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Old Posted Dec 12, 2007, 1:17 AM
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Boundaries of the Midwest

I find myself continually frustrated by the country's conception of the Midwest -- a sort of lumping together of everything between the coastal states that's not southern or bordering Mexico. This is probably due to:

a) the conflation of the terms "Middle America" and Midwestern, and
b) the literal interpretation of "Middle America" as a regional entity rather than a nationwide mentality that transcends state lines.

As a third generation Midwesterner, born and raised in Chicagoland with family ties in Wisconsin and a network of friends at the Big 10, I believe I have a lot of credibility on the issue: What it means to be Midwestern, where the region begins and where it ends.

So it really gets under my skin when I hear, for example, Kansas or Oklahoma put in the same category as Illinois and Minnesota. To me, it's as much a misunderstanding of the term Midwestern as it would be to call South Carolina an East Coast state. Obviously, in both examples, there are geographic similarities (Kansas and Illinois are both interior or "Mid(dle)" states and South Carolina does lie along the eastern seaboard), but the terms carry far more important historical, economic, political and cultural weight; and, in those areas, the similarities dry up.

Obviously, state lines are not perfect divisions: Pittsburgh and Buffalo probably have more in common with the Midwest than they do the Northeast but we would rightly be foolish to call New York and Pennsylvania, on the whole, Midwestern. So while there may be regional differences within a state, there is still a dominant statewide culture or attitude. (Thus, New York City might dominate New York state and Chicagoland might dominate Illinois.)

My question is, based on what you perceive to be the dominant attitude of the states that are generally lumped together as Midwestern, and based on what you think it means to be Midwestern, which states [I]actually[I] qualify?

I, personally, would include Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa. (Despite St. Louis' very Midwestern heritage, Missouri as a whole to me seems too much like the South to qualify, especially given its admission to the Union as a slave state.)

I'd really like to hear what other people from the states I listed have to say.
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Old Posted Dec 12, 2007, 2:46 PM
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I've never considered the Midwest to be anything other than the states you list. I think there's probably more confusion between "midwest" and "rust belt" than "middle america".
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Old Posted Dec 13, 2007, 1:04 AM
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"Midwest" can be a geographical term, a cultural term, or an economic term, which is why it's so difficult for anyone to agree on anything. That's not to even mention that I think "Midwest" has its own sub-regions.

I usually prefer the cultural term. I'll concede, for instance, than you can call my state of Michigan Midwest because of its geographical location (the Old Northwest), but culturally, it's a "Great Lakes" state, having much more in common with the likes of Ohio, Illinois, Wisconsin, and parts of Minnesota than an Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas, or Oklahoma. Economically, the Midwest has two big parts, one based heavily on manufacturing and transportation, and one based on agriculture, and it makes for two very different feels. Michigan has very little in common, culturally, with say the "Plains States" of the Midwest (North and South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, etc...), and confusing this is that a few of these states could fit into quite a few subregions (Minnesota).
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Old Posted Dec 13, 2007, 1:33 AM
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Originally Posted by LMich View Post
"Midwest" can be a geographical term, a cultural term, or an economic term, which is why it's so difficult for anyone to agree on anything. That's not to even mention that I think "Midwest" has its own sub-regions.

I usually prefer the cultural term. I'll concede, for instance, than you can call my state of Michigan Midwest because of its geographical location (the Old Northwest), but culturally, it's a "Great Lakes" state, having much more in common with the likes of Ohio, Illinois, Wisconsin, and parts of Minnesota than an Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas, or Oklahoma. Economically, the Midwest has two big parts, one based heavily on manufacturing and transportation, and one based on agriculture, and it makes for two very different feels. Michigan has very little in common, culturally, with say the "Plains States" of the Midwest (North and South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, etc...), and confusing this is that a few of these states could fit into quite a few subregions (Minnesota).
That's the thing: I don't think you need to cleave the region culturally and geographically to arrive at the conclusion I have (i.e., that the Midwest is synonymous with the Great Lake States plus Iowa).

