Mapping the Midwest
July 24, 2013 12:00 AM   Subscribe

How do you define the Midwest? As part of their exhibit Reinvention in the Urban Midwest (in most-certainly-not-in-the-Midwest Boston) Sasaki has created an online tool for people to contribute what the boundaries of the Midwest are for them. Results can be sorted by respondents' percentage of time spent in the Midwest and state of birth. An Atlantic Cities article shows one writer's opinion, and also links to Bill Rankin's similar Midwest mapping project on his always-excellent Radical Cartography site. An excerpt from The Midwest: God's Gift to Planet Earth has a more irreverent take on mapping the region.
posted by andrewesque (190 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
 
Last year, one in 10 people who moved to Massachusetts were from the Midwest.

The "Midwest" contains a large percentage of the population from the States. Considerably more than 10%. Even considering a large percentage of immigration from outside the states, it seems disproportionately low.

Chicago does think 'Boston Sucks'...and Boston responds with papers defining how large the Midwest is.

Damn. It's like nobody ever saw how Boyz in the Hood ended.
posted by hal_c_on at 12:31 AM on July 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


This is an interesting post. Of course, there's a proximity effect on the results. (people in Alaska think of the Midwest was way way west of everyone else) What's kind of interesting about the loaded term "the Midwest" is how many people define it not by what it is, but by what it is not. It's not the south, the west, or the east. Probably lots of reasons people feel the way they do (geography, religion, language, sports teams, food, etc). Interesting read. Thanks!
posted by readyfreddy at 12:50 AM on July 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


I always thought "Midwest" was kind of a strange term for the area it describes.

I grew up in Wisconsin and it always wondered why we were considered to be in "The Midwest" when we were really more just sort of ... Mid-North.

I am now in Minnesota, which is also supposedly in this "Midwest." Maybe we should just be "South Canada."
posted by louche mustachio at 1:06 AM on July 24, 2013 [6 favorites]


I think it's probably a historical artifact. The area used to be the "Northwest" from the Northwest Territories. When lots of people started pushing even further west wouldn't have made sense to call the area the Northwest anymore. Incidentally, that's where Northwestern University just outside Chicago gets its name even though these days it's not located remotely in the Northwest.
posted by Justinian at 1:10 AM on July 24, 2013 [12 favorites]


All I know is that Minnesota is definitely in the Midwest, whatever that is.
posted by cthuljew at 1:50 AM on July 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


As an Illinoisan, I think of the Midwest as comprising all of the states touching the Great Lakes, minus New York and Pennsylvania, plus Iowa and Missouri. All Union states whose topographies, immigration patterns, and urban-rural balances are within the same rough bounds; all clearly inland, but tethered to the East and bound to one another by waterways.

The Dakotas, Nebraska, and Kansas, the classic Plains states, seem just a little too dry, a little too of the West, to count as Midwestern. When Bill Hickok went to South Dakota, he wasn't fed cheese and treated to lightly passive aggressive conversation. He was gunned down in a saloon. In a mining camp.

(A South Dakotan, of course, might dismiss some of the states I've named as too Eastern. Or too Southern. "Indiana? The Ku-Klux-Klan stronghold? Get off my foot.")

In conclusion, the Midwest is not particularly a land of contrasts, unless you've lost your damn mind and lumped Colorado into the region. Seriously. Colorado?
posted by Iridic at 2:15 AM on July 24, 2013 [28 favorites]


The Dakotas, Nebraska, and Kansas, the classic Plains states, seem just a little too dry, a little too of the West, to count as Midwestern.

As an Illinoisan who's driven across the country, I'm not sure it always works to characterize the Midwest by entire states. There is a line running straight down the middle of S. Dakota, Nebraska, and Kansas that divides them geographically: east of the line they look like Midwestern farmland, west of it they look like the scrubby Great Plains.
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 2:29 AM on July 24, 2013 [17 favorites]


I would agree with Iridic, but I'm not so sure about Missouri. I mean, sure, St. Louis is supposedly a midwestern city, but Missouri always seemed more sourthern than Midwestern.

Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Wisconsin, Minnesota. That's always been my midwest, and it feels odd when people try to stretch the borders to include Nebraska or Kansas on the west, or Pennsylvania to the east.

Born and raised in Kalamazoo, with time in the northern burbs of Chicago, and four years of college on the Mississippi. I don't live there anymore, but I'm certainly not sad I grew up in the midwest.
posted by Ghidorah at 2:31 AM on July 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


St. Louis is the Gateway to the West, like Pittsburgh is the Gateway to the Midwest. Northern border is Canada, southern border is the Confederacy.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 2:36 AM on July 24, 2013 [8 favorites]


I love this. I've been completely baffled by some people's definitions of the Midwest over the years. Minnesota?? That's a northern state.

The Midwest is defined by (as I put it in my survey, which I just favored them with):

1) Corn
2) Lack of a southern accent (i.e. the bottom half AT LEAST of Missouri)
3) Not being in the northernmost tier of states (Minnesota, Wisconsin, etc)

Basically, Iowa/Illinois/Indiana are your prototypical Midwest states and others fall into the Midwest to the extent that they match those.
posted by DU at 2:37 AM on July 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Illinoisan here. Though live in California now. I draw the lines from Minnesota south including Iowa and the northern half of Missouri, the northern half of Illinois and Indiana, north to include all Michigan. Ohio really isn't the Midwest. The plains states (Dakotas south to Oklahoma) are culturally distinct from that region which has Chicago as its principal city.
posted by professor plum with a rope at 2:38 AM on July 24, 2013


No less an authority than Bob Dylan said Minnesota is in the Midwest. So it must be.
posted by professor plum with a rope at 2:40 AM on July 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


DU, logically I agree with you. But Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Michigan have long been lumped with the midwest. OTOH, we've also been called the northern states. It may need a matter of perspective.

Personally, I define it as hell. Summers too hot, winters too cold 5 days a year split between spring and fall that are nice. And none of the cultural landscape the east coast has. Well, maybe Chicago. But only Chicago.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 2:47 AM on July 24, 2013


DU/[insert clever name here]: I think Midwest/non-Midwest and North/South are orthogonal to each other. So, Minnesota is BOTH a Midwest AND a northern state.
posted by cthuljew at 3:18 AM on July 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


I was always confused that San Diego was not the "southwest". I mean, it's more south and west (well, there's stuff more west bc CA has that elbow going on). I get why it isn't, and culturally it sure ain't, but still.
I had a mid-easy politics professor who used to say: the Mideast is the Mideast if you're in a cafe in Paris, but from your couch in Qatar, it's neither the middle nor east of anything.
posted by atomicstone at 3:36 AM on July 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Of course, there's a proximity effect on the results. (people in Alaska think of the Midwest was way way west of everyone else)

Yeah, to this California boy, it just made sense to lump the Plains states in as a part of the Midwest (Kansas was pretty much synonymous with mid-anything), whereas a state like Ohio that's not even in one of the middle time zones and borders the Eastern Seaboard seems out of place there.

Yes, I know, historical reasons, blah-dee-blah...
posted by psoas at 4:02 AM on July 24, 2013


I just never understood how there is ANY debate about where Missouri falls in these estimations. Southern Missouri is nothing if not MORE Midwestern than the rest of the state (and I've lived in all parts of that state). It's about values and attitudes, not about whether there's a slight southern accent (which, by the way, southern Missourians don't have).
posted by mrfuga0 at 4:16 AM on July 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


All U.S. states that are entirely:

West of the line made by the Ohio River plus the Mississippi after the Ohio joins it.

East of the Rockies.

South of Canada.

Not on the Gulf of Mexico.
posted by kyrademon at 4:41 AM on July 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


It always fascinates me when people say Ohio isn't Midwestern. I grew up in Columbus, and have lived in New York, Chicago and Miami since. Columbus feels culturally very similar to living in Chicago and very, very different from living in New York or Florida. It's the attitudes (slight passive aggressiveness) that define Midwest for me, not timezones.

I do get the geographic argument, but for those of you who think Ohio isn't in the Midwest -- what region do you define it as being in?
posted by JustKeepSwimming at 5:04 AM on July 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


Minnesota is in the "Upper Midwest". I think it's a shorthand for Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, nearby bits of Michigan and the Dakotas being more recently settled, and more German/Scandinavian in ancestry. The other side of Chicago (Indiana, Ohio) would be the "Lower" part, but I'm not sure if I've ever heard anyone describe it as such.

