The Old WASP Dream Falters

Over at Steve Wiggin’s blog, I was commenting on a recent post of his, Majority Report. He brought up the WASP myth and put it in context, although his focus was mostly on the Protestant part. In my comments, I mentioned the pluralist background of American society. WASPs have made up a large chunk of the ruling elite, but they’ve never been the majority of the population, contrary to the belief of many.

His post stood out to me partly just because that kind of thing is always of interest to me. But it was already on my mind because of an article I read recently from a local newspaper, The Daily Iowan — the article being Is this heaven? No, it’s beer by Clair Dietz. It appears to be in response to an exhibit being put on by the University of Iowa, German Iowa and the Global Midwest. I live near where the old breweries used to be located, along with the beer caves. My landlord, Doug Alberhasky, was quoted often in the piece, as his family’s business is a well known local distributor of alcohol, John’s Grocery.

There once was much clashing, sometimes violent, between WASPs and so-called hyphenated Americans. Many ethnic immigrant groups, especially German-Americans, loved their beer and liquor. The WASPs here in Iowa were seeking prohibition before the rest of the country, as Iowa became a major destination for German immigrants. Entire communities spoke German and carried on their German traditions, including the making of alcohol. There is a great book I’ve written about before, Gentlemen Bootleggers by Bryce Bauer, about one such community during Prohibition and how they became famous for their bootlegged Templeton Rye.

Another article on the topic comes from the other local newspaper, Press-Citizen: Iowa has deep German Roots by H. Glenn Penny. That article interested me even more. The author points out that there used to be three German-language newspapers here in Iowa City, an impressive number considering there are only two newspapers left in town at present: “In fact, the German language was so widespread that many German-Iowans lived here for decades without ever learning English.” Much of the Midwest was like this, especially this part of the Midwest such as the neighboring states of Minnesota and Wisconsin. This was German-American territory where German culture and language was the norm, not the exception.

This all came to a halt with the beginning of World War I, such as with the Babel Proclamation that outlawed any language besides English. And German-American independence and self-determination was further decimated with World War II. The cultural genocide was so complete that collective memory of this past was lost to the following generations. German-Americans were always the largest immigrant group and the largest ancestry, far beyond the meager numbers of WASPs, but they suffered for not having sufficient political power among the ruling elite. German-American culture was almost entirely lost, as if it never existed, until recent interest in ethnic ancestry was revived.

Still, this kind of political reaction seems to go in cycles. Every time there is a movement of populations, fear and bigotry inevitably follows. As with Germans of the past, the same thing has happened with immigrants of Arab, Persian, or similar looking ethnicities. This is true even within the country, as when Southerners migrated to the North and West. More recently, it has been true of blacks moving almost anywhere, but especially when it involves supposed inner city blacks. The Press-Citizen article made me think about this, when Penny wrote about how initially German immigrants were welcomed and even sought out:

“Iowa: The Home for Immigrants.” That was the title of the 1870 volume published by the Iowa Board for Immigration in Des Moines. It was translated it into multiple languages and distributed it across Northern Europe. The goal was to spur Europeans to abandon their homes and move to the state.

And it worked. Germans were the most numerous group to arrive. In fact, German immigrants consistently accounted for the largest number of foreign-born people in Iowa from the 1850s through the 1970s.

That instantly struck my mind. That sounded like a “workforce recruitment” campaign the Iowa government has had to attract people from other states. There has been a pattern of young Iowans leaving the state and so, in order to counter the demographic loss and brain drain, a need to attract young professionals and young families. Starting in the 1980s, the Iowa Department of Economic Development has advertised in Chicago by putting up billboards — here is an example (from About those Chicago billboards by Adam Belz):

This advertisement ran on billboards along interstates in Chicago in 2007.

Belz points out that, “It’s really a far cry from the local myth that Iowa has been running Section 8 ads in south Chicago for years, but as Steve Rackis, the guy who oversees Section 8 in Iowa City, points out, everyone drives on the interstate, and everyone likes the idea of a safe, quiet place with good schools and no traffic. So certainly, some low-income black people have seen these ads and responded by moving to Iowa.”

Most of the people who respond to such billboards aren’t poor, unemployed inner city blacks, aren’t stereotyped welfare queens, thugs, and gangbangers. The fact of the matter is most people coming from Chicago to Iowa are middle class white people. That is what happened to my family back in the 1980s, when my family left the Chicago suburbs in order to move to Iowa City where my father returned to school for a PhD program. My parents were young middle class professionals with young kids, the demographic targeted by the billboards. I’m sure my father saw such signs, as he headed into Chicago for work, whether or not they were part of the reason for his decision to move his family to Iowa.

Besides, most of those on housing assistance in Iowa City, according to data kept, are whites and long-term Iowa residents. Among these, the majority are elderly or disabled (many elderly and disabled move here because of the multiple hospitals, including a world class university medical center and a major Veterans Affairs facility). The rest are young families and most of these are employed, as unemployment rates are low here. There probably aren’t many “welfare queens” in the area, considering all the local opportunities for jobs, education, and training. Plus, the worst off poor people in Iowa are rural whites living in dying farm towns and trailer parks, not blacks from Chicago.

Considering the proven racial targeting of blacks by the police in Johnson County, it isn’t exactly a welcoming place to blacks and so isn’t a place most blacks are going to choose to move to. In interviews, many blacks living here explained that they saw their situation as temporary simply for the sake of finding work and saving money, and as soon as they were able they planned on leaving.

Sure, all kinds of people end up in a town like Iowa City. It’s a diverse community with people from all over the world. There is a growing population of non-whites here, although it is mostly Asians and Hispanics, not blacks. Even among blacks, they come from many other places besides Chicago, including a fair number of African immigrants. Of five blacks I’ve worked with in my present job with the city, two were from families that had been in Iowa for generations, two were from Africa, one might have been from Chicago or somewhere like that, and another I never knew long enough to learn of his background; three of those people I know were married with young kids and three had degrees from the local university.

