal and has been responsible for the development of the US, particularly during the Industrial Revolution. The US also had huge amounts of easily accessible oil, though much of this has been extracted. In the 1920s, two-thirds of the world's oil was supplied by the US. And then there's gold and other precious metals; the US had plenty of those, too.

Movements of Products, Capital, and People

In a capitalist system like the US, society is greatly influenced by the natural resources of an area. People use the resources in an area and if they hear of another that seems more abundant, people will move there to find their fortune. This was especially true in the early United States, as people gradually explored and expanded west.

The gold rush was a rapid movement of people towards newly-discovered gold fields, particularly the western United States and California. It's likely that people would have moved west over time no matter what, but finding gold in California caused huge amounts of people to move out there. People got rich fast while the gold lasted.

There was also a similar rush for oil, which could also be found particularly in the west. This moved people and private companies west, and with them came their capital and their products. There's a reason that so many people live in California to this day. Part of it is climate, but it began with the rush for gold and oil.

Movement of people is a big part of how the United States developed. The US is, after all, a country of immigrants. No other country on Earth has accepted as many immigrants, reaching 50 million and to this day, 700,000 people enter the United States every year. Immigrants help increase the productivity of the country, improving economic growth, and increasing the amount of value (capital) in the country. But more than that, the kind of people who moved to a new country to make a new life for themselves are more confident, flexible, and open to risk-taking. This created a lot of innovation and business ventures, and this, in turn, attracts even more people to the United States.

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