Midwest really ends at the Missouri River in the Dakotas, that's where the corn more or less stops. Rapid City is a Western town.
posted by gimonca at 5:25 AM on July 24, 2013 [4 favorites]


I hesitate to include Oklahoma, because I think people from Oklahoma know they’re not Midwestern. Oklahoma City is further away from Chicago than New York City is from Chicago. Oklahoma isn’t the Midwest. Oklahoma is Diet Texas.

Source: States I Refuse To Acknowledge As Midwestern
posted by The Giant Squid at 5:30 AM on July 24, 2013 [10 favorites]


I grew up in Iowa and live in Minnesota. From my perspective, Iowa is the Midwest, along with the southern half of Minnesota, Western Illiniois, extreme Eastern Nebraska, and maybe Kansas City.

St. Louis is in the South, the Dakotas and Kansas are definitely in the West, and Chicago and Indiana are in the East.

A different perspective would be the Midwest are all the states that people living on either coast don't acknowledge as existing.
posted by mcstayinskool at 5:30 AM on July 24, 2013


I'd split Ohio into three regions. The southeastern part of the state is Appalachia. The flat western half, including Columbus, is the Midwest. The northeastern portion including Cleveland still exhibits some of its Connecticut roots and big East Coast urbanness.
posted by plastic_animals at 5:34 AM on July 24, 2013




A friend who moved from Michigan to New York City defines the Midwest as where, when you're waiting in line for the bathroom at a crowded bar, someone else in line makes eye contact with you and gives a polite little smile or nod of recognition and camaraderie. "That doesn't happen on the coasts," she said.
posted by Hey Dean Yeager! at 5:36 AM on July 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


If, as you're driving from home to your office, you can tell if the fields alongside the road have been planted in corn or beans, just from viewing the sprouts, you're living in the Midwest. Probably for far too long.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:42 AM on July 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Obligatory xkcd: It's all about Terminology.
posted by zinon at 5:45 AM on July 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


There's a very simple way to do this.

Did the state in question have a Big Ten school when the Big Ten actually had ten schools? If so, it's the Midwest.

Tangentially, if you read that, and can't think of which states count by that definition, you're probably not from the Midwest.
posted by graphnerd at 5:48 AM on July 24, 2013 [27 favorites]


And none of the cultural landscape the east coast has. Well, maybe Chicago. But only Chicago.

The east coast isn't all New York City. There are plenty of parts of the east coast that have less culture than places like Madison, Iowa City, and the Twin Cities.

St. Louis is the Gateway to the West, like Pittsburgh is the Gateway to the Midwest. Northern border is Canada, southern border is the Confederacy.

Pittsburgh? Does anyone in the Midwest believe this or is it just an east coast delusion?
posted by Area Man at 5:48 AM on July 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


My family on the east coast thinks that we live out west while my wife's family in California thinks that we live on the east coast.

I actually have never decided if Pittsburgh is in the mid-west or not. People here are awful damn polite and they do say "pop".
posted by octothorpe at 5:52 AM on July 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm a geography major at an Ohio university. As a whole, Ohio is definitely in the Midwest, though I'm intrigued by plastic_animals' intrastate splits.

Interestingly enough, the "Midwest debate" is somewhat of a contentious topic within our department. I'm always intrigued by how people define it. Good post.
posted by rensar at 5:55 AM on July 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


1) Corn

Indiana and Illinois are industrial states.

Northwest Ordinance, plus Minnesota, Iowa, and parts of Missouri. Distinct from the plains states, which have a more agricultural economy, geography, biology, and statehood during or after the Civil War.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 5:58 AM on July 24, 2013


Anyone here in Boston can tell you that the "Midwest" is anything west of Worcester.
posted by briank at 6:00 AM on July 24, 2013


I am originally from Michigan and

Did the state in question have a Big Ten school when the Big Ten actually had ten schools? If so, it's the Midwest.

is what I was coming in here to say. When filling out the survey I even forgot that that Nebraska and Colorado have Big 10 schools now.


Though I admit I don't know what to do with Missouri.
posted by mountmccabe at 6:03 AM on July 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Colorado doesn't have a Big Ten school.
posted by bleep-blop at 6:04 AM on July 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Oh! The Midwest is we're people have "values"!
posted by atomicstone at 6:06 AM on July 24, 2013


I do get the geographic argument, but for those of you who think Ohio isn't in the Midwest -- what region do you define it as being in?

The Great Lakes area? The Rust Belt? I'm just offering the California perspective, which is to say it wasn't until well after I moved to DC and my local office had conference calls with our headquarters in Columbus that I realized DC and Ohio are in the same time zone. Out west, if you're talking about somewhere three states away, that's nearly two days' driving, not an afternoon jaunt.
posted by psoas at 6:08 AM on July 24, 2013 [5 favorites]


The thing about Minnesota is that it is in three regions; the Northwestern third is "Plains" the Southeastern third is "Midwest" and the northern third is "Great Lakes" or "North" or "Canada jr."
posted by ArgentCorvid at 6:11 AM on July 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah, to this California boy, it just made sense to lump the Plains states in as a part of the Midwest (Kansas was pretty much synonymous with mid-anything), whereas a state like Ohio that's not even in one of the middle time zones and borders the Eastern Seaboard seems out of place there.

This seems to be a consistent thing in California. It sort of makes sense, so 'kind of in the middle, before you get to the Rockies' is a reasonably sensible grouping for somewhere you don't really think about, particularly since I knew a lot of people in California who'd never really left the west. Trying to dissuade them was a bit annoying, but a lot less annoying than trying to remind snobbish people from the east coast that Chicago is the third largest city in the country, so perhaps people from Illinois aren't all farmers.
posted by hoyland at 6:11 AM on July 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


I'm a Minnesotan by birth, and

As a whole, Ohio is definitely in the Midwest...

Pfft, you wish.

---

I resist defining "Midwestern" by whole states, and I prefer to think of it as being more like a watershed.
posted by wenestvedt at 6:14 AM on July 24, 2013


Simple: east of the Rockies, west of Pittsburgh, north of Oklahoma, south of the Arctic Circle.
posted by exogenous at 6:14 AM on July 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


Pittsburgh? Does anyone in the Midwest believe this or is it just an east coast delusion?

I grew up in Missouri and went to college in Pittsburgh. Also, I was trying to say that Pittsburgh is not in the Midwest, but marks its eastern boundary. I would say Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, and the Lower Peninsula are definitely the Midwest, and maybe St. Louis.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 6:15 AM on July 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


The midwest moved, because the west moved.

As far as I can tell, the term "midwest" started appearing when the Upper Mississippi Territories -- IL, MO, IA, MN, and WI, were created. These were the westernmost territories, and became "the west" -- along with all the unincorporated territory and California.

The states/territories that had been the west -- IN,MI,OH and KY -- became the midwest. Thus, there's the western theatre (run by Grant) and the eastern theatre (run by many) and the midwest states primarily send troops west.

The country grew, however, and pretty soon, having OH as the midwest just didn't make sense, because that made IL west, KS more west, CO more more west.... So Midwest moved to basically the Mississippi/Missouri Valleys. But it also grew, because, well, we called OH and MI midwest so long, so they remained MW.

The logjam was sort of broken by the "mountain" states", which gave us five basic slices -- West (the Pacific Coast), Mountain, Midwest, East and South. Sometimes "Mountain" and "West" combine, but if you say "West coast" or "Mountain", it's pretty clear that Colorado and California are in one of those sets, and not the other. We're stuck with "South" thanks to the Civil War, even though "Southeast" makes much more sense.

If you add in "the Great Plains", you can move the midwest back almost to its original meaning range. You have the West Coast, Mountain, Plains, Midwest (WI/IL/IN/MI/OH), South and East Coast. Really, the only thing you've added to the original midwest is WI/IL, and you've dropped KY and TN.

Personally, I find "Great Lakes" to be clearer, though not perfect -- PA and NY are not Great Lakes states, despite both having shores on Eire, and NY having extensive shoreline on Lake Ontario, and IL and IN barely having only a little lake frontage.

Though I admit I don't know what to do with Missouri.

Well, neither did the whole country -- see "the Missouri Compromise" and the effects thereof.
posted by eriko at 6:15 AM on July 24, 2013 [10 favorites]


I think the "excerpt" link from Gods Gift has the states right. Some states like Indiana and Illinois, midwestern is about all you can say about them, but others are straddling borders with other regions. Membership doesn't have to be exclusive. Kansas and Nebraska are midwestern states that are also great plain (and if you include Iowa and Minnesota I think you have to include them). Missouri is a midwestern state that's a little southern, but it's not a southern state. Minnesota is midwestern and great lakes and great plains. I'm not sure what to do with the Dakotas.