Since I was a kid in the 1980s, violent crime has vastly decreased across the country. Iowa has always had low crime rates, violence and otherwise, and that is still the case. For more than a decade, the violent crime in Johnson County, where Iowa City is located, has continued to drop. This is the time period during which there has been an increase in the minority population. There is actually less crime now in Iowa with more minorities than there were back when there were fewer minorities. Yet there is this public perception, largely based on mainstream news reporting, that everything is getting worse, despite the fact that Iowa has been doing well even during the recession.

The real fear is that German-Americans, Hispanics, blacks, or whatever group is most reviled at the moment is a danger to the American way of life. They are bringing bad things with them. And they are taking our country away from us. States like Iowa have always depended on immigration from other countries or simply other states, but this dependence has led to resentment. When WWI came around, it didn’t matter that German immigrants had settled Iowa and cleared the land, had helped make America the country it is, and shaped the entire cultural experience of the Heartland. Suddenly, they were threatening strange foreigners.

The experience of blacks has been different, of course. They were considered a threat right from the start, even though most early blacks didn’t come to America by choice. Interestingly, before Anglo-Americans settled Iowa, there were already free blacks, likely escaped slaves, living right here in Iowa City. Blacks were the first Iowa Citians and yet today, after the era of sundown towns driving blacks out of states like Iowa, blacks are considered as foreign as were those WWI era German-Americans.

Donald Trump rides white outrage in gaining support as a presidential candidate. A century ago, his German-Scottish ancestry would have made him an untrustworthy outsider. But today he stands as the defender of American whiteness and promises to make America great again. Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton represents the last vestiges of the WASP rightful ruling elite and disinterested aristocracy of professional politicians who for centuries have defended the status quo from uncouth ethnics like the Drumpf family and their crude business wealth being used to usurp political power (not to mention having to deal with meddling Jews such as Bernie Sanders). The uppity WASPs make their last stand to maintain the respectable political order.

WASPs never were the majority of American population. But they have maintained most of the political power and social influence for centuries. As the non-WASP and non-white population grows, WASPs are slowly losing even their position and privilege. There are challengers on all sides, as the old WASP dream falters.

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Previous blog posts:

America’s Heartland: Middle Colonies, Mid-Atlantic States and the Midwest

Centerville, IA: Meeting Point of Diversity & Conflict

The Cultural Amnesia of German-Americans

Equal Opportunity Oppression in America

The Fight For Freedom Is the Fight To Exist: Independence and Interdependence

Substance Control is Social Control

The Shame of Iowa and the Midwest

Paranoia of a Guilty Conscience

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Online Articles:

The Great Chicago Migration Myth
by Mikel Livingston and Steven Porter, JConline

It was during the early 2000s when Curbelo, then a program coordinator at Iowa State University in Ames, first encountered the belief that an influx of former Chicago residents was wreaking havoc on local crime rates.

“That caused the police to start targeting minorities around town,” Curbelo said. “It led to harassing the minority population in a town that didn’t have a lot of diversity.”

A public forum in 2008 helped the community confront and move past the issue. When Curbelo moved to Lafayette earlier this year, he was surprised to be confronted with the notion yet again.

” ‘All people from Chicago are criminals, they’re black, they’re on welfare,’ ” Curbelo said, reciting the misconceptions. “No. They’re hard-working people looking for better opportunities. That’s part of the American dream and nobody can judge you for moving to a place to better your family by the color you are.”

The black ‘Pleasantville’ migration myth: moving from a city isn’t pleasant
by Robert Gutsche Jr

Ironically, Iowa City’s downtown – on the doorstep of the University of Iowa – continues to be more violent than the Southeast Side. Every weekend, white college students vandalize buildings, vomit on sidewalks, and assault each other, though it’s the Southeast Side – and its presumed Chicago migrants – who bear the brunt of the responsibility for the city’s crime.

How the Media Stokes Racism in Iowa City – and Everywhere
by Eleanor J. Bader, Truthout

Central to this discourse, of course, is the belief that low-income women, aka “welfare queens,” are taking advantage of government programs and feeding at the trough of public generosity. “Chicago has come to mean more than just another city,” Gutsche concludes. “It signals the ghetto, danger, blackness – and most directly, of not being from here.” That two-thirds of the low-income households registered with the Iowa City Housing Authority were elderly and disabled – not poor, black or from Chicago – went unacknowledged by reporters. Similarly, the drunken escapades of mostly white University of Iowa students have been depicted by reporters as essentially benign and developmentally appropriate. “Just as news coverage explained downtown violence as a natural college experience, news coverage normalized southeast side violence as being the effect of urban black culture,” Gutsche writes. “News stories indicated that drunken packs of college students were isolated to the downtown, whereas southeast side violence was described as infiltrating the city’s schools, social services and public safety.”

 

 

A community divided: Racial segregation on the rise in Iowa City
by Matthew Byrd, Little Village

Some renters felt the underlying presence of racial bias when discussing public assistance with Iowa City landlords […] There are other plausible explanations as well. A 2013 report issued by the Iowa City Coalition for Racial Justice found a high degree of overlap between race and class within Johnson County, with 40 percent of black residents living below the poverty line compared to 16 percent of whites. The fact that Iowa City is the fourteenth most segregated metropolitan area by income in the country, according to the Martin Prosperity Institute, means that, in a county where you are more likely to be poor if you’re black rather than white, segregation by income can also mean de facto segregation by race.

On a similar note, black residents in Iowa City are much more significantly limited in their ability to take out mortgages than whites. The Public Policy center study found that, while blacks comprise nearly 6 percent of the city’s overall population, they only account for 1 percent of housing loans and are much more likely than their white counterparts to be denied loans (the study’s authors do concede, however, that without access to credit scores they “cannot conclusively assert that the higher denial rates … is due to race”).

Whatever the case may be, the rate of racial segregation Iowa City experiences is disturbingly high.

Does Section 8 housing hurt a neighborhood?
The Gazette

In Iowa City, nine of 10 voucher holders is either elderly, disabled or working. More than 85 percent of vouchers in the Corridor are issued locally, not to out of towners. Voucher holders who get in trouble with the law, who shelter people with criminal backgrounds, or who don’t return letters and phone calls are kicked out of the program.

