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mattnf

defining the "midwest"

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I've always found the term "Midwest" problematic. Cleveland and Fargo are the same region? It seems the least coherent of them all.

And sometimes I've heard Pittsburgh, Buffalo and Rochester as "Midwestern cities", which makes the term even more problematic. It seems that Westerrn New York and Southern Ontario serve as a sort of Northeast/Midwest hybrid. There's the Great Plains breadbasket states like Kansas and the Dakotas, frigid Scandinavian-influenced Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan's upper peninsula, southern-influenced areas like Missouri, southern Indiana and Illinois, etc. the industrial heartland/Great Lakes region running from Chicago through northwest Indiana, lower Michigan and northern Ohio, and so on.

So how do people define the Midwest? Can it really be seen as one region? Should places like Buffalo and Pittsburgh be seen as Midwestern?

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It's the same issue in the South. People love simple categorizations of places which is why you have something called the Midwest, but travel across it and it is quite varied. Some of the most difficult discussions that we have had here at UrbanPlanet is how to divide up the site geographically. Nobody is satisfied. LOL

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I've always considered the midwest to be basically Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, Indian, Kentucky, Missouri, Iowa Minnesota and yes, western New York (just cause their accent sounds like Francis McDormand in the movie Fargo). I'd call North and South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and eastern Montana, Wyoming and Colorado the Great Plains. It doesnt really matter though, it all stems from where you live.

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It's the same issue in the South. People love simple categorizations of places which is why you have something called the Midwest, but travel across it and it is quite varied. Some of the most difficult discussions that we have had here at UrbanPlanet is how to divide up the site geographically. Nobody is satisfied. LOL

Except in the South there's more of a cultural/historical element. Being a "Midwesterner" doesn't seem to mean as much as being a "Southerner."

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My idea of the midwest is the same as Recchia's, except I think of Kentucky as southern.

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I disagree a bit, Matt.

Midwest seems to be just as much a personality and a brand that sometimes is used to include anything that is not coastal (i.e. I've heard to Denver and other Interior Western cities referred to as "Midwestern" in nature). Like Southerner, it's used disparagingly, a lot.

Growing up in Michigan, I'd always just considered the Great Lakes states "Midwestern," and it was the original Midwest (then known as Northwest). After getting active on the forums, I began to see that the Great Lakes States are a part of the Greater Midwest which also includes all of the Great Plains States. Those are the two main regions in the Midwest.

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I would say that if you go by cultural lines, you'd have to divide the region up into a few "sub-regions". The midwest is a massive piece of geography but I think there are more similarities between Cleveland and Minneapolis than Cleveland and Boston.

If you divide on geographical lines, it is also hard. The plains begin in western Minnesota but southeastern MN the rolling farmland/hardwood forests begin.

Northern Minnesota, northern Wiscsonsin, and the UP of Michigan have a "Boreal" climate with a very rocky landscape with waterfalls and cliffs that are more characteristic of Canada or New England.. where do you put this?

Then you could go by farming: Wiscsonsin and Minnesota are dairy states, the Dakotas are wheat, Nebraska, Iowa, and Illinois through Indiana and Ohio are corn... there's just not one thing that holds us in common but a network of things that we have in common.

Plus we tend to be a lot friendlier than New Yorkers :)

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Well most regions have this proiblem, simply because they are so expanisve. Even the Northeast, by far the smallest region geographically, has differences between Bangor and Pittsburgh.

With the bigger regions its even more pronounced. Rapid City is not too similar to Canton, but both are midwest. El Paso is worlds away from Wheeling, but both are in the south. Billings and Beverly Hills are both in the west.

No cultural definition is adequate to corral these areas into one identity. The terms are more than anything statistical for census purposes ;)

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Snowguy has given us some interesting ways to divide up the subregions of the US.

Here's how I'd do it. Kentucky and Oklahoma shouldn't be classified as midwest at all.

I think I would put the Dakotas, Kansas and Nebraska really don't fit in with say, lower Michigan or northern Ohio at all. These aren't big manufacturing states and they were settled as late or almost as late as states classified as "the West". Anyway I'd assign them to "Great Plains", which could also include say, Montana and Wyoming. Minnesota, Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan could form the "Upper Midwest" - with resource industries, strong union tradition, frigid climate, large Nordic population.