C.f. Oklahoma and Arkansas, which are southern but a little midwestern, and not 'deep south'.
posted by bleep-blop at 6:16 AM on July 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Pittsburgh? Does anyone in the Midwest believe this or is it just an east coast delusion?

Magic 8 Ball says, Delusion. And I say that as a Midwesterner now living in Rode Island.
posted by wenestvedt at 6:16 AM on July 24, 2013


Also, Worcester is the Epcot World Showcase version of every Midwestern ex-industrial city.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 6:17 AM on July 24, 2013


That Mcsweeneys link is pretty much perfect in shooting down pretenders to Midwestern status.
posted by Ghidorah at 6:18 AM on July 24, 2013


Here is my list: Iowa (the most Midwestern of all Midwestern states and probably the only state not in dispute), Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, most of Ohio (not the appalachian parts in the south of the state), Michigan, Minnesota, eastern North Dakota, eastern South Dakota, and eastern Nebraska.

I'm not sure about Kansas or Missouri. Kansas seems a bit too western and Missouri a bit too southern.
posted by Area Man at 6:19 AM on July 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


This confirms my side of an argument that I had with a friend once - Colorado is NOT midwest and no one from there considers it that way either. We are west :)
posted by cristinacristinacristina at 6:20 AM on July 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Area Man, while I recognize Iowa's strong midwesterness, and accept that this might be due to my having been born in Michigan, Michigan has always seemed to me to be quintessentially midwestern. Plus, lakes. Great ones.
posted by Ghidorah at 6:26 AM on July 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


As a Missourian by birth, and one who grew up in the Ozarks in the southernmost part of the state where the culture is very southern and there are indeed a lot of people with watered-down southern accents, it's really really weird to hear people refer to it as the south.

Missouri's dead-center in the country in a lot of ways that go well beyond the geographical, and yes, there is a lot of southern culture in parts of the state, but in 27 years of living there I never once encountered a Missourian who identified as southerner. Indeed, the first time I went down to Arkansas to meet my wife-to-be's family, I went to their church that Sunday, was introduced to an old family friend, and when I said I came from MO, got "Oh, a Yankee?" in response.

Culturally, linguistically, culinarily, etc., it's very much the crossroads of the US. But I never in my life met a Missourian who called themselves a southerner. I wonder how much of it boils down to politics, honestly -- I've seen people on this site call Kansas a southern state, when I think what they seemed to really mean is "boy, is that one conservative rural state".
posted by middleclasstool at 6:27 AM on July 24, 2013 [4 favorites]


You guys, please.

Minnesota is very clearly the upper midwest. There is a difference.

Carry on.
posted by triggerfinger at 6:29 AM on July 24, 2013


When I worked in the dining hall during college, we had a fun, informal research project we would do on spaghetti days. We would point to the trays of spaghetti and ask the diners, "what do you call that, not spaghetti but the generic term?" For the most part, midwesterners were much more likely to say "noodles" and people from the east and west coasts would usually say "pasta." We didn't have many Coloradans, but they all said "pasta."
posted by Area Man at 6:30 AM on July 24, 2013 [4 favorites]


"Indiana and Illinois are industrial states. "

Indiana and Illinois used to be industrial states, before Reagan and offshoring.
posted by MikeWarot at 6:30 AM on July 24, 2013


(Also when I put in MO as my home state, it drew the midwest lines precisely where I would have. I guess I'm a Missouri boy at heart, despite spending most of my adult life in the south.)
posted by middleclasstool at 6:30 AM on July 24, 2013


We didn't have many Coloradans, but they all said "pasta."

My dad tells the (possibly bullshit) story of going on a hunting trip somewhere out west (Colorado, maybe?). He and his friends stopped at a diner for breakfast and ordered fried eggs. The story is that the waitress served their plates, observed how they sliced up the eggs and tossed them around in the yolk, and asked "What part of Missouri are you guys from?"
posted by middleclasstool at 6:33 AM on July 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


Mine. Which is apparently the census definition. How can you argue with the US GOVERNMENT YALL?
posted by Potomac Avenue at 6:39 AM on July 24, 2013


Born in Indiana, and nearly all of my life in the Midwest and Upper Midwest. Here's what I put in their survey: "Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, and Illinois are the core Midwest states. Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin are Upper Midwest. South Dakota east of the Missouri River and the eastern edge of North Dakota are also part of the Upper Midwest. Saint Louis, Kansas City, and Louisville are edge cities that can be included in the Midwest."
posted by stopgap at 6:42 AM on July 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


I have a stupid question: how do you stop the map from panning when you try to draw boundaries on it?
posted by Area Man at 6:49 AM on July 24, 2013


You're in the Midwest if the irin is in the draar.
posted by snuffleupagus at 6:50 AM on July 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


Area Man: Just single-click on individual points to draw polygon segments; don't click and drag to draw freeform shapes.
posted by stopgap at 6:51 AM on July 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm actually a little bit of a prescriptivist, but being from Wisconsin, "midwest" has always bugged me. We don't have mountains, we don't have the Badlands or other Wile E. Coyote/Road Runner scenery, there's nothing western about us. No, sir.

Look, California, Oregon, and Washington are "west". Logically that can bleed into the western half of Arizona, Nevada, and Utah, but Utah's so skinny in the north that Montana now gets some west-ness. If you follow Montana's eastern border south, you cover Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, and a bit of Texas. Those are all obviously western-ish, but aren't west, so maybe you could call them mid-west.

And then from there to the Mississippi, that's the Midwest. Not west, not east, just "midwest." QED.



And don't get me started on the time a bunch of Californians asked me how life was in Milwaukee... "over there on the East Coast."
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 6:51 AM on July 24, 2013


As a Michigander, I'm actually very surprised by how strongly I feel about this issue.
In my mind, the southern parts of Missouri, Illinois, Indiana and Ohio are most certainly not in the Midwest. They occupy a part of the country I think of as (forgive me) the Fake South. I checked the map and it appears other Michiganders have equally narrow views of the Midwest.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 6:51 AM on July 24, 2013 [5 favorites]


Born in Buffalo (which, to be honest, is a pretty Midwestern-type burg, considering it's in New York State), raised in M'waukee, uni at UW-Madison, NYC by choice now.

My Midwest is Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan.

Kansas and Nebraska and the Dakotas, Fargo notwithstanding, are too far west. I consider those the Plains states. Missouri's too far south. I place it with Arkansas and Kentucky as a Northern Southern state. Besides, Missouri cares too much about BBQ and Midwesterners are more about the hotdish and Friday Night Fish Fry. I always joke that if you live in the Midwest, no matter what your family's original ethnicity is, you will end up eating brats, goulash, sauerkraut and potatoes on a regular basis. A meal in my household could feature collard greens, blackeyed peas and Polska Kielbasa, and no one batted an eye, just pass the hot sauce.

Dammit, I miss Usinger's sausages. I have not had what I consider to be a good brat in NYC, except at Schaller & Weber on the UES. I'm just not about to find a package of decent weisswurst at C-Town here in the Boogie Down like I could at Kohl's in Milwaukee. :(
posted by droplet at 6:56 AM on July 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


droplet: You bought your sausage at Kohl's??
posted by stopgap at 6:59 AM on July 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


Indiana and Illinois used to be industrial states, before Reagan and offshoring.

True, probably better to say that Indiana and Illinois are post-industrial states. When I left Indiana a big political debate was the new-route I69 toll road with a lot of pie-in-the-sky projections that it might just pay for itself if we could just get another Toyota.

Kansas and Nebraska are midwestern states that are also great plain (and if you include Iowa and Minnesota I think you have to include them).

Iowa's a border state because Eastern Iowa shares a fair bit of history and geology to Illinois. (Going back to the French heritage of using the upper Mississippi as missionary and trade routes.) Nebraska and Kansas are quite different, at least according to the branch of the family who actually is from there.

In my mind, the southern parts of Missouri, Illinois, Indiana and Ohio are most certainly not in the Midwest. They occupy a part of the country I think of as (forgive me) the Fake South. I checked the map and it appears other Michiganders have equally narrow views of the Midwest.

Having lived in both, the only connection is that the first waves of settlement came up the Ohio. But that was 200 years ago.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 7:00 AM on July 24, 2013


C.f. Oklahoma and Arkansas, which are southern but a little midwestern, and not 'deep south'.

Really? I've never really considered OK and especially AR as midwestern at all.

I'm actually a little bit of a prescriptivist, but being from Wisconsin, "midwest" has always bugged me. We don't have mountains, we don't have the Badlands or other Wile E. Coyote/Road Runner scenery, there's nothing western about us. No, sir.

