Glencoe World Geography

Chapter 6: The Cultural Geography of the United States and Canada

Chapter Overviews

Canada and the United States share common features in their patterns of settlement, their democratic forms of government, and their agricultural and industrial development. While much of their heritage and culture is shared, each country still manages to retain some individual characteristics.

Population Patterns Both Canada and the United States have been shaped by immigration—the movement of people from one country to another. The earliest immigrants moved into the region from Asia thousands of years ago. Climate often dictates where people live. Because of Canada's colder temperatures, about 90 percent of its population lives along the St. Lawrence River and in the Great Lakes region. In the United States, the warmer climate in the Southwest, known as the Sunbelt, has attracted new industries, tourism, and more recent immigrants from Mexico. More than 75 percent of the population of the United States lives in metropolitan areas compared to 60 percent of Canada's population.

History and Government For thousands of years, North America was inhabited by Native Americans, who irrigated deserts for farming, hunted in forests, constructed homes, and built ceremonial mounds. European immigrants arrived in the late 1500s, searching for fur and valuable minerals, farmland, and religious freedom. In the 1700s British colonists declared their independence from England and created a new republic. Canada was created as a dominion with close ties to Great Britain. Both Canada and the United States are democracies with federal systems, in which federal and state or provincial governments share powers. Rapid industrialization transformed the United States and Canada in the early 1800s. As steam power replaced waterpower for factories, the industrial base shifted from small New England communities to the midwestern United States and Ontario.

Cultures and Lifestyles Immigrants in Canada and the United States have left a legacy of multicultural communities: New Mexico accepts both Spanish and English as offical languages, California is home to many Asian immigrants, and the French-speaking Quebecois in Canada seek to protect their language and culture. Multiculturalism also influences the arts, architecture, literature, and entertainment. Citizens of Canada and the United States enjoy a high standard of living, with substantial resources devoted to health care and education.

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