“We review the police dockets and the newspapers on a daily basis,” said Steve Rackis, who heads up the program in Iowa City.

Within the past two years, 230 vouchers have been terminated in Cedar Rapids. Iowa City terminates about 10 people each month. […]

Myth: Most Section 8 vouchers are held by people from Chicago.

Fact: 93 percent of vouchers in Cedar Rapids were issued locally. The program requires one year of residency and has a three- to five-year waiting list. 4.8 percent of voucher holders come from Illinois, representing about 50 households. In Iowa City, 9 percent of vouchers come from Illinois, representing about 114 households. […]

Myth: The cities of Cedar Rapids and Iowa City have billboards in Chicago encouraging Section 8 voucherholders to move to Eastern Iowa.

Fact: The Iowa Department of Economic Development occasionally runs billboards in Chicago encouraging people to move to Iowa, but they are geared toward professionals, extolling Iowa’s hassle-free commutes, for example. […]

Myth: Section 8 is mostly for people who don’t work but survive on welfare.

Fact: In Iowa City, 1,149 households in the program — 91 percent — are elderly, disabled or working. The same is true of 879 households in Cedar Rapids, or 82 percent of those in the program.

Leaving Chicago for Iowa’s “Fields of Opportunity”: Community Dispossession, Rootlessness, and the Quest for Somewhere to “Be OK”
by Danya E. Keene, Mark B. Padilla, & Arline T. Geronimus, NCBI

Iowa City and the surrounding Johnson County, located 200 miles west of Chicago, have received small but significant numbers of low-income African Americans from Chicago. The Iowa City Housing Authority (ICHA), which serves all of Johnson County, reported in 2007 that 14 percent (184) of the families that it assists through vouchers and public housing were from Illinois, and according to housing authority staff, virtually all of these families are from the Chicago area (Iowa City Housing Authority 2007). Additionally, the ICHA estimates that about one-third of the approximately 1,500 families on its rental-assistance waiting list are Chicago area families. Little is known about why families choose eastern Iowa as a destination, but speculation among ICHA officials is that the moves are motivated by shorter waiting lists for subsidized housing and the fact that Johnson County has a reputation for good schools, safe communities, and ample job opportunities.

From the perspective of a growing emphasis on poverty deconcentration in both academic and policy circles (Imbroscio 2008), leaving Chicago’s high poverty neighborhoods for Iowa’s white middle and working-class communities represents an idealized escape from urban poverty. However, the experiences of participants in this study speak to the challenges as well as the benefits of long distance moves to what are often referred to as “opportunity areas” (Venkatesh et al. 2004).

Little is known about the experience of Chicago families in Iowa, but preliminary evidence suggests that Chicago migrants may face many barriers to acceptance. Despite their relatively small numbers, African Americans from Chicago are visible outsiders in Iowa’s predominantly white communities. In Johnson County, blacks made up only 3.9 percent of the population in 2008, an increase from 2.9 percent in 2000 and higher than the 2008 state average of 2.9 percent (United States Census Bureau). Iowa City, a college town that is home to the University of Iowa, contains considerably more ethnic diversity than many Iowa communities and is home to a small number of African-American professionals, students, and faculty. However, the arrival of low-income African Americans from Chicago is a highly contentious issue and has given rise to a divisive local discourse that is often imbued with racialized and class-based stereotypes of urban areas.

The recent migration of urban African Americans to Iowa has also occurred in a climate of uncertainty about the state’s economic future (Wilson n.d.). Over the past few decades, Iowa has lost numerous sources of well-paying employment. The state has also experienced significant population losses, particularly among the college educated (Carr and Kefalas 2009). While college towns such as Iowa City have been somewhat protected from these demographic and economic shifts, in Johnson County, dramatic increases in free lunch program participation and growing demands for subsidized housing over the last decade indicate increasing local need (Wilson n.d.). According to documentary filmmaker Carla Wilson (n.d.), many Iowans feel that in the last few years, poor blacks from Chicago descended on the state, placing a tremendous burden on social service resources at a time when budgets are already stretched. As stated in one concerned letter from Don Sanders (personal communication, [February 3], 2004) to Iowa City’s City Council, “We’re turning into a mecca for out-of-state, high maintenance, welfare recipients. These often dysfunctional families are causing serious problems for our schools and police.” […]

Iowa is not only a place where the social terrain is unfamiliar, but a place where Chicago migrants experience a vulnerable status as stigmatized outsiders. As Danielle says, “It’s someone else’s city,” a place where, according to Marlene, “we are only here because they are letting us be here.” The stigmatization of Chicago migrants plays a profound role in shaping social relationships, both among fellow migrants and between Chicago migrants and Iowans. Several participants describe how Chicago is often blamed for “everything that goes wrong in Iowa City,” particularly in relation to drugs and crime. According to 53-year-old Diane Field, “It’s just, Chicago, Chicago, Chicago. I mean, everywhere you go they talk about us. There were drugs in Iowa long before anyone came from Chicago.” This association between drugs, crime, and Chicago is also prevalent in the local media. For example, one newspaper article about a fight in southeast Iowa City drew numerous racially charged on-line comments about the problems caused by Chicago migrants, despite the fact that “Chicago” was not even referenced in the article.

While participants describe the “helpfulness” of many Iowans, they also note that some oppose their presence. Carol, for example, says she was told by a fellow bus passenger, “I’m tired of all these black folks coming and messing up our small town. I don’t know why the hell y’all up in here, but y’all need to go back where you came from.” While Carol explains that encounters such as these are rare, Jonathan considers this attitude to be more pervasive. He says, “They don’t want us black people down here. Even though it’s some black people down here like me and my family that want something better for our life. They don’t understand that.”