As mentioned above, the term predates the modern boundaries of the U.S. Heck, to a Hawaiian nothing in the Continental 48 can be said to be West.
posted by kmz at 7:01 AM on July 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


I always joke that if you live in the Midwest, no matter what your family's original ethnicity is, you will end up eating brats, goulash, sauerkraut and potatoes on a regular basis.

See, tons of households in MO where that's the case. Even way down in the Ozarks.
posted by middleclasstool at 7:04 AM on July 24, 2013


Oh, I know. This is the one area in life that I'm a staunch descriptivist.
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 7:04 AM on July 24, 2013


Isn't it just the space between JFK and LAX?
posted by sexyrobot at 7:05 AM on July 24, 2013 [5 favorites]


I grew up in Indiana and to me the midwest is characterized largely by what it is not, because the surrounding areas have a much more succinct character or history. To that end, the midwest is not:

* Strongly identified as frontier territory. There is of course a history of settlers and my home town had a "settlers day" with a parade and all, but it is nothing like the sense in the plains that the frontier is still being settled.
* Culturally like the 13 colony states. The colonies have this whole history of going rogue against England and you just don't get the feeling in the midwest that every 25 miles there is some historical significance to things like you get around the colonies.
* Historically significant to the civil war. Sure, you can find a few interesting stories and Missouri is named after the compromise and all that, but you don't find sons and daughters of the revolution and whatnot composing the identity of the region. Learning about the civil war while living in Indiana felt like it actually happened in some other country.
* Southern. Hard to describe, but it just isn't southern and this has little to do with geography.
posted by dgran at 7:08 AM on July 24, 2013 [6 favorites]


Google Maps is our friend here, guys. Zoom in to one of the notches about 40% of the way up. Does it look kind of gray, with a faint checkerboard of roads? If so, that's the Midwest. We'll use Iowa as our ideal. If it's a bit ambiguous and you need to double check, drag the street view man to a random road out in an open area. Do you see mostly crops (Midwest), or mostly anything else (not Midwest)? There's a good chance you'll see a farmhouse. Bonus points for a silo or church.

Got it? Ok, now let's see what really counts as "the Midwest". Western Ohio? No question. However, northeastern Ohio isn't quite right, and southeastern Ohio is like a whole different world. Parts of Wisconsin appear to be Midwest, but most of it doesn't. But that state should just be given its own category for a number of reasons. Same with the UP. I don't really think of Minesota as being particularly Midwestern, but looking at southern and western parts of the state...that's Midwest if I ever did see it. I'd say the Midwest stops partway across Kansas, Nebraska, and the Dakotas. You can also see a transitional zone in Nebraska where they start to have those circular crops for watering.
posted by gueneverey at 7:11 AM on July 24, 2013 [5 favorites]


Having grown up in New Jersey and living now in Boston, I can definitively state that the geography of the continental US looks like this:

San Francisco -- HERE BE DRAGONS -- Hudson River -- New England -- Boston

Any trip somewhere in the middle is simply the machinations of a terrible fever dream.
posted by backseatpilot at 7:11 AM on July 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


stopgap, in the 1970's-80s, Kohl's in Wisconsin had supermarkets as well as department stores. The one near me as a little girl was on North 35th Street and West Garfield Avenue. I just Google mapped it, and it's a Family Dollar now.

Sample TV/radio commercial jingle: "It wouldn't be Wisconsin without my food from Kohl's!"
posted by droplet at 7:13 AM on July 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think one of the defining characteristics of the plains states for me is that my cousins can honestly claim to own a ranch, and unironically claim to be cowgirls. Where I grew up, cows were usually a side-project on pastures, and "cowboy" meant you were a poseur, a child with a costume, a Reagan voter, or some combination of the above.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 7:18 AM on July 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


1) Corn

Indiana and Illinois are industrial states.

Northwest Ordinance, plus Minnesota, Iowa, and parts of Missouri. Distinct from the plains states, which have a more agricultural economy, geography, biology, and statehood during or after the Civil War.


Hu-what? Have you ever been to Indiana? It's corn and soybeans as far as the eye can see. Industrial? Northern Indiana, maybe. I'll even throw in Columbus on account of Cummins, but we're NOT an Industrial state. It's our lack of industrial development, and so contingently the lack of union shops that grow as a result, that makes Indiana disproportionately white and conservative relative to our neighbors.
posted by leotrotsky at 7:21 AM on July 24, 2013 [4 favorites]


Missouri really can't be classified, it can only be described by its parts, and it is not the sum of its parts in arguments over where the state belongs culturally.

When Bill Hickok went to South Dakota, he wasn't fed cheese and treated to lightly passive aggressive conversation. He was gunned down in a saloon. In a mining camp.

How's this to freak out your perception of Missouri? Deadwood was founded in 1876 and was a violent mining camp. The city of Joplin was founded in 1873 and was ALSO a violent mining camp. The only difference was one town was built on gold and the other on lead and zinc.

In fact, the southwest corner of Missouri for a number of decades was routinely considered part of the Old Southwest, lumping it in with Oklahoma, Texas and Arkansas. The grand Connor Hotel (since demolished in the 70s) bragged that it was the finest hotel in the Southwest.

The Ozarks, which cover a fair chunk of southern Missouri (as well northern Arkansas), really have a culture that is (or at least was) similar to that of the Southern Appalachians, based in part due to the migration of Appalachians to the area in the 1800s. I think it's fair to say that the Ozarks can be as Southern as Appalachia can be (which it can be, but the two are not identical).

I have lived in southwest Missouri and central Missouri, I have also lived in Northwest Arkansas and in the South, as well Southern California.

There definitely parts of Missouri that belong to the main stream idea of what Midwest is (though, as we see, that definition is up to dispute!), and there are parts that belong to a Southern Identity, and also Western, and also Southwestern. It's a crossroads of the geographic and cultural regions of the United States and to attempt to proclaim it one and not the other is not an accurate identification.

Even in central Missouri, where I live, it leans a lot more toward Midwestern, but there are still elements I pick up from time to time that make me think Southern.

There is nothing Midwestern about Arkansas, though one might argue there are things western about Arkansas. It's a similar argument to how Southern is Texas. Arkansas is a fringe state, but just one less crazy than Missouri.
posted by Atreides at 7:25 AM on July 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


What's fascinating to me is that you can have a similar argument for just about any regional subdivision of the US (South, West, Southwest, Great Plains, Mid-Atlantic, etc.), and get just as much argument and controversy—except for New England, which seems to be universally (or near universally) agreed upon. Why the consensus on New England?
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 7:28 AM on July 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Why the consensus on New England?

It was here first, a.k.a., the primal right of First One Up Is The Best One Dressed.
posted by wenestvedt at 7:29 AM on July 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Pittsburgh is in the Midwest if you're in Philadelphia and want to put down the city on the other end of the state that you probably haven't been to.
posted by madcaptenor at 7:33 AM on July 24, 2013


Told me in the northeast: "Yeah, I've been out west...to Pennsylvania."
posted by lathrop at 7:35 AM on July 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


I suspect if you asked people to do a map of New England, you'd see the following:

1. people who haven't been to the northeastern part of the US assuming that since York and Jersey* are in England, New York and New Jersey must be in New England;
2. People who insist that southwestern Connecticut isn't part of New England because they're Yankee fans there.

*I know, the Channel Islands aren't part of England. But that's a subtlety Americans aren't good at.
posted by madcaptenor at 7:37 AM on July 24, 2013


This confirms my side of an argument that I had with a friend once - Colorado is NOT midwest and no one from there considers it that way either. We are west :)

South Park will often refer to Colorado as being in the Midwest. I don't know why the fuck Trey Parker thinks his home state is in the Midwest, unless he uses that as a synonym for the interior of the country.
posted by riruro at 7:39 AM on July 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


snuffleupagus: "You're in the Midwest if the irin is in the draar."

But my irin isn't in the draar when I need to use it after finishing the warsh.

Related: if Chicago was where you dreamed of moving as a disaffected small town youth, chances are you might have grown up in the Midwest.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 7:45 AM on July 24, 2013 [11 favorites]


If you're from Missouri and say "Missouri," you're a Midwesterner. If you say "Missouruh," you're a Southerner (even if you don't admit it).
posted by zsazsa at 7:50 AM on July 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


Indiana and Illinois are industrial states.

Outside of the (former) industrial cities and towns, both Indiana and Illinois have always been huge agriculture states. Indiana, alone, has always been one of the top corn producers in the US. You can't drive anywhere in the state without being surrounded by crops of some sort.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:56 AM on July 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


Do you see mostly crops (Midwest), or mostly anything else (not Midwest)?

