[https://plus.google.com/+YonatanZunger/posts/Sd2TAb8aiHb for that conversation]
A great conversation followed, with the tentative conclusion being that this may be an area which is becoming a meaningful region of the country: you don't see it as very distinct on many measures of the instantaneous state of the world (like distribution of accents, rates of heart disease, or economics), but you do see it on measures of the rate of change of such variables (like the declining life expectancy for white men and women, or nascent political affiliation).
One of the really interesting questions which came up a few times is whether this is tied to the ancestral history of the places. In particular, this area is roughly the area with a large Appalachian population, minus the heart of Appalachia proper: that is, it's the area to which a lot of people from that area moved over time. This is related to a hypothesis proposed by Colin Woodard in his book American Nations, which argued that various seed populations of Americans, which came in with very different cultures and expectations, left behind meaningful social and political differences which last to this day.
I'm personally a bit leery of Woodard's hypotheses, especially when it comes to anything west of the Mississippi. (He seems to group together a lot of culturally very different groups there, and miss a lot of similarities) But there are some good arguments that he has captured an important idea about the eastern part of the country.
On that thread, shared a link to a fascinating article which uses a lot of data to argue for Woodard's hypothesis. It's full of maps of different things, and is arguing that these cultural lines, more than things like population density, account for modern political divisions in the country. You can read it here: http://www.unz.com/jman/rural-white-liberals/
One of the best maps from that article is one that I'm blowing up below. It was drawn by Chris Howard, and it shows the 2012 Presidential election results. Many maps of this sort suffer from a serious visual presentation problem: they make the country look overwhelmingly red, even though the majority was blue. This is because of two simple problems. First, red is perceived by the human eye as "brighter" than other colors: people shown identical areas of bright red and bright blue (or green, or anything else) will see the red area as bigger. Second, the traditional maps ignore population density: what they really show is that the majority of the land area was red, while what we really are asking is about the distribution of the people.
Howard solves this problem very elegantly by using the hue of each county (from red to blue) to show how it voted, and its saturation (from pale to bright) to show its population. The resulting map is not only easy to read, it shows up the real distribution of both people and votes much more clearly than any other map I've seen before.
Here you can see an outline of the rough area discussed in that original post. It is purplish but leans distinctly towards red, unlike the purple/blue areas further north in Iowa and Minnesota. It is adjacent to the bright blue dot in Iowa / Chicago / Wisconsin (discussed in that blog post), passes near the bright red of Appalachia, is bounded on the East by the dense blue/red patchwork which describes the South, and on the West by the sudden and sharp drop in population density as you enter the Agricultural Midwest.
The thing I like about this map is that the visually distinct areas in it seem to match well with my intuitions about the politically and socially distinct regions of the country. That's something very few maps manage to capture well, so major kudos to Howard for finding the right distribution.
I've worked in the computer field, usually networking, for 30+ years, currently with Dell Compellent.
I sing bass in my church choir and have sung with Exultate Chamber Choir and Orchestra. I also play bass guitar when I get a chance.
- Carleton College, Eastern Michigan UHistory
- J.F. K High School, Babbitt, MN
- Dell CompellentStorage Development Principal Engineer, 2012 - present
- Symantec CorporationSoftware Developer, 2004 - 2012
- Cisco, WAM!NET, Network Systems, LaserMaster
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