Several participants describe facing discrimination specifically because of where they are from. In this context, 33-year-old Tanya Neeld says that she has begun telling people that she is from Indiana, Michigan, or “somewhere else, not Chicago.” Participants also describe attempts to differentiate themselves from those individuals who “bring Chicago to Iowa” (by getting involved with drugs, for example), by emphasizing their own desire to find a “better life” and to escape discursively condemned Chicago neighborhoods. Additionally, in order to resist the label of, “just another one from Chicago,” many participants also describe keeping to themselves and avoiding relationships with other Chicagoans. For example, Michelle, says, “They act like they really don’t want us here. They try to make like we keep up so much trouble. I don’t know what the rest of these people are doing. That’s why I stay to myself.”

Other participants describe avoiding, in particular, people in their immediate neighborhood who were often fellow Chicagoans. A large portion of Chicago movers live in a few housing complexes on the southeast side of Iowa City, and several participants explain that it is difficult to find landlords elsewhere who will rent to them. Michelle says, “A lot of places here don’t accept Section 8 [rental assistance]. I figure it’s because they don’t want that type of thing in their neighborhood.” These sentiments were echoed by 25-year-old Christine Frazier who says, “It sort of looks likes they section us off.”ii

In the context of residential segregation and stigmatization, many participants also describe the challenges of forming ties with Iowans. A few explain that they actively avoid interactions with white Iowans as a form of self-protection. For example, Christine describes how when she first started working in Iowa, her coworkers, who were all white, left her out of their conversations and talked about her behind her back. She says that from this early experience, she learned to stay to herself at work. She says, “I still have my guards up. You know, it affected me when I got other jobs because I don’t want to interact.” Michelle describes how she has adapted to frequent encounters with racism in Iowa. She says, “I’m basically a friendly person, but I can be not friendly as well. So, that’s the way I cope with it. I just act like they don’t exist. I just stay in my own little world.”

Separation from social ties in Chicago and barriers to the formation of new ties in Iowa leave many former Chicagoans socially isolated and reliant on highly individualized strategies of survival. The desire to be self-sufficient is a common theme throughout the interviews, and in the context of social isolation, some participants may be left with no alternative to relying on themselves. As Tara says, “I don’t count on these people in this neighborhood. I count on myself because myself would not let my own self down.”

Without social rootedness, for many participants, Iowa is not a place to call home, just somewhere to be for a while in order to “do what you have to do.” Or, as Lakia says, “Living in Iowa is like doing a beat,” (a reference, she explains, to a prison sentence). Without social ties, and in the context of stigma and economic vulnerability, the nature of this “beat” is also extremely fragile and many participants have stories of friends and family who eventually returned to Chicago or moved on in search of somewhere else to “be OK.”

Opportunity Precedes Achievement, Good Timing Also Helps

None of the Above:
What I.Q. doesn’t tell you about race.

by Malcolm Gladwell, The New Yorker

Flynn brings a similar precision to the question of whether Asians have a genetic advantage in I.Q., a possibility that has led to great excitement among I.Q. fundamentalists in recent years. Data showing that the Japanese had higher I.Q.s than people of European descent, for example, prompted the British psychometrician and eugenicist Richard Lynn to concoct an elaborate evolutionary explanation involving the Himalayas, really cold weather, premodern hunting practices, brain size, and specialized vowel sounds. The fact that the I.Q.s of Chinese-Americans also seemed to be elevated has led I.Q. fundamentalists to posit the existence of an international I.Q. pyramid, with Asians at the top, European whites next, and Hispanics and blacks at the bottom.

Here was a question tailor-made for James Flynn’s accounting skills. He looked first at Lynn’s data, and realized that the comparison was skewed. Lynn was comparing American I.Q. estimates based on a representative sample of schoolchildren with Japanese estimates based on an upper-income, heavily urban sample. Recalculated, the Japanese average came in not at 106.6 but at 99.2. Then Flynn turned his attention to the Chinese-American estimates. They turned out to be based on a 1975 study in San Francisco’s Chinatown using something called the Lorge-Thorndike Intelligence Test. But the Lorge-Thorndike test was normed in the nineteen-fifties. For children in the nineteen-seventies, it would have been a piece of cake. When the Chinese-American scores were reassessed using up-to-date intelligence metrics, Flynn found, they came in at 97 verbal and 100 nonverbal. Chinese-Americans had slightly lower I.Q.s than white Americans.

The Asian-American success story had suddenly been turned on its head. The numbers now suggested, Flynn said, that they had succeeded not because of their higher I.Q.s. but despite their lower I.Q.s. Asians were overachievers. In a nifty piece of statistical analysis, Flynn then worked out just how great that overachievement was. Among whites, virtually everyone who joins the ranks of the managerial, professional, and technical occupations has an I.Q. of 97 or above. Among Chinese-Americans, that threshold is 90. A Chinese-American with an I.Q. of 90, it would appear, does as much with it as a white American with an I.Q. of 97.

There should be no great mystery about Asian achievement. It has to do with hard work and dedication to higher education, and belonging to a culture that stresses professional success. But Flynn makes one more observation. The children of that first successful wave of Asian-Americans really did have I.Q.s that were higher than everyone else’s—coming in somewhere around 103. Having worked their way into the upper reaches of the occupational scale, and taken note of how much the professions value abstract thinking, Asian-American parents have evidently made sure that their own children wore scientific spectacles. “Chinese Americans are an ethnic group for whom high achievement preceded high I.Q. rather than the reverse,” Flynn concludes, reminding us that in our discussions of the relationship between I.Q. and success we often confuse causes and effects. “It is not easy to view the history of their achievements without emotion,” he writes. That is exactly right. To ascribe Asian success to some abstract number is to trivialize it.

The Ethnic Myth
by Stephen Steinberg
pp. 125 -7

At least superficially, the streetcorner men exhibited many of the characteristics of a culture of poverty. They unquestionably had a present-time orientation, in that immediate pleasures were pursued without regard to long-range implications. Their aspirations were low, at least as gauged by the fact that they worked irregularly and did not look for better jobs. Their absence from their families meant households were headed by women. And the feelings of inferiority, helplessness, and fatalism that Lewis saw as endemic to a culture of poverty were in plain evidence. Yet Liebow forcefully rejects the view that these are “traits” that add up to a culture of poverty. He insists that the fundamental values of the streetcorner men are the same as those of the middle-class society, and that their behavior, though in apparent contradiction to those values, is only a response to external circumstances that prevent them from living according to conventional values.

