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I need to know the official names and definitions (extents) of regions. For example, what is "the Midwest," "the South," etc.?

No official designations exist for regions at any level of government. The U.S. Board on Geographic Names, which is responsible by law for standardizing geographic name usage throughout the Federal government, is often asked for official names and boundaries of regions, but does not and cannot provide them.

Regions are application driven and highly susceptible to perception. Individuals might agree on the core of a region, but agreement deteriorates rapidly outward from that core. The criteria or application would have to be defined, such as physiographic (this would include parts of States, but there is more than one system); political (definite disagreement based upon perception); cultural (unlimited variables); and other applications.

Geographers apply four generic requirements for a region to be formed: area, boundary (or transition zone), at least one factor of homogeneity or sameness, and a process to drive the region or to keep it functioning as a region. The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) has taken the same approach. Regional definitions applied by any organization reflect their particular needs or application, not a government standard.

Tags: Geographic Information Systems (GIS), Coordinates, Boundaries, Geographic Names Information System (GNIS)