The geographic extent of the Mid-Atlantic region, also known as middle Atlantic region or the Mid Atlantic, generally includes Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Washington D.C., and sometimes New York and West Virginia. However, the Chamber's Board of Directors has defined its area of service as the Chesapeake Bay watershed and have excluded New York and New Jersey from it. The watershed includes five states and the District of Columbia, and is approximately 64,000 square miles long. Sixteen million people live, work, and play in this watershed. Fifty major tributaries pour water into the Bay every day. Chesapeake Bay's best-known crustacean is the blue crab.
The region's boundaries are: the Atlantic Ocean in the east, New England and Canada in the north, Kentucky and Ohio in the West and North Carolina in the South. If New York and West Virginia are included, the Mid-Atlantic would be only 5% of the total continental land mass (3,794,100 square miles or 9,826,700 km2) and would have a total population currently estimated at over 60 million making it one of the most densely populated regions in the US. New Jersey is the most densely inhabited state in the nation. (Source: US Census, 2008). The 2007 GDP for the region was $2.962 trillion.
The Mid-Atlantic has played an important role in the development of American culture, commerce, trade and industry. Religious pluralism and ethnic diversity have been important elements of Mid-Atlantic society from its settlement by Dutch, Swedes, English Catholics and Quakers through to the period of English rule, and beyond. It is one of the least self-conscious of American regions and considered a "typical American" region. The most atypical states in this region are West Virginia and parts of Virginia, largely because they lie primarily within the southern American dialect region and are predominantly Evangelical Christian.
The area that came to be known as the Middle Colonies served as a strategic bridge between the North and South. The New York and New Jersey campaign during the American Revolutionary War saw more battles than any other theater of the conflict. Philadelphia, midway between the northern and southern colonies, was home to the Continental Congress, the convention of delegates who organized the American Revolution. Philadelphia was also the birthplace of the Declaration of Independence in 1776 and the United States Constitution in 1787, while the United States Bill of Rights was drafted and ratified, and the first Supreme Court of the United States sat for the first time, in the first capital under the Constitution at New York City. After the American Revolution, the Mid-Atlantic region hosted each of the nine historic capitals of the United States, including the current federal capital, Washington, D.C. (Table 1)
The Mid Atlantic states have played an important roled in the formation of the national American culture and, in that sense, it has been defined as "a typical American region." From Colonial times and even into the first half of the Twentieth Century, New England stood for a special English movement-- Puritanism; the Middle region, entered by New York harbor, was an open door to all Europe; and the tidewater part of the South, modified by a warm climate and slave labor represented typical Englishmen. The population of the Middle region was more heterogeneous: less English than the other two sections. It had a wide mixture of nationalities, a more diverse society, a mixture of town and county system of local government, a more diverse economic life and many religious sects. Bound between puritan New England in the north and plantation aristocracy in the south, it heralded the diversity of nationalities that eventually became contemporary United States.
Shipping and trade have been important to the Mid-Atlantic economy since the beginning of the colonial era. While early settlers were mostly farmers, traders and fishermen, the Mid-Atlantic states provided the young United States with heavy industry and served as the "melting pot" of new immigrants from Europe. Cities grew along major ports, shipping routes and waterways. Such flourishing cities included New York City and Newark on opposite sides of the Hudson River, Philadelphia on the Delaware River, and Baltimore on the Chesapeake Bay.
During Colonial times, Virginia was the most populous of the 13 colonies, but in the early part of the nineteenth century it was overtaken by New York and Pennsylvania. From the outset, the New England states became the country's most important trading and industrial centers. Large numbers of German, Irish, Italian, Jewish, Polish, and other immigrants transformed the region, especially coastal cities such as New York City, Newark, Philadelphia and Baltimore, but also interior cities such as Pittsburgh, Albany, and Buffalo.
The demographic restructuring continues today with Hispanics, Asians, Eastern Europeans and Africans representing the major immigrant groups. As a result, along coastal areas there has been a major shift towards urbanization that has resulted in a contiguous growth sprawl of large and small cities and rural areas linked by Interstate 95. In many respects the region, from New York to Richmond, has become a megalopolis, one of the world's most important concentrations of finance, media, communications, education, medicine and technology. In the Twentieth Century, New York City alone emerged as an icon of modernity and American economic and cultural power that earned her a place among the top 10 great world cities.
The Mid-Atlantic is a relatively affluent region of the nation. Based on median household income it ranks 43 among the 100 highest-income counties in the nation and it ranks 33 on per capita income. Thus, by median household income and per capita income, most of the Mid-Atlantic states are among the 15 highest-income states in the nation.