Of paramount importance is the fact that these men are unable to find jobs that pay a living wage. As Liebow points out, the way a man makes a living and the kind of living he makes defines a man’s worth, both to himself and his neighbors, friends, lovers, and family. This operates with the same force as in the rest of society, but inversely, since the streetcorner men do not have jobs that are worth very much, either in status or pay. For Liebow, this is the controlling factor in their lives, distorting their values, their family relationships and their concept of themselves.

Thus if they do not plan for the future, it is not because they are observing a different cultural norm that emphasizes the pleasure of the moment but because their futures are bleak and they lack the resources and opportunities for doing much about it. Similarly their low aspirations are an inevitable response to restricted opportunity, particularly the improbability of finding a decent job. This is not a self-fulfilling prophecy, but a resignation born out of bitter personal experience. All the men in Liebow’s study had tested themselves repeatedly on the job market, and had come to realize that the only jobs available were menial, low-paying, dead-end jobs that would not allow them to support their families. […]

Thus, Liebow presents a strong case that the streetcorner men have the same concept of work and family as does the middle class. Indeed, it is precisely because they share these conventional values that they experience such a profound sense of personal failure. The attraction of the street corner, with its “shadow system of values,” is that it compensates for an impaired sense of manhood. In all these respects Liebow’s intepretation of the street corner is in direct opposition to the culture-of-poverty thesis. […]

Thus, similarities between parents and children are not the product of cultural transmission, but of the fact that “the son goes out and independently experiences the same failures, in the same areas, and for much the same reasons as his father.”

For Liebow, then, the poor do not neeed instruction in the Protestant ethic or other values, but jobs that would allow them to incorporate these values into their everyday lives. It is not their culture that needs to be changed, but an economic system that fails to provide jobs that pay a living wage to millions of the nation’s poor.

Conclusion

There is intellectual perversity in the tendency to use the cultural responses of the poor as “explanations” of why they are poor. Generally speaking, groups do not get ahead or lag behind on the basis of their cultural values. Rather, they are born into a given station in life and adopt values that are consonant with their circumstances and their life chances. To the extent that the lower-class ethnics seem to live according to a different set of values, this is primarily a cultural manifestation of their being trapped in poverty. In the final analysis, the culture-of-poverty thesis—at least as it has been used by Banfield, Moynihan, and others—is nothing more than an intellectual smoke screen for our society’s unwillingness or inability to wipe out unemployment and poverty.

pp. 134-5

Berrol’s inventory of educational facilities in New York City at the turn of the century shows that the schools could not possibly have functioned as a significant channel of mobility. Still in an early stage of development, the public school system was unable to cope with the enormous influx of foreigners, most of whom were in their childbearing ages. Primary grade schools were so over-crowded that tens of thousands of students were turned away, and as late as 1914 there were only five high schools in Manhattan and the Bronx. If only for this reason, few children of Jewish immigrants received more than a rudimentary education.”

Berrol furnishes other data showing that large numbers of Jewish students ended their schooling by the eighth grade. For example, in New York City in 1908 there were 25,534 Jewish students in the first grade, 11,527 in the seventh, 2,549 in their first year of high school, and only 488 in their last year. Evidently, most immigrant Jewish children of this period dropped out of school to enter the job market.

Nor could City College have been a major channel of Jewish mobility during the early decades of the twenntieth century. Until the expansion of City College in the 1930s and 1940s, enrollments were not large enough to have a significant impact on Jewish mobility. Furthermore, Jewish representation at the college was predominantly German; Berrol estimates that in 1923 only 11 percent of CCNY students had Russian or Polish names.

In short, prior to the 1930s and 1940s, the public schools, and City College in particular, were not a channel of mobility for more than a privileged few. It was not until the expansion of higher education following the Second World War that City College provided educational opportunities for significant numbers of Jewish youth. However, by the time New York’s Jewish population had already emerged from the deep poverty of the immigrant generation, and had experienced extensive economic mobility.

It was the children of these upwardly mobile Jews who enrolled in City college during the 1930s and 1940s. For them, education was clearly a channel of mobility, but it accelerated a process of intergenerational mobility that was already in motion, since their parents typically had incomes, and often occupations as well, that were a notch or two above those of the working class in general. As Berrol concluded:

. . . most New York City Jews did not make the leap from poverty into the middle class by going to college. Rather, widespread utilization of secondary and higher education followed improvements in economic status and was as much a result as a cause of upward mobility.

A New Rule On Immigration

I have a new rule. *

We can only deny immigration to citizens of countries where the US government and military has never meddled in their society. We will demand any immigrants to go away and leave us alone, if and only if we have done the same to them.

We should make the Golden Rule a law. Also, self-righteous ignorant hypocrisy should be made illegal.

* * *

Why do those on the right love to complain about government but then demand that government is the final arbiter of reality?

Immigrants are illegal because they’ve broken the law. Others have noted there are so many laws on the book that every American regularly breaks laws every day. Are we illegal citizens? Unemployment is so high that a large part of Americans work on the black market. Are these Americans illegal workers?

Why do some people argue that people should serve the legal system instead of the legal system serving people? Is the legal system simply a system for defending power? Why, for example, have we allowed the War On Drugs which is a war against the American people?

When law and governance is used for oppressive social control, why should we allow that power structure determine our reality? Maybe we should make our own reality through self-governance.

* * *

* I was ‘inspired’ by an discussion about President Obama’s Immigration Actions on C-SPAN’s Washington Journal. It was hosted by John McArdle. The guests were Jon Feere (Legal Policy Analyst of Center for Immigration Studies) and Crystal Williams (Executive Director of American Immigration Lawyers Association), the former from the right and the latter from the left. It is one of those mainstream media debates where both sides frustrated me.