Just about anywhere you go, rural areas will be a combination of:

1) agricultural development
2) undeveloped land (usually parks and reserves)
3) water

So in just about any state, it's not hard to find rural crops.

Hu-what? Have you ever been to Indiana?

Lived there for 35 years.

It's corn and soybeans as far as the eye can see.

That's deceptive because any rural area is going to be either cultivated or undeveloped. Many of the farms you do see are smaller-scale family farms or exurban projects. You'll see fewer massive factory farms like you do traveling across Kansas or Colorado.

And then, there's the geological problem that the southern third of Indiana is three inches of clay on eroded karst, and the northern third historical wetlands. So agriculture in Indiana has never been as rich as Illinois, or even Ohio.

The question is what developed the cities and population centers. Bloomington: multiple limestone quarries, Otis, Westinghouse, and GE. Columbus: Arvin, Toyota Industrial, and Cummins. Seymour: Aisin and Cummins. Terre Haute was a major railway hub in its heyday, briefly a center for ragtime recording, and Sony. Going toward Evansville: historically coal, now Toyota, and furniture. Most cities in Indiana are or were either mining or factory towns at some point in their history.

It's our lack of industrial development, and so contingently the lack of union shops that grow as a result, that makes Indiana disproportionately white and conservative relative to our neighbors.

I think there's a couple of reasons for this. Industry wasn't as centralized as on the Great Lakes, most of Indiana didn't benefit from the waves of immigration experienced by the Great Lakes cities, and a couple of key industries in Indiana went obsolete about a half-century ago.

But that doesn't change the fact that industry is a bigger employer than agriculture, industry is more productive than agriculture, and "where are our jobs going" the biggest political problem of politics.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 7:57 AM on July 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


Iowa (the most Midwestern of all Midwestern states and probably the only state not in dispute)

Area Man, I agree with this statement.

There is no way we can agree on the bounds of the Midwest, but can we at least all agree that Iowa is the most archetypical Midwest state?

Illinois is too Chicago-y, Minnesota too Northwoods-y, Michigan too Great Lakes-y. Iowa is just right. In fact I think it is the distinct lack of a Great Lake is what makes Iowa so Midwestern. I feel like the lakes exude their own sort of region and it is weirding me out that some of you are using great lakes as a definitive element of the Midwest.
posted by cirrostratus at 7:58 AM on July 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


I guess I define the Midwest based on what it's not: states that contain no proper mountains or proper deserts and are more than 300 miles from the nearest ocean. I think Missouri is the only state that fails on this definition that I consider Midwestern.
posted by drlith at 8:00 AM on July 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


drlith nails what I just put in my completed survey -- that even as a nearly lifelong Midwesterner, I define the Midwest by what it is not (not coastal, not the South, not the West) more than what it actually is.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 8:03 AM on July 24, 2013


How about passive aggression? Could that be the defining characteristic?
posted by Area Man at 8:06 AM on July 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


And this is how the great Michigander songwriter Joel Mabus defines who is (hopelessly) Midwestern.
posted by drlith at 8:06 AM on July 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think "arguing about which states are in the Midwest" is the defining characteristic of the Midwest.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 8:09 AM on July 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


Hm. I guess I define it as states without a coast that are also in the Central Time Zone. Canada obviously need not apply.
posted by elizardbits at 8:11 AM on July 24, 2013


I freely admit to vast ignorance on the subject as being more than 100 miles in from any coast makes me nervous.
posted by elizardbits at 8:13 AM on July 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


I just don't see how it can be defined by whole states. I think of Chicago as the iconic Midwestern city. But what about Cairo Illinois, which is located at the southern tip of that state? I have never been, but I always imagined a place like Cairo as more southern--ditto for the boot heel of Missouri. Can anybody who has been to Cairo comment on that?

And I lived in Minneapolis for many years. I always considered that as part of the Midwest. But St. Paul? No as much for some strange set of reasons that I can't really articulate. It was just a feeling I always got. And no way is Duluth part of the Midwest.
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 8:14 AM on July 24, 2013


St. Louis is a city which northerners believe is Southern, southerners think is northern, westerners think is back East, and easterners think is out West (in the sense that Kansas City really is).

And, circa 1975, was the population center of the U.S.

I lived there for awhile.
posted by lathrop at 8:15 AM on July 24, 2013 [4 favorites]


Hm. I guess I define it as states without a coast that are also in the Central Time Zone.

This. The Midwest is the Central Time Zone above a certain latitude, probably 39° or 38°.

Sorry Ohio and the Eastern half of Indiana, you aren't in the club.
posted by cirrostratus at 8:17 AM on July 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


How about passive aggression?

I'm sorry, that's called Minnesota Nice.
posted by mcstayinskool at 8:21 AM on July 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


For me it's pretty simple: state included in the Northwest Ordinance, in whole or in part? Midwest. The only exception I might make is for Iowa.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:21 AM on July 24, 2013


Why the consensus on New England?

The states are small and it forms an easily definable corner of the country. But if you really started to dissect it, we could have a huge argument that goes way beyond the question of Fairfield County CT. My little region (SE Mass, RI, SE CT) shares very little cultural or geographic similarities with downeast Maine, for example. When I go to downeast Maine, I have a palpable feeling that "this is way different".
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 8:26 AM on July 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


To paraphrase the famous sentiment about porn, "I know it when I fly over it".
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 8:26 AM on July 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Just about anywhere you go, rural areas will be a combination of:

1) agricultural development
2) undeveloped land (usually parks and reserves)
3) water

So in just about any state, it's not hard to find rural crops.


But the rural Midwest is not a combination of ag, undeveloped, and water. It's overwhelmingly agriculture. We've felled the woods, drained the wetlands, and plowed the prairies. For all intents and purposes, undeveloped does not exist.
posted by gueneverey at 8:31 AM on July 24, 2013


Outside of the (former) industrial cities and towns, both Indiana and Illinois have always been huge agriculture states.

That's a trivially true and almost universal statement about human geography. Outside of industrial cities and towns, New York, Pennsylvania, California, and Michigan are huge agricultural states as well.

Let's ignore the subjective experience of driving across factory farms. Which economic segment employs more people? Industry. Which segment contributes more per-capita income? Industry. Which segment drives the political discussions about education and infrastructure? Industry. You go to almost any county and community in Indiana and it's economic history and future is shaped by the local industries that moved in or moved out.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 8:32 AM on July 24, 2013


Columbus feels culturally very similar to living in Chicago and very, very different from living in New York or Florida. It's the attitudes (slight passive aggressiveness) that define Midwest for me, not timezones.

This. I grew up in Northwest Ohio, near Toledo, and the attitudinal difference there is distinct and very similar to what you find in Midwestern states that are further west of Ohio. Also, I can't speak for other areas of Ohio but people in NW Ohio think of themselves as Midwestern and feel they have much more in common with other Midwestern states such as Michigan, Illinois and Indiana. If you told them they weren't Midwestern they'd just laugh.
posted by longdaysjourney at 8:32 AM on July 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


I moved to Pittsburgh 15 years ago firmly convinced it was not the Midwest. I want to believe I am in the Mid-Atlantic, damn it. Over the years I have been browbeaten into accepting that we are, possibly, the eastern boundary of the Midwest. I don't have to like it, though.
posted by Stacey at 8:33 AM on July 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


The states are small and it forms an easily definable corner of the country. But if you really started to dissect it, we could have a huge argument that goes way beyond the question of Fairfield County CT. My little region (SE Mass, RI, SE CT) shares very little cultural or geographic similarities with downeast Maine, for example. When I go to downeast Maine, I have a palpable feeling that "this is way different".

Well, sure. I mean, Boston feels different from Southern NH which feels different from the White Mountains which feels different from Springfield etc.

I think New York State just forms a nice geographical and mental border. It's the barrier reef protecting New England from the rest of the country.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 8:36 AM on July 24, 2013


You people better stop saying Missouri is southern. Only the bootheel is in the south.

There was a proposal a few years ago to cede the bootheel of Missouri to Arkansas, in order to raise the average IQ of both states.
posted by General Tonic at 8:37 AM on July 24, 2013 [8 favorites]


It seems that to some people the Midwest includes the great lakes cities - Detroit, Cleveland, even Buffalo. I think that would have to be the oldest, Erie-canal-era, definition of where the Midwest begins.

It's a confusing term for me to hear applied that area, because north of there is southern Ontario, which in Canada is called "central".
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 8:39 AM on July 24, 2013


There is no way we can agree on the bounds of the Midwest, but can we at least all agree that Iowa is the most archetypical Midwest state?