As I noted earlier, states like Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia, despite geographically lying along the east coast, would never be considered part of the "East Coast."

Unfortunately, however, ambiguity still exists over the boundaries of this country's central regions. I don't think North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas or Oklahoma ought to ever be thought of as Midwestern; rather, they, perhaps with the addition of one or two others, comprise their own region with distinct geographic and cultural features, features that are very different from the Midwest as I have defined it.
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Old Posted Dec 13, 2007, 2:01 AM
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As I noted earlier, states like Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia, despite geographically lying along the east coast, would never be considered part of the "East Coast."
What makes you think this statement is true? Being a resident of one of those states mentioned as non-east coast, I feel the need to point out that the coastal regions of east coast states have a unique culture that is very different from the piedmont, foothills, and mountain areas. The eastern N.C. accent is much closer to a New England accent than one of other parts of N.C. The maritime industries, naval and coast guard bases, vacation/tourism industry, and other factors automatically tie each state to the east coast.

Culture aside, I automatically think of coastal states as being east coast before I think of them as Southern...I guess it depends on your point of view - but to say that these states would "never be considered part of the east coast" is a little out there.
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Old Posted Dec 13, 2007, 4:46 AM
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Originally Posted by Ch.G, Ch.G View Post
I find myself continually frustrated by the country's conception of the Midwest -- a sort of lumping together of everything between the coastal states that's not southern or bordering Mexico. This is probably due to:

a) the conflation of the terms "Middle America" and Midwestern, and
b) the literal interpretation of "Middle America" as a regional entity rather than a nationwide mentality that transcends state lines.

As a third generation Midwesterner, born and raised in Chicagoland with family ties in Wisconsin and a network of friends at the Big 10, I believe I have a lot of credibility on the issue: What it means to be Midwestern, where the region begins and where it ends.

So it really gets under my skin when I hear, for example, Kansas or Oklahoma put in the same category as Illinois and Minnesota. To me, it's as much a misunderstanding of the term Midwestern as it would be to call South Carolina an East Coast state. Obviously, in both examples, there are geographic similarities (Kansas and Illinois are both interior or "Mid(dle)" states and South Carolina does lie along the eastern seaboard), but the terms carry far more important historical, economic, political and cultural weight; and, in those areas, the similarities dry up.

Obviously, state lines are not perfect divisions: Pittsburgh and Buffalo probably have more in common with the Midwest than they do the Northeast but we would rightly be foolish to call New York and Pennsylvania, on the whole, Midwestern. So while there may be regional differences within a state, there is still a dominant statewide culture or attitude. (Thus, New York City might dominate New York state and Chicagoland might dominate Illinois.)

My question is, based on what you perceive to be the dominant attitude of the states that are generally lumped together as Midwestern, and based on what you think it means to be Midwestern, which states [I]actually[I] qualify?

I, personally, would include Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa. (Despite St. Louis' very Midwestern heritage, Missouri as a whole to me seems too much like the South to qualify, especially given its admission to the Union as a slave state.)

I'd really like to hear what other people from the states I listed have to say.
Although I agree with you about St. Louis (which is undoubtedly a Midwestern rust belt city with little to know connections with the South besides a large African American population) I think Missouri is a Midwestern state, but more of a buffer state. Its literally the center of the United States culturally and geographically. Eastern Missouri (the St. Louis area) shares similar demographics and politics attributes as the Great Lakes states. Which is really why the state of Missouri hates us! Western Missouri (think Kansas City area) has more of a Western/Plains feel to it. KC is much more like Denver than Cleveland, while this is the opposite for St. Louis. Southern Missouri (Ozarks) is definitely where the South begins. You are practically in Arkansas once you get into this region. Missouri definitely fits in more with the Midwest than the South (you would be hard pressed to find anyone in the St. Louis or Kansas City area for that matter, that doesn't consider themselves Midwestern, but it is really hard to categorize Missouri its such a strange state. It boarders like 8 states. I think thats tied for the most if not the most. Also you have to remember that Washington D.C., Maryland, and Delaware also were slave states in the Union. I doubt anyone would consider Baltimore a Southern town.
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Old Posted Dec 13, 2007, 9:40 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ch.G, Ch.G View Post
That's the thing: I don't think you need to cleave the region culturally and geographically to arrive at the conclusion I have (i.e., that the Midwest is synonymous with the Great Lake States plus Iowa).