Wealth, Power, and Addiction

I live and work in downtown Iowa City. I regularly walk through and spend time in the downtown area. Having lived here (with a few years spent elsewhere) since the 1980s, I’m always trying to get perspective about this city and where it is heading.

As I was meandering to work today, I went through the pedestrian mall and my mind was naturally drawn to the numerous bars. I’ve had a theory for a while about what drove out so many of the stores I used to like, the stores that the average person would want to shop at and could afford to shop at. There is a general gentrification going on that is being promoted and funded by TIFs (among I’m sure other causes), but there is more than just that going on. I’ve considered that maybe the bars have been so profitable that they’ve driven up the rental costs in the downtown, driven them too high for the average small business owner.

This is problematic. Few things can compete with alcohol. All that has been able to compete are mostly high end restaraunts, art galleries, gift shops, jewelry stores, etc.

I was thinking about what this means. Why is it that it is so hard to compete with bars? The first thing that came to mind is that alcohol is an addictive substance. For a large number of people, the more alcohol they drink the more they want to drink. It guarantees repeat customers who are willing to pay high costs for their preferred drug. There is a reason the only mom and pop grocery story left in town is a major retailer of alcohol, and of course it is downtown.

I’m not for prohibition of addictive substances. But we have to get serious about the externalized costs, whether from legal or illegal markets. I’m in favor of making most addictive substances legal, but putting high sin taxes on them and providing the highest quality rehab centers (along with whatever else is beneficial). The sin taxes should go to deal with all the externalized costs, from rehab centers to homeless shelters… also to deal with the problems developing in the downtown and other impacted areas.

There is something telling about how gentrification and the sale of addictive substances act as twin forces in utterly transforming this town. I’m far from convinced that these changes are positive.

* * * *

What is the relationship between gentrification, crony capitalism, and bars? Or to put it another way: What is the relationship between wealth, power, and addiction?

I wouldn’t be the first person to associate addiction with the consumerism of a capitalist society. Nor would I be the first to associate addiction to power relationships. I know William S. Burroughts had many interesting thoughts on the matter. Is it simply about social control? If so, to what end? Or is it as Burroughs suggests, just power serving power, like a disease?

I’m specifically thinking of the city I live in, but all of this applies more broadly. Also, the issue of alchol should be widened to all addictions and everything related to it: drug wars, mass incarceration, etc. Part of my context here is the book “Chasing the Scream” by Johann Hari. That author sees addiction as a social failure, rather than a mere personal issue. It isnt just the addict who is addicted, but the entire society addicted to the system. The alcoholic is addicted to alcohol, the bar owners are addicted to the profit they can make, and the local government is addicted to the tax money that is brought in.

The difference with alcohol, though is that it is a socially acceptable addiction. The entire identity of a small college town like Iowa City is tied up with alcoholism. The UI is famous for being a party school. The town was well known as a drinking town going back for more than a century. Generations of people have traveled from far away just to get drunk in this town.

What is at the heart of this? What is the driving force behind it all?

* * * *

I originally posted these thoughts on Facebook.

It was on my mind for some reason. Several people commented and it led to a detailed discussion, but my mind was no more clear afterwards. I still don’t quite know what to make of this line of thought.

It’s complicated, as I’m always repeating. There is a much larger context involved (German immigration, Prohibition, TIFs, etc). No changes come out of nowhere. There are always underlying causes that go much deeper, often to historical roots.

Here are a few other things I’ve written before about related issues. Also, along with them, I’ll throw in some articles about the local area.

https://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2014/09/18/tifs-gentrification-and-plutocracy/

https://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2013/10/17/generational-change-and-conflict-immigration-media-tech-etc/

https://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2014/08/25/the-fight-for-freedom-is-the-fight-to-exist-independence-and-interdependence/

https://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2013/10/28/centerville-ia-meeting-point-of-diversity-conflict/

https://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2013/10/20/generations-at-the-age-of-twelve/

https://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2013/10/14/ku-klux-klan-and-the-lost-generation/

http://thegazette.com/subject/life/beer-riots-of-1884-brought-violence-and-bloodshed-to-iowa-city-20140810

http://littlevillagemag.com/the-hops-original-gangsters-the-iowa-city-beer-riots-of-1884/

https://books.google.com/books?id=WaRjYoBZO3sC&pg=PA56&lpg=PA56&dq=%22iowa+city%22+AND+englert+AND+prohibition&source=bl&ots=_tc1dCXj3S&sig=sMsBOrtOH8vUdVSPXiSkMW4EHjE&hl=en&sa=X&ei=HO_fVJjgA9OwyASv_oK4CQ&ved=0CEIQ6AEwBg#v=onepage&q=%22iowa%20city%22%20AND%20englert%20AND%20prohibition&f=false

http://www.press-citizen-media.com/150/geiger.html

http://www.press-citizen-media.com/150/englert.html

https://stateinnovation.org/uploads/asset/asset_file/1529/Tax_Increment_Financing_A_Case_Study_of_Johnson_County.pdf

http://littlevillagemag.com/the-truth-about-tifs/

http://www.dailyiowan.com/2014/06/23/Metro/38106.html

http://www.iowahouserepublicans.com/government-oversight-coralville-use-of-tif-funds

http://thegazette.com/2012/04/12/coralvilles-bond-ratings-take-hit-on-hotel-costs-tif-reliance

https://www.moodys.com/research/MOODYS-DOWNGRADES-CITY-OF-CORALVILLES-IA-ANNUAL-APPROPRIATION-URBAN-RENEWAL–PR_243553

http://www.limitedgovernment.org/brief19-5.html

http://patch.com/iowa/iowacity/iowa-city-city-council-sidesteps-petition-on-tif-vote6cce46a1fd

http://www.northlibertyleader.com/content/coralville-ailing-finances-or-healthy-debt

America’s Less-Than-Smartest Education System

I came across a great talk by Amanda Ripley about her book, The Smartest Kids in the World: And How They Got That Way. It is from C-SPAN in their coverage of this year’s National Book Festival (see video here).