Nope. To me Iowa is a border case, almost a Great Plains state.


(Also Colorado went PAC-10, my mistake. I can't keep up).
posted by mountmccabe at 8:39 AM on July 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


Nope. To me Iowa is a border case, almost a Great Plains state.

Ok, I think we've got two camps going on here: those that refer to the Great Lakes as the Midwest and those that refer to the Great Plains as the Midwest.

Not Great Lakeist.
posted by cirrostratus at 8:42 AM on July 24, 2013 [5 favorites]


Sorry Ohio and the Eastern half of Indiana, you aren't in the club.

ALL of Indiana is in the Eastern time zone, save for the corners up by Chicago and down around Evansville. Been that way for several years now.
posted by Thorzdad at 8:45 AM on July 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


Mark Twain, the most famous Missourian of all, considered Missouri a Southern state. However, it was pushed closer to the Midwest in the early 20th century due to heavy German immigration. It's home to America's largest brewery and second largest Lutheran denomination, for Pete's sake.

Slave states that weren't formally part of the Confederacy (MO, WV, MD, DE, even KY) are not inherently part of an geographic region. After racism, it's the second biggest argument this country continues to have as a result of the Civil War.
posted by riruro at 8:47 AM on July 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


As a Missouri native, I was always surprised when I'd say I was from the Midwest and people would assume one of the frozen north Great Lakes norsemen states. If most of the people in your area are descended from Vikings, you're not Midwestern. Nothing north of the rough line described by Chicago to Detroit and the northern border of Iowa is Midwest to me. (I understand nowadays about the Northwest Territories stuff.)

Y'all Scandinavians stay up there, out of my Midwest.
posted by Eideteker at 8:54 AM on July 24, 2013


Slave states that weren't formally part of the Confederacy (MO, WV, MD, DE, even KY) are not inherently part of an geographic region.

Three of those states (or parts thereof) are within Appalachia.

As a Missouri native, I was always surprised when I'd say I was from the Midwest and people would assume one of the frozen north Great Lakes norsemen states. If most of the people in your area are descended from Vikings, you're not Midwestern.


Upper Midwest ≠ Midwest, I guess, is what you're saying. (Though, actually, even Minnesota is only like 1/3 Scandinavian at best, and then you have to factor in how one defines Scandinavia...)
posted by Sys Rq at 8:56 AM on July 24, 2013


Though I am sure that I'll be completely disregarded as a crank if I make my argument that Louisville, unlike the rest of KY, is essentially Midwestern (moreso than Southern, at least).

(If nothing else, I'll cite the school system, which, at least when I lived there as a kid, was better than the one I was thrust into when we moved to NJ. Can't attest to its current state. Whoo, Wilder Elementary!)
posted by Eideteker at 8:57 AM on July 24, 2013


Though I am sure that I'll be completely disregarded as a crank if I make my argument that Louisville, unlike the rest of KY, is essentially Midwestern (moreso than Southern, at least).

I'm comfortable with that. But then again, I think the border states in the Civil War are kinda a fringe case in defining geography.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 8:59 AM on July 24, 2013


Whenever I drive through Missouri and Arkansas they refer to the region on the radio as the mid-south. Which after a lot of initial confusion and consternation, I tend to agree with.

From my travels in Ohio, it is part of the south. I don't understand why, but it's incontrovertible.
posted by hobo gitano de queretaro at 9:00 AM on July 24, 2013


"Upper Midwest ≠ Midwest, I guess, is what you're saying."

That was the cultural identity I grew up with, yes.
posted by Eideteker at 9:00 AM on July 24, 2013


Y'all Scandinavians stay up there, out of my Midwest.

Ah ha! Only Southerners use Y'all!

Mark Twain, the most famous Missourian of all, considered Missouri a Southern state. However, it was pushed closer to the Midwest in the early 20th century due to heavy German immigration. It's home to America's largest brewery and second largest Lutheran denomination, for Pete's sake.

I think this is a good summation to how Missouri ended up being such a divided place. Jefferson City was established in the early 1800s, but it strongly identifies with the German Catholic migration to this very day. Meanwhile, north of Jefferson City one can find Ravenswood, one of the finest remaining examples of a plantation house in the region.

The German, and also the lesser numbered European migrations, into Missouri thoroughly affected and mixed up its identity.
posted by Atreides at 9:01 AM on July 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


Both my parents are from Kansas. I was born on one coast and raised on the other, but most of my sizable extended family stayed in Kansas, with some relatives in Illinois, Nebraska, Iowa, and Missouri. As a result, I've always defined the Midwest as "the place where all the aunts live."
posted by Metroid Baby at 9:04 AM on July 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


I should add, the 19th Century European immigrants mixed up with the Southern migrants from mainly, but not restricted to, Upper South, (and there were also migrants from places like Ohio, and east from there!).
posted by Atreides at 9:05 AM on July 24, 2013


I think the reason some of us are saying Iowa isn't a Midwest state (and it's certainly the reason I am) is because we are lumping it into the Great Plains region (which isn't an official US census region but is one of the regions used by the Bureau of Economic Analysis (which is the grouping I find the least problematic). Missouri gets dumped into the south for me because of where it sits in the whole history of Slavery in the United States thing (which to me is the defining characteristic of the region though I understand that not everyone would feel that way).

Anyway, here is what I divide the rest of the US into and a simple reason why I split that group off from everyone else (and at the end the ones that cause enough headaches that I don't put them much of anywhere).
New England: Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Vermont, Maine. (A pretty Traditional division, though I can see splitting Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island into the next one)
Mid-Atlantic/East Coast: New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware (basically those of the 13 colonies that aren't a part of the South and aren't a part of New England
The South: Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Louisiana, Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky, Missouri, Texas (the Slave states just prior to the Civil War, if your state did not vote for Lincoln in 1860, your state is a part of the South)
Great Plains: Iowa, Kansas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota, South Dakota (Basically West of the Mississippi, East of the Rockies, North of Texas, so if we payed money to France for it, it's probably here, though parts of Wyoming and Montana belong here)
South West: Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah (ie the states we fought wars with Mexico for that aren't Texas and I think of Desert when I think of them)
California (yes I put California as it's own region)
North West: Oregon, Washington (Pacific Coast States that aren't California)
Mountain States: Colorado, Montana, Wyoming, Idaho (defined by the Rocky Mountains)
Midwest States: Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio (the old Northwest Territory states that we picked up right after the Revolution)
States that don't really fit: West Virginia (not Mid-Atlantic/East Coast, Not Midwest, Seceded from Virginia at the start of the Civil War so not part of the South, If people want to split WV into a group with Tennessee and Kentucky I won't argue much)
Alaska and Hawaii (They aren't enough of a thing to be their own thing, but don't really fit else where).
posted by Meeks Ormand at 9:08 AM on July 24, 2013 [6 favorites]


I like how Wisconsin is clearly the center of the midwest Universe in almost everyone's map.
posted by desjardins at 9:08 AM on July 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


Meeks: Why Delaware in the mid-Atlantic but Maryland in the south?
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 9:12 AM on July 24, 2013


How do you define the Midwest?

I do not.

It is a term whose only function is to put people in boxes.

But there are no boxes:
Prototype Theory
Linguistic Categorization
Color Terms

Knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a 'fruit'.
Wisdom is knowing not to put it in a fruit salad.

 
posted by Herodios at 9:13 AM on July 24, 2013 [4 favorites]


If you drive across Nebraska into Iowa, you see that Iowa really is different from the Great Plains. So much greener.
posted by Area Man at 9:13 AM on July 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


No one wants to cut up midwesterners and put them into a salad though.
posted by elizardbits at 9:15 AM on July 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


But perhaps a fruit cake?
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 9:15 AM on July 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


I am not sure how all this salad-prescriptivism can stand.
posted by mountmccabe at 9:17 AM on July 24, 2013


They are more of a starchy side dish.
posted by elizardbits at 9:17 AM on July 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


We are famously well-marbled.
posted by Area Man at 9:20 AM on July 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm from Iowa and went to college in Virginia. I actually closed the survey before completing it because I couldn't define the Midwest in words. However, when I was flying home on college breaks, I knew I was getting close to home because when I looked down, everything looked square. Straight roads, square fields, little towns (if I managed to avoid a Chicago layover), everything neat and tidy. If the rural areas don't look this way, it's definitely not the Midwest.
posted by epj at 9:22 AM on July 24, 2013


elizardbits: "Hm. I guess I define it as states without a coast that are also in the Central Time Zone. Canada obviously need not apply."