As I noted earlier, states like Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia, despite geographically lying along the east coast, would never be considered part of the "East Coast."

Unfortunately, however, ambiguity still exists over the boundaries of this country's central regions. I don't think North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas or Oklahoma ought to ever be thought of as Midwestern; rather, they, perhaps with the addition of one or two others, comprise their own region with distinct geographic and cultural features, features that are very different from the Midwest as I have defined it.
I disagree. The Dakotas and others have been considered the quintessential Midwest states for quite some time. In fact, when most people here Midwest (specifically on the coasts), it is the Great Plains states of the Midwest that come to mind, not the Great Lakes states. A place like Kansas is now doubt the Midwest state in most people's minds, whereas an Ohio or Michigan is nowhere near thought of to be the most quintessential Midwestern states. If anything, it's the Great Lakes states that could be cleaved off into their own seperate region. That's exactly why most of us call them "Great Lakes" states and not Midwest when we're referring to this part of the country.
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Old Posted Dec 14, 2007, 8:00 AM
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To me, there's the Midwest and the Great Plains. I can put alot of analysis into like you guys have- the St. Louis being like Cleveland where Kansas City is like Dnver was very insightful- but generally the Midwest is the Big Ten. The Great Plains are the Big 12 North.

The places aren't really that much alike. It's all nomenclature; everyone should just decide on who gets "Midwest", call the odd region out either the "Great Plains" or "Great Lakes", and be done with it.
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Old Posted Dec 14, 2007, 3:38 PM
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Originally Posted by Ch.G, Ch.G View Post
As I noted earlier, states like Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia, despite geographically lying along the east coast, would never be considered part of the "East Coast."
Huh?
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Old Posted Dec 27, 2007, 2:37 AM
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Midwest according to EPA..


Midwest according to upper midwest enviro science center


Dept of Energy
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Old Posted Dec 27, 2007, 3:04 AM
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Great Plains/Rocky borders



Wiki


Great Plains/Prairies - Dept of State
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Old Posted Dec 27, 2007, 3:37 AM
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On Kansas City, it feels like a little bit of everything in the US as the people come from all corners of the US. But the golden years (late 1880s - early 1900s) of the city were definitely Midwest/old world influenced and therefore much of the older part of the city has those attributes.

Look at these early pics of KC. Seems to look more midwest than west or plains or southern. Appears closer to a smaller Chicago/Detroit than a Denver or Dallas or Memphis or Atlanta.
http://forum.kcrag.com/index.php?topic=2788.0

In pretty much every case, the KC media portrays KC as part of the Midwest. According to the Feds in most cases, the Plains begin about 60-100 miles W of KC but KC and Denver are considered to be economic centers for the Plains. Denver city is technically in the Plains while KC metro technically isn't.

Being from St. Louis, KC feels Midwest but not part of the Great Lakes region and most KC people are a bit more W Coast laid back than most of the Midwest. There's some southern black culture influence but not much more than most other midwest cities. There are also more Mexicans in KC for obvious reasons while the eastern side of MW would likely have more Cuban/PR Latinos in most cases, Chicago the exception.

Oddly, the geographic center of the US is somewhere in Kansas, so the region we're talking about technically should be called The MidEast. But the term may have been coined when Chicago was the western population center of the US.