She compares education systems in various countries. Her purpose seems to primarily be to understand the problems, challenges, and unique qualities of American education. In order to do this, she focuses on some of the best education systems in the world. It is the most intelligent and insightful analysis of education that I’ve come across. She also comes across as intellectually humble, something I always admire.

Here is a short video where she gives a brief introduction and overview:

The C-SPAN video happened to be playing on television while I was visiting my parent’s home. My mother likes C-SPAN. She was a public school teacher for her entire career. She has also been a conservative her entire life. She is critical of many things about public education, but she is still an ardent supporter of it, unlike my more libertarian father.

Amanda Ripley comes across as being somewhere on the left side of the spectrum, probably a fairly standard mainstream liberal. It was interesting that my mother agreed with everything Ripley spoke about. However, after the C-SPAN talk was over, both of my parents brought up the issue of tracking which they see as the solution. As that didn’t come up in the talk, I decided to buy the e-book and do a quick search. She does cover that issue in the book, but it isn’t what my parents would like to see. It doesn’t confirm their beliefs on this one aspect (pp. 137-138):

“Intuitively, tracking made sense. A classroom should function more efficiently if all the kids were at the same level. In reality, though, second tracks almost always came with second-rate expectations.

“Statistically speaking, tracking tended to diminish learning and boost inequality wherever it was tried. In general, the younger the tracking happened, the worse the entire country did on PISA. There seemed to be some kind of ghetto effect : Once kids were labeled and segregated into the lower track, their learning slowed down.”

Of course, it isn’t just my parents who love the idea of tracking. It is a mainstream position in the United States. Even many on the left will argue tracking is one of the answers to educational failure, although those on the right emphasize it the most. Conservatives say that some kids are just low IQ or lazy or untalented. Not all kids deserve equal education, because not all students are equal. In their minds, it would actually be unfair to treat all kids equally.

However, as this author demonstrates, it is precisely because Finland treats all students equally and gives all students equal opportunity that they have the greatest schools in the world. You go to one school in Finland and it is basically the same quality as any other. They direct their funding to where it is needed, not to where rich people send their kids to school.

No Finnish student gets permanently tracked, not even special education students, for in Finland they assume special education is a temporary condition. They have high expectations of all students and so all students improve, unlike in the US. Americans don’t realize how highly unusual is our version of tracking (pp. 138-139):

“When most people thought of tracking, they thought of places like Germany or Austria, where students were siphoned off to separate schools depending on their aspirations. Tracking took different forms in places like the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Japan, Norway, and Sweden. But that didn’t mean it was less powerful.

“Tracking in elementary school was a uniquely American policy. The sorting began at a very young age, and it came in the form of magnet schools, honors classes, Advanced Placement courses, or International Baccalaureate programs. In fact, the United States was one of the few countries where schools not only divided younger children by ability, but actually taught different content to the more advanced track. In other countries , including Germany and Singapore, all kids were meant to learn the same challenging core content; the most advanced kids just went deeper into the material.

“Meanwhile, the enduring segregation of U.S. schools by race and income created another de facto tracking system, in which minority and low-income kids were far more likely to attend inferior schools with fewer Advanced Placement classes and less experienced teachers.”

There are many things that are fundamentally different about the U.S. education system, like so much else in this country. The author notes that the American obsession about extracurricular activities is one of the most unusual aspects.

Americans are obsessed about school more than are the Finnish, but there is a disconnect in this obsession. U.S. teachers give more homework, for example, and yet in Finland students get higher quality homework that demands more challenging independent thought. Finnish schools are laidback by American standards and parents are almost entirely uninvolved, but what they do is heavily invest in quality everything, especially teachers (who get their teacher training in the Finnish equivalent of U.S. Ivy League colleges). They don’t waste their time and money on keeping students entertained with sports, clubs, and other activities.

In most countries in the world, children simply go to school to learn and nothing else. Foreign students who come to the U.S. observe how easy is education here. And U.S. students that travel to the countries with better education systems observe that the students there take education more seriously.

The U.S. is atypical partly because of its dark history of racial segregation. Obviously, this plays into the dysfunctional tracking system that directs most resources to certain students. This leaves a substandard education for the rest of the students, mostly poor and minority. Tracking directly fits into a system of social hierarchy and social control. Those put on the lower track have little expectations placed upon them, or rather a great many negative expectations forced upon them.

Low expectations goes hand in hand with lowered standards and results. This isn’t surprising for anyone who knows about the research on the power of expectations, from the Rosenthal-Pygmalion Effect to Stereotype Threat. Tracking institutionalizes some of the worst aspects of our society, but it isn’t just about the failure of American society. Tracking, generally speaking, is just a bad system in any society.

Lessening the emphasis on tracking has been a wild success in countries all around the world. Americans should take note (pp. 139-140):

“By the early twenty-first century, many countries were slowly, haltingly, delaying tracking. When they did so, all kids tended to do better. In most Polish schools, tracking occurred at age sixteen. At Tom’s school in Wrocław, the sorting had already happened; only a third to half of the students who applied were accepted. Tom only saw the vocational kids when he came to gym class. They left as his class arrived.

“Finland tracked kids, too. As in Poland, the division happened later, at age sixteen, the consequence of forty years of reforms, each round of which had delayed tracking a little longer. Until students reached age sixteen, though, Finnish schools followed a strict ethic of equity. Teachers could not, as a rule, hold kids back or promote them when they weren’t ready. That left only one option: All kids had to learn. To make this possible, Finland’s education system funneled money toward kids who needed help. As soon as young kids showed signs of slipping, teachers descended upon them like a pit crew before they fell further behind. About a third of kids got special help during their first nine years of school. Only 2 percent repeated a grade in Finnish primary school (compared to 11 percent in the United States, which was above average for the developed world).

“Once it happened, tracking was less of a stigma in Finland. The government gave vocational high schools extra money, and in many towns, they were as prestigious as the academic programs. In fact, the more remote or disadvantaged the school, the more money it got. This balance was just as important as delaying tracking; once students got channeled into a vocational track, it had to lead somewhere. Not all kids had to go to college, but they all had to learn useful skills.