There also seems to be a north/south divide in the midwest - where the line is exactly is debatable. North of the line we have the industrial heartland cities of Chicago, Detroit and Cleveland - which have larger Catholic populations and a big smattering of Slavs and Italians. These areas are more liberal politically and have a stronger union tradition. South of this line - cities didn't see much Slavic/Italian immigration and are much more Protestant, less unionized and more conservative - Cincinnati, Indianapolis and St. Louis come to mind.

To me, the only thing the "Midwest" has in common is the above average representation of descendants of German immigrants!

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I've always had a hard time defining midwest, it's too diverse and varied of an area to be lumped into one. There are the Great Plains, Nebraska, the Dakotas, Iowa, Kansas and Minnesota. There are the industrial, more urbanized Great Lakes States, Michigan, Ohio, Illinois and Indiana. Ann then there are the states in between, Wisconsin dividing the Midwest and Missouri dividing the Midwest from the South. The midwest I think is the most eclectic region of all, where are small country towns similar to those in the south and large metropolis' similar to those on the east coast.

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mattnf--

Please do some research before posting. St. Louis has always had an extremely established Democratic, union, and Catholic tradition. It's the home of Anheuser-Busch; in many ways it's the original union city. St. Louis City itself is almost 95% Democratic, making it one of the most heavily Democratic cities in the United States. We voted for Kerry by the same percentage as the City of Chicago in the last election (81% blue). Cincinnati and Indianapolis are much more conservative politically, but come on--- STL has the same blue-collar, hardcore union, heavy industrial, 1st wave immigration, solid Catholic, solid Democratic history as cities like Cleveland, Detroit and Chicago.

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Hood, Wisconsin is VERY much a Great Lakes if for the only fact that it has a large Great Lakes frontage (much more than Indiana and Illinois, and probably even more than Ohio).

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To me, the only thing the "Midwest" has in common is the above average representation of descendants of German immigrants!

Hence city names in Minnesota like: Cologne, New Ulm, Berlin, New Munich... Perhaps the best known is New Ulm with its annual Oktoberfest and Glockenspiel in the middle of town. Northern Minnesota is almost entirely Swedish/Norwegian/German.

You have no idea how boring our phonebooks are betweek Schmidt, Peterson, Anderson, Knudson, Nelson, etc.

But Minnesota does have two cities named Fertile and Climax.. and yes, some years ago, a newspaper headline read "Fertile Woman Killed in Climax"

Tragic but incredibly funny.

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But Minnesota does have two cities named Fertile and Climax.. and yes, some years ago, a newspaper headline read "Fertile Woman Killed in Climax"

Tragic but incredibly funny.

North Carolina has this :rofl:

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mattnf--

Please do some research before posting. St. Louis has always had an extremely established Democratic, union, and Catholic tradition. It's the home of Anheuser-Busch; in many ways it's the original union city. St. Louis City itself is almost 95% Democratic, making it one of the most heavily Democratic cities in the United States. We voted for Kerry by the same percentage as the City of Chicago in the last election (81% blue). Cincinnati and Indianapolis are much more conservative politically, but come on--- STL has the same blue-collar, hardcore union, heavy industrial, 1st wave immigration, solid Catholic, solid Democratic history as cities like Cleveland, Detroit and Chicago.

I don't know what you mean by "1st wave immigration". Are you talking pre-1890 (mostly British, German and Irish) or 1890-1920 (mostly from Eastern and Southern Europe). St. Louis is one of the points of the "German Triangle" (Milwaukee and Cincinnati are the others) and its ethnic composition is heavily German - while the representation of Eastern and Southern Europeans doesn't come close in terms of reaching the level of Chicago, Cleveland and Detroit - and Milwaukee for that matter (which is not only the most German city in terms of percentage of the population, but it's also of the leading Polish cities (something approaching 15%). St. Louis seems to have a lot in common with Cincinnati, if not Indianapolis. Both are heavily German and while not Southern, are somewhat Southern-influenced (Missouri being a border state, Cincinnati being across from Kentucky). Milwaukee of course is also heavily German (but much more Polish as well) and unlike these two, has a socialist tradition - which in some ways makes it an interesting crossroads of "Upper Midwest" and Great Lakes/industrial heartland.

I guess it depends if we want to view the Great Lakes as one region or split it between the more densely populated "rust belt" and the less populated northern parts.