BTW, when I was in Columbus they didn't consider OH to be midwest but rather eastern, being in the eastern time zone I suppose. But they considered Cincy to be southern.
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Old Posted Dec 28, 2007, 10:08 PM
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Its an interesting discussion certainly, but it's hard when you have states on the edge of the definition - like South Dakota or Missouri. South Dakota has two very distinct regions termed "East River and West River" by the locals. West River feels very "western" with ranching and the Black Hills, while East River is very farm and business centered. Rapid City feels more like Denver, while Sioux Falls feels more like Minneapolis (obviously both are much smaller).

If you've been here, you probably know that the people are very different from one side of the state to the other, I would wager that residents of Sioux Falls have more in common with people in Des Moines/Rochester (MN) than they do with those in Rapid City. So where does "South Dakota" fit? The west is west and the east is midwest - in league with Iowa and Minnesota? It's tough to define, much like Missouri and KC/STL/Ozarks.
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Old Posted Dec 29, 2007, 8:31 PM
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I'm not so sure it's tough. Some states clearly sit in more than one region. I mean, the wiki map above clearly shows that Sioux Falls and Rapid City sit in two different regions.
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Old Posted Jan 3, 2008, 7:31 AM
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Originally Posted by ignatius View Post

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To me this has always been the Midwest, the plains states are as Midwestern as the Midwest gets, if anything Ohio is the outlier. I know people in Minnesota who don't consider Ohio part of the Midwest, to them it is too industrial, urban and eastern.
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Old Posted Jul 24, 2008, 6:55 AM
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In Missouri, draw the following line from east to west: Festus, Sullivan, Rolla, Bolivar, Neosho. North of that line, Missouri feels like a Midwestern state. South of that line, Missouri feels like a Southern state.
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Old Posted Jul 25, 2008, 3:33 AM
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I wouldn't argue with that, but now draw a line from north to south from the Iowa border to the border line to the south. Kirksville, Macon, Moberly, Mexico, Fulton, Rolla. Anything west of there would be midwest. Anything east of there would have more of an eastern feel to it. BTW, this is not a slam on St. Louis.
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Old Posted Jul 25, 2008, 8:45 PM
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I tend to think along geographic lines, not political ones, and sometimes there are really no solid edges.

You could make a case that the Midwest is loosely defined by the Missouri and Ohio Rivers, along with a stretch of the Mississippi between the two. You can probably go several dozen miles across the hard boundaries of the rivers as well. Some states are split, with Bismarck's location being the rough split of North Dakota :

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Old Posted Jul 31, 2008, 6:19 PM
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Originally Posted by Avian001 View Post
I tend to think along geographic lines, not political ones, and sometimes there are really no solid edges.

You could make a case that the Midwest is loosely defined by the Missouri and Ohio Rivers, along with a stretch of the Mississippi between the two. You can probably go several dozen miles across the hard boundaries of the rivers as well. Some states are split, with Bismarck's location being the rough split of North Dakota :

This is by far the best way to define the midwest, I grew up in Ohio and there is definitely a difference between the states. Ohio is kind of a weird state in terms of the north feels very East Coast, the middle is midwestern and the southern part feels more like kentucky or WV. You can always tell where someone in Ohio grew up by their accent.
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Old Posted Aug 2, 2008, 5:05 AM
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Obviously, state lines are not perfect divisions: Pittsburgh and Buffalo probably have more in common with the Midwest than they do the Northeast but we would rightly be foolish to call New York and Pennsylvania, on the whole, Midwestern.
As a native Pittsburgher, I wouldn't call Pittsburgh Midwestern at all. Pittsburgh in my view (as well as many others), is Northeastern and Appalachian.

Now to answer your question...I certainly believe that the Great Lakes/Industrial Midwest should be divided up from the Great Plains states. This would take the Industrial Midwest east to Ohio and west through Missouri. Cleveland and Buffalo would both be Great Lakes cities with Eastern influences and Pittsburgh would be like splicing West Virginia with Philadelphia. But what to do with cities like Cincinnati, St. Louis and Indianapolis? I have no idea. Indy and Cincy are a few hours apart and yet are very different. Maybe it's simply meaningless to even try and categorize regions into neat little boxes.

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