Region: Definition & Types Video

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  • 0:03 What Are Regions?
  • 0:48 Physical Regions
  • 1:54 Political Regions
  • 3:06 Economic Regions
  • 4:20 Cultural Regions
  • 5:33 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Christopher Muscato

Chris has a master's degree in history and teaches at the University of Northern Colorado.

What exactly is a region? In this lesson, we're going to talk about the concept of regions and examine several different types that we can find here in the USA.

What Are Regions?

Really quickly - shout out loud what region you're from. Okay, honestly there was no reason you had to do that out loud, but picturing you shouting at your computer makes me laugh. However, the activity itself was important. What did you shout? Maybe your state or city, or maybe a part of the country like the South or the West. Or maybe something else entirely. It's actually a trick question, and there's no wrong answer. That's because the word region simply means a specific area with definable characteristics. That's it. So, lots of different things could be regions, and geographers have a few ways to categorize them. Let's take a look at some common types of regions and maybe help you figure out just where you're from.

Physical Regions

Let's start with a region that is defined purely by nature. A physical region is an area with geographic borders, or boundaries, that are part of the natural landscape. For example, in the United States, we have a major physical region called the Great Plains. This is a specific area with definable characteristics. It has a lot of grass, is pretty flat, and commonly is home to things like bison and antelope. So, it's clearly a region, but what makes it a physical region is its borders.

On one side are the Appalachian Mountains and on the other are the Rocky Mountains. So, the Great Plains have two mountain ranges as its borders, indicating where the Plains end and another region begins. Physical regions can be huge (the North American continent is bordered by the Atlantic and Pacific Ocean), or much smaller. For example, where I live in Colorado, we have a physical region called the foothills, which is an area defined by having the mountains on one side and the plains on the other. If you think about it, you can probably find some physical regions in your home state, too.

Political Regions

Now, physical regions exist with or without humans. The Great Plains will be bordered by the mountains whether people live there or not. But, we have other ways of dividing areas into specific regions. If a specific area is defined not by natural borders but by ones created by humans, its called a political region.

Let me ask you, have you ever driven across a state line? When you leave your state, does the geography suddenly change, right along the exact state line? Probably not, and that's because states are not physical regions. Their borders are created by humans, often arbitrarily, making them political regions. However, they're still regions. They're specific areas with shared characteristics: in this case, the people who live there. Political regions are often defined by people who share a cultural, historical, or economic background, but this isn't always true. In general, though, think of your home city, or county, or state, or even country. The borders that define each of these are made by humans, so these are political regions. This is something you can't see with your eyes, as reflected in the map you are looking at below:

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Economic Regions

Now we can get a little bit more specific. You may have noticed that human societies get pretty complicated, so we've found that there are actually multiple ways we can talk about human regions. We may organize ourselves into political regions, but our activities don't always completely align with those borders, especially in terms of the economy.

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