Perhaps one can use the Canadian province of Ontario as a guide. Ontario borders New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan and Minnesota. Ontario is often split between north and south. Southern Ontario has 90% of the population on 10% of the land area - and borders New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio and lower Michigan - it is in a sense a Northeast/Midwest hybrid. Northern Ontario is very sparsely populated and borders upper Michigan and Minnesota.

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Cincinnati is the eastern leg of the "German Triangle"?? Zinzinnati is indeed very very German but so is Cleveland and Pittsburgh far to the east, not to mention that Philadelphia on the east coast has the highest consumption per capita of that German staple Pretzels, also the Pennsylvania Dutch that surround Philadelphia and Baltimore are not Dutch, but German, called that by an uninformed American population in the 1700's since "Dutch" is all they knew about interior central Europe. By all accounts the Pennsylvania Dutch retain the most german traits of all the german immigrants throughout the years.

I have never heard about the "German Triangle" but that is some interesting info, it should be extended though at least to Pittsburgh/Cleveland and the Philly countryside. Now I need to get back to eating my Pretzels ;).

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I've always found the term "Midwest" problematic. Cleveland and Fargo are the same region? It seems the least coherent of them all.

And sometimes I've heard Pittsburgh, Buffalo and Rochester as "Midwestern cities", which makes the term even more problematic.

So how do people define the Midwest? Can it really be seen as one region? Should places like Buffalo and Pittsburgh be seen as Midwestern?

^^Being from Pittsburgh there is much disagreement here about what region we are in. I tend with the "midwestern" definition but since the Pennsylvania economy is dominated by the NYC-DC corridor traffic many group Pittsburgh as "east coast" something that geographically is tough for me since you have to pass through 3-4 mountain ranges to get to the Atlantic, whereas just a lazy boatride with the river current will take you to Cincinnati, S. of St. Louis, Memphis and beyond.

Also if Cleveland and Cincinnati are "Midwestern" and many many sources cite Ohio as Midwest, then Pittsburgh has TONS more in common with those cities on economic, demographic, and cultural issues when compared to "east coast" cities.

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The Midwest according to the Census Bureau:

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^^Being from Pittsburgh there is much disagreement here about what region we are in. I tend with the "midwestern" definition but since the Pennsylvania economy is dominated by the NYC-DC corridor traffic many group Pittsburgh as "east coast" something that geographically is tough for me since you have to pass through 3-4 mountain ranges to get to the Atlantic, whereas just a lazy boatride with the river current will take you to Cincinnati, S. of St. Louis, Memphis and beyond.

When i was traveling US 219 through the Keystone State coming from Buffalo, i was not sure if i was in the northeast or the midwest. I do believe western PA & NY is really the fading point between the Northeast and the Midwest. Buffalo felt midwestern from a highway point of view from its grid-street formation out in the country and outer-lying suburbs. Ive yet to visit the city of Pittsburgh though :(

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Kansas isn't midwest IMO... But Nebraska/ND/SD/Ohio are midwest.
What is Kansas? South? West? Southwest? Doesn't seem to belong in those regions either.

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Kansas is more southwest... I'd actually classify it as part of the Great Plains states... Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, etc...

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Kansas isn't midwest IMO... But Nebraska/ND/SD/Ohio are midwest.

What is Kansas then...I find itt to be decidedly midwestern...

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When it comes down to it I don't beleive there should even be a "Midwest". There should be a "Great Lakes" and a "Great Plains" or "Central Plains," I've heard that idea tossed around before and it makes sense, but then you would have to define each of those regions which may be a little tricky. I would say, Great Lakes - Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnisota, Indiana, Ohio and Illinois. Great/Central Plains - North/South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Iowa and Missouri.

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When it comes down to it I don't beleive there should even be a "Midwest". There should be a "Great Lakes" and a "Great Plains" or "Central Plains," I've heard that idea tossed around before and it makes sense, but then you would have to define each of those regions which may be a little tricky. I would say, Great Lakes - Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnisota, Indiana, Ohio and Illinois. Great/Central Plains - North/South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Iowa and Missouri.

Though it borders Lake Superior, I would place Minnesota in with the Great Plains group. It has more in common with that group, and its major urban center isn't associated with the Great Lakes, but rather is essentially the "capital" of the Great Plains region.

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