The Sunshine State. Florida’s nickname alone seems to be telling a lot about it. Countless planes from all over the world land daily on airports in Florida, bringing in tourists that are looking to enjoy the subtropical to tropical climate, hundreds of miles of beaches and the world-famous amusement parks. Florida registers some 60 million annual visitors and tourism is the most important economic factor of the southern US state, which has the fourth-highest state GDP in the country.
However, Florida’s magnetic draw not only works for international tourists. By now, migration rates have slowed, but between 1960 and 2000 alone, the population of the state grew from almost 5 to more than 16 million residents. This growth was effected in large parts by retirees from other parts of the country, but also by large-scale immigration from Latin America. Today, around 24% of the population are Hispanics with that rate being considerably higher in the southern part of the state as compared to northern counties. It is estimated that up to 6% of residents are illegal immigrants. The per-capita income of Floridians is at approximately $38.000 per year, ranking in the middle tier of US states, but more than 2 million Florida residents depend on food stamps.
The highest population density can be found along the southern Atlantic coast in the Greater Miami area. In contrast, Central Florida is a region marked by agriculture (mostly citrus fruit) and the marshlands of the Everglades. In the northern half, the so-called Panhandle describes a long-stretched arch around the coastline of the Gulf of Mexico. Florida’s regions show differing cultures, partly due to the population mix and partly thanks to economic prerequisites and different histories.