I assume you mean a salt water coast and not "lakes you can see from space, which have tides and beaches and international borders and shit like that."
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:23 AM on July 24, 2013 [8 favorites]


While I grew up in Michigan I lived in Arizona for most of my life and probably would've considered New York to be part of New England. Probably even Pennsylvania, Delaware and New Jersey. Just a default, not thinking about it part of way.
posted by mountmccabe at 9:26 AM on July 24, 2013


No, those count as coasts. Why wouldn't they count? Now I'm really confused.
posted by elizardbits at 9:26 AM on July 24, 2013


NOAA basically disagrees on tides, actually. There are tides, but it's basically negligible.

No, those count as coasts. Why wouldn't they count? Now I'm really confused.

You've just culled Illinois, Wisconsin and Minnesota (and a tiny bit of Indiana) from the Midwest.
posted by hoyland at 9:28 AM on July 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


Isn't being "midwestern" shorthand for a desired set of shared values and behaviors, the way that "middle-class" is in the US?
posted by ZeusHumms at 9:28 AM on July 24, 2013



No, those count as coasts. Why wouldn't they count? Now I'm really confused.

The first step on the road to wisdom.
 
posted by Herodios at 9:29 AM on July 24, 2013


argument that Louisville, unlike the rest of KY, is essentially Midwestern

I'm told that Kentuckians agree, thinking of it as, well, more an Indiana city.
posted by lathrop at 9:29 AM on July 24, 2013


i don't want to play this game anymore it is terrible
posted by elizardbits at 9:30 AM on July 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


Isn't being "midwestern" shorthand for a desired set of shared values and behaviors, the way that "middle-class" is in the US?

I think only if you're trying to other someone. If you're not in the Midwest, it's people in the Midwest and if you are in the Midwest, it's people not like you (who may well be your neighbours and just as midwestern as you).
posted by hoyland at 9:30 AM on July 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


"Midwest" is shorthand for "I'm good people and you don't know where Terre Haute is anyway."
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:32 AM on July 24, 2013


Terre Haute, motto: At Least It's Not Fort Wayne
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:34 AM on July 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


I assume you mean a salt water coast and not "lakes you can see from space, which have tides and beaches and international borders and shit like that."


Third Coast or bust.
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 9:35 AM on July 24, 2013


lathrop: "argument that Louisville, unlike the rest of KY, is essentially Midwestern

I'm told that Kentuckians agree, thinking of it as, well, more an Indiana city.
"

This is the point where I say the words "Kentuckiana metropolitan area" because they are hilarious to me.

As someone who lived in Louisville for about a year, it's the closest to "not Midwest" as any other place I've lived. But it still felt very Midwest. In fact, I've said in some ways it had the best parts of living in the Midwest and living in the South. (This was, of course, based on living their for 11 months 15 year ago, so I can't be classified as an expert.)
posted by MCMikeNamara at 9:40 AM on July 24, 2013


Third Coast or bust.

Bah. Third Coast sounds so johnny-come-lately.

In Ahia they prefer North Coast. Maximally descriptive while minimally freighted, though perhaps it doesn't work so well for, say, Milwaukee or Duluth.
 
posted by Herodios at 9:42 AM on July 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


Seymour Zamboni: Basically that's what felt right, though if you are interested in after the fact justifications I'll point at the Mason-Dixon Line, the fact that Delaware voted against Secession while Maryland was essentially occupied territory for the American Civil War. But really it was because when you say Delaware I think of neither the South, nor of Slavery, mostly just banks and business friendly incorporation rules.
posted by Meeks Ormand at 9:44 AM on July 24, 2013


Outside of the (former) industrial cities and towns, both Indiana and Illinois have always been huge agriculture states.

That's a trivially true and almost universal statement about human geography. Outside of industrial cities and towns, New York, Pennsylvania, California, and Michigan are huge agricultural states as well.

Let's ignore the subjective experience of driving across factory farms. Which economic segment employs more people? Industry. Which segment contributes more per-capita income? Industry. Which segment drives the political discussions about education and infrastructure? Industry. You go to almost any county and community in Indiana and it's economic history and future is shaped by the local industries that moved in or moved out.


See, but any cities are also trivially going to be focused on industry, because farms don't fit in cities, and cities don't have farms. Agricultural city seems a bit of an oxymoron.
posted by leotrotsky at 9:57 AM on July 24, 2013


For example, the three largest contributors to the US agricultural GDP are California, Texas, and Iowa. Agricultural is the 17th, 18th and 6th largest sector in each of those states, respectively.
posted by leotrotsky at 10:01 AM on July 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


So much crazy wrongness here!

Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois and most of Missouri.
posted by klangklangston at 10:04 AM on July 24, 2013 [5 favorites]


>> Slave states that weren't formally part of the Confederacy (MO, WV, MD, DE, even KY) are not inherently part of an geographic region.

Three of those states (or parts thereof) are within Appalachia.


Sorry, I meant geographic regions that derive their names from compass directions.
posted by riruro at 10:08 AM on July 24, 2013


"Midwest" is shorthand for "our culinary traditions were wiped out with the rise of industrialized food production and now we think that 'Fritos' is an ingredient."
posted by invitapriore at 10:10 AM on July 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


"Midwest" is shorthand for "our culinary traditions were wiped out with the rise of industrialized food production and now we think that 'Fritos' is an ingredient."

That would include the South and Southwest.
posted by Sys Rq at 10:13 AM on July 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Those places still have widely-recognized culinary traditions though. We've got, what, casserole*?

* hot plates if you're from up there
posted by invitapriore at 10:21 AM on July 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


The state definition doesn't really work because Omaha is clearly Midwest, but Western Nebraska is clearly the West.

I propose a sort of circle bounded by: North Platte to the West, St. Cloud or Mt. Pleasant to the North, Columbus to the East, and Jefferson City to the South.

Iowa is most certainly the most Midwestern of all the Midwest.
posted by Lutoslawski at 10:32 AM on July 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


I grew up in northeastern Ohio, and ever reference I ever heard to "midwest" included us.
posted by straight at 10:32 AM on July 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


I grew up in Springfield, Missouri, and always thought of it as part of the Midwest. Now I live in Champaign, Illinois, and I can see that Springfield and the surrounding Ozarks area are the SOUTH. There's no corn! There's just a lot of humidity and Baptists and Branson.
posted by daisystomper at 10:34 AM on July 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


We've got, what, casserole*?

* hot plates if you're from up there


Hotdish. And then there's all this.
posted by Sys Rq at 10:35 AM on July 24, 2013 [4 favorites]


For some reason, as a native Iowan, I have a hard time thinking about our food as a sort of "cuisine."
posted by Lutoslawski at 10:36 AM on July 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


Jucy Lucy 4ever!
posted by Area Man at 10:38 AM on July 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


but I always imagined a place like Cairo, Illinois as more southern--ditto for the boot heel of Missouri. Can anybody who has been to Cairo comment on that?

Well, I've been to Cairo IL. That's "Kay Ro" to the unfamiliar. My impression was very much that it was a run down, Midwestern river town and that it did not have any decidedly Southern feel.
posted by lstanley at 10:39 AM on July 24, 2013


And then there's all this.

That's just a list of things that happen to be popular (or simply exist) in certain cities, rather than something cohesive, though.

Also, who the heck wrote the Minneapolis/St Paul part? " Egyptian, Iranian (Persian), Kurdish, and Turkish restaurants can be found throughout the Twin Cities." Yeah, the one Kurdish restaurant and the one Turkish restaurant. I'll believe the other two. The whole article pretty much reads like that, honestly.
posted by hoyland at 10:46 AM on July 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


For some reason, as a native Iowan, I have a hard time thinking about our food as a sort of "cuisine."

How can you slander the Maid-Rite like that? Go wash your mouth out, apostate! Then have a Maid-Rite.
posted by drlith at 10:46 AM on July 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


I grew up just outside Lexington KY, and I define "the midwest" as the parts of KY that comprise Louisville and Lexington general metro areas, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri and the entire Kansas City metro area (but not the rest of Kansas), Iowa, parts of Nebraska, and the southern parts of Minnesota and Wisconsin.

At least one person on this map listed Montana as Midwest, what the christ.
posted by agress at 10:46 AM on July 24, 2013


Yeah, to this California boy, it just made sense to lump the Plains states in as a part of the Midwest (Kansas was pretty much synonymous with mid-anything), whereas a state like Ohio that's not even in one of the middle time zones and borders the Eastern Seaboard seems out of place there.

For me, the Midwest is the region:
* East of the Rockies
* West of Chicago
* South of Canada
* North of Texas

I'm actually from the Upper Midwest, but I haven't traveled around in it much*, so my definition is probably more influenced by national TV that any local ideas**.

