The Midwestern United States as defined by the United States Census Bureau, is one of the four U.S. geographic regions. The area is referred to as the Midwest throughout the United States.
The region consists of 12 states in the north-central and north-eastern United States: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, and Wisconsin. Illinois is the most populous of the states. A 2012 report from the United States Census put the population of the Midwest at 65,377,684. The Midwest is sometimes divided into two regions: the East North Central States, the Great Lakes States, which include Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Minnesota, and Wisconsin (states that come in contact with a Great Lake); and the West North Central States, the Great Plains States, which include Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, North Dakota, Nebraska, and South Dakota (states that are located within the Great Plains region of the country).
Chicago is the largest city in the American Midwest and the third largest in the entire country. Other large Midwest cities include (in order): Indianapolis, Columbus, Detroit, Milwaukee, Kansas City, Omaha, and Wichita. Chicago and its suburbs form the largest metropolitan statistical area with 9.8 million people, followed by Metro Detroit, Minneapolis–St. Paul, Greater St. Louis, Greater Cincinnati, Greater Cleveland, and the Kansas City metro area.
Economically the region is balanced between heavy industry and agriculture, with finance and services such as medicine and education increasingly important. Its central location making it a transportation crossroads for river boats, railroads, autos and trucks, trucking and air travel. Politically the region swings back and forth between the parties, and thus is heavily contested and often decisive in elections.
The term Midwestern has been in use since the 1880s to refer to portions of the central U.S. A variant term, "Middle West", has been in use since the 19th century and remains relatively common. Another term sometimes applied to the same general region is "the heartland". Other designations for the region have fallen out of use, such as the "Northwest" or "Old Northwest" (from "Northwest Territory") and "Mid-America".