* When I travel, I travel to not-Midwest.
** Which, for me, amounted to little more than the idea that "we live in the Midwest."

posted by cosmic.osmo at 10:49 AM on July 24, 2013


MN born and lifer. I was surprised to hear Ohio described as Midwest in high school. I learned the states in geography class by region: New England has 5, Mid Atlantic has 6, Southeast has 10, South Central has 4, Mountain has 8, Pacific has 5. That leaves the Midwest with 12: ND SD MN NE KS MN IA MO WI MI IL AND IN. Ohio was MidAtlantic in that book and to me it always will be. Id love to find that book again, even just to see the contents.
posted by soelo at 10:49 AM on July 24, 2013


MN born and lifer.

I used to know a guy who made it to his 30s without ever having left Minnesota. He was smart, earned okay money, and had a college education, but had never left. He travelled a lot, but only in Minnesota. He knew his state geography better than anyone I've ever met.
posted by Area Man at 11:06 AM on July 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


MN born and lifer. I was surprised to hear Ohio described as Midwest in high school. I learned the states in geography class by region: New England has 5, Mid Atlantic has 6, Southeast has 10, South Central has 4, Mountain has 8, Pacific has 5. That leaves the Midwest with 12: ND SD MN NE KS MN IA MO WI MI IL AND IN. Ohio was MidAtlantic in that book and to me it always will be. Id love to find that book again, even just to see the contents.

Wait, so Mid-Atlantic was NY, NJ, PA, DE, MD, OH? Am I getting that right? If so, where was Connecticut? There's no room for it in New England if there are only five. Did they just get rid of it entirely? Or did they put Maryland in the South? This whole scheme sounds really weird.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 11:11 AM on July 24, 2013


This is all off the top of my head. I knew I'd make an error, New England must be 6 and Mid Atlantic 5. So where was Ohio? I have no idea.
posted by soelo at 11:16 AM on July 24, 2013


A good general idea of the "Midwest" can be gathered by following agricultural and crop patterns.

Using this map as an example, the Midwest runs from far eastern North Dakota, South Dakota and Nebraska through southwestern Minnesota and central / southern Wisconsin, includes all of Iowa, Illinois, and Indiana, pushes up into central Michigan, and then ends in central Ohio.
posted by lstanley at 11:27 AM on July 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


of course, it's all a variety of masturbation. Mapsturbation *map map map map*
posted by Eideteker at 11:40 AM on July 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


A good general idea of the "Midwest" can be gathered by following agricultural and crop patterns.

i was going to propose a bunch of highways and freeways as boundaries, but this is pretty close to what i was going to claim

i'm not familiar with kansas or ohio, so it's hard to say

eastern nebraska is certainly midwestern

northern michigan is NOT midwestern - for lack of a better word, i'd call it south north ontario

i would say that parts of s ontario is midwestern, too

one of the original fpp links claimed that someone defined newfoundland as midwestern

i can't even begin to understand that
posted by pyramid termite at 1:17 PM on July 24, 2013


Here's how the FCC divs up the States for Ham Licenses. Note that HI and CA are both in 6 despite being thousands of miles apart, and AK and AZ are both 7s.

A sociolinguistic view (but I remember the two middle bands being called South Midlandands and North Midlands. More like this one.) But they're both missing the island that is Cincincinati.

The Harvard Lampoon ("The Tiny X-Shaped Forest" *snort*)

And of course, The New Jorker.

 
posted by Herodios at 1:21 PM on July 24, 2013


At least one person on this map listed Montana as Midwest, what the christ.

Not utterly, totally off-base there...the eastern bits of Montana have a lot of history linking them to the Twin Cities, particularly via transportation links (Great Northern RR, Northwest Airlines, I-94, etc.). If you're in that easternmost part of Montana, your next "big city" to the east is Minneapolis.

On the other hand, Whitefish feels to me like the farthest suburb of Seattle, so I can see the other point of view.
posted by gimonca at 3:54 PM on July 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


If you're from Missouri and say "Missouri," you're a Midwesterner. If you say "Missouruh," you're a Southerner (even if you don't admit it).

Like the Simpsons pointed out once, Missouri and Missoura are very different places.
posted by saul wright at 4:02 PM on July 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


North of 36°30', east of 100° west longitude, west of the Ohio River, and not Pennsylvania. The Hundredth west meridian is the edge of the west, anything east of the Ohio is part of the east, and 36°30', the Missouri compromise line, defining the northern edge of the south and southwest.
posted by bzbb at 5:43 PM on July 24, 2013


2) Lack of a southern accent (i.e. the bottom half AT LEAST of Missouri)
No Ohio then, as Cincinnati has to have some sort of southern accent, no?
posted by 922257033c4a0f3cecdbd819a46d626999d1af4a at 6:32 PM on July 24, 2013


This lifelong East Coaster will go with the simplest definition he can muster: The Midwest is where they call soda "pop."

Also, I know CT is technically a "New England state," but I don't personally consider much of southwestern CT to be New England. It's not about Yankee fans, though. Here's my rule: if it's within, say, 30 minutes' drive of a Metro-North station, it's not New England.
posted by breakin' the law at 8:36 PM on July 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Did the state in question have a Big Ten school when the Big Ten actually had ten schools? If so, it's the Midwest.

Tangentially, if you read that, and can't think of which states count by that definition, you're probably not from the Midwest.


I'm a Canadian, so I had to look up which states contain a Big Ten school. Here's what I learned from wikipedia: "Despite the conference's name, the Big Ten actually consists of 12 schools ... It is not to be confused with the Big 12 Conference, which has only ten schools"
posted by obscure simpsons reference at 9:39 PM on July 24, 2013 [5 favorites]


Soon to be 14.5 apparently. (Depending how you count the single-sport membership of Johns Hopkins.)
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 9:51 PM on July 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


I've lived in Ohio most of my life and it is BLOWING MY MIND that there are people who don't consider this the Midwest.

Anyway, throwing my lot in with those who have said the Midwest is Big-10 (original) country:

Ohio
Michigan
Indiana
Wisconsin
Illinois
Iowa
Minnesota
posted by imabanana at 10:55 PM on July 24, 2013 [6 favorites]


This lifelong East Coaster will go with the simplest definition he can muster: The Midwest is where they call soda "pop."

A long time ago I used to believe this, until I learned from my parents, that when they were growing up in Appalachia, "pop" was the default. So...yes, it's an unreliable test! (I can't speak to modern Appalachian usage, though.)
posted by Atreides at 7:06 AM on July 25, 2013


Here's what I learned from wikipedia: "Despite the conference's name, the Big Ten actually consists of 12 schools ... It is not to be confused with the Big 12 Conference, which has only ten schools"

That is so absurd it could almost be England.
 
posted by Herodios at 7:15 AM on July 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


Midwest really ends at the Missouri River in the Dakotas, that's where the corn more or less stops. Rapid City is a Western town.

Yes, speaking as someone who lives with a native South Dakotan, the term "East River" refers to the areas of the state that are distinctly midwestern in both agricultral orientation (crops versus ranching) and culture. East river is very similar to Minnesota, while West River, including lots of badlands areas and the Black Hills, feels more like Colorado and Wyoming. I sometimes muse that N. and S. Dakota would have been better set up as East Dakota and West Dakota, with the boundary being the Missouri River.
posted by aught at 8:45 AM on July 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


aught: there was an entry on Strange Maps recently about how East/West Dakota, split along the Missouri River, makes more sense than North/South Dakota.
posted by zsazsa at 11:13 AM on July 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


You are a midwesterner if you have strong opinions on states that don't deserve to be in the midwest. No one else really gives a shit and is kind of amused that this is what we decide to bicker about. The only people I've met IRL that don't think Ohio is the midwest are from Minnesota and I suspect it's because they are more insecure in their position to be included in the region than anything else.
posted by WASP-12b at 4:12 PM on July 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Minnesotans are insecure about many things, but not that.
posted by Area Man at 5:00 PM on July 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


This lifelong East Coaster will go with the simplest definition he can muster: The Midwest is where they call soda "pop."

We call it 'pop' in Central PA.
posted by 922257033c4a0f3cecdbd819a46d626999d1af4a at 5:08 PM on July 25, 2013


Jucy Lucy 4ever!

Off to Matt's Bar for my first time ever. (As a St. Paulite-turned-tourist, I usually limit myself to the Blue Door. That's the original Blue Door, thankyouverymuch.)

Yay!
posted by wenestvedt at 10:18 AM on August 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


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