“In Finland and all the top countries, spending on education was tied to need, which was only logical. The worse off the students, the more money their school got. In Pennsylvania, Tom’s home state, the opposite was true. The poorest school districts spent 20 percent less per student, around $ 9,000 compared to around $ 11,000 in the richest school districts.”

Other countries came to realize tracking was ineffective, and so they changed their methods. For Americans, it has been just more cowbell (p. 140):

“That backward math was one of the most obvious differences between the United States and other countries. In almost every other developed country, the schools with the poorest students had more teachers per student; the opposite was true in only four countries: the United States, Israel, Slovenia, and Turkey, where the poorest schools had fewer teachers per student.

“It was a striking difference, and it related to rigor. In countries where people agreed that school was serious, it had to be serious for everyone. If rigor was a prerequisite for success in life, then it had to be applied evenly. Equity— a core value of fairness, backed up by money and institutionalized by delayed tracking— was a telltale sign of rigor.”

Many Americans, especially on the right, would argue these countries are successful because they are small and homogenous. They think that the main problem is that we have a large bureaucratic government that is trying to enforce a one-size-fits-all solution onto a diverse population. That of course misses the entire point of tracking. The U.S. has one of the least one-size-fits-all solutions in the world. Even ignoring that, can U.S. education problems be blamed on the government and on diversity?

To answer that question, I would put it into the context of what Ripley has to say about Singapore (pp. 160-161):

“In Singapore, the opposite happened. There, the population was also diverse, about 77 percent Chinese, 14 percent Malay, 8 percent Indian, and 1.5 percent other. People spoke Chinese, English, Malay, and Tamil and followed five different faiths (Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, Taoism, and Hinduism). Yet Singaporeans scored at the top of the world on PISA, right beside Finland and Korea. There was virtually no gap in scores between immigrant and native-born students.

“Of course , Singapore was essentially another planet compared to most countries. It was ruled by an authoritarian regime with an unusually high-performing bureaucracy. The government controlled most of the rigor variables, from the caliber of teacher recruits to the mix of ethnicities in housing developments. Singapore did not have the kind of extreme segregation that existed in the United States, because policy makers had forbidden it.”

I doubt I’d want to live in Singapore, but it offers an interesting example. One of the points the author makes is that there are different ways to get high education results.

To Americans, Singapore seems authoritarian and dystopian. They have a highly centralized and powerful bureaucratic government. They don’t even have the benefit of a homogenous society.

That is everything that right-wingers use to rationalize America’s failing schools. And yet in Singapore it is the precise recipe for educational success.

It isn’t just about a few exceptional countries like Singapore. Diversity isn’t just that big of an issue. There are a high number of highly homogenous countries (homogenous in terms of race, ethnicity, culture, religion, etc) that are extremely poor, have high rates of social problems, and measure low in their education systems. Sure, systems that work best in diverse societies likely will be different than what works in homogenous societies, but the basic point is that there are ways that both types of societies can attain very high standards of education.

Besides, even breaking down the U.S. education system into homogenous and diverse states still doesn’t explain this country’s low ranking in the world. Even many highly homogenous states (almost entirely white in some cases) don’t necessarily get all that great of results. She mentioned one state (one of the Northeastern states, as I recall) that had about average or slightly below average rankings in international comparisons. Even looking back at the supposed golden age of education during the low immigration mid-20th century doesn’t offer much solace. The U.S. never has had a top ranked grade school education system.

Diversity can’t be used as an excuse (p. 17):

“Other Americans defended their system, blaming the diversity of their students for lackluster results . In his meticulous way, Schleicher responded with data: Immigrants could not be blamed for America’s poor showing. The country would have had the same ranking if their scores were ignored. In fact, worldwide, the share of immigrant children explained only 3 percent of the variance between countries.”

Also, it can’t be blamed on poverty, typically associated with immigrants and minorities. Nor can it be blamed on the public schools where immigrants and minorities are concentrated. Ripley makes this very clear (p. 17):

“A student’s race and family income mattered, but how much such things mattered varied wildly from country to country . Rich parents did not always presage high scores, and poor parents did not always presage low scores. American kids at private school tended to perform better, but not any better than similarly privileged kids who went to public school. Private school did not, statistically speaking, add much value.”

It isn’t a matter of whether or not a country has a diverse population or not, but what one does with the population one has. This relates to spending. More funding of education in itself doesn’t correlate to better results. Instead, it is about how that money is used and if it is used equitably to help all students (p. 160):

“The rest depended on what countries did with the children they had. In the United States, the practice of funding schools based on local property taxes motivated families to move into the most affluent neighborhoods they could afford, in effect buying their way into good schools. The system encouraged segregation.

“Since black, Hispanic, and immigrant kids tended to come from less affluent families , they usually ended up in underresourced schools with more kids like them. Between 1998 and 2010, poor American students had become more concentrated in schools with other poor students.

“The biggest problem with this kind of diversity is that it wasn’t actually diverse. Most white kids had majority white classmates. Black and Hispanic students, meanwhile, were more likely to attend majority black or Hispanic schools in 2005 than they were in 1980.

“Populating schools with mostly low-income, Hispanic, or African-American students usually meant compounding low scores, unstable home lives, and low expectations. Kids fed off each other, a dynamic that could work for good and for ill. In Poland, kids lost their edge as soon as they were tracked into vocational schools; likewise, there seemed to be a tipping point for expectations in the United States. On average, schools with mostly low- income kids systematically lacked the symptoms of rigor. They had inconsistent teaching quality, little autonomy for teachers or teenagers, low levels of academic drive, and less equity. By warehousing disadvantaged kids in the same schools, the United States took hard problems and made them harder.”

Once again, dysfunctional tracking in the U.S. is rooted in a history of systemic and institutional racism. Kids are tracked both in the formal and informal sense. Race and class segregation divide up students, and most of the funding is going to wealthier students and white students. It isn’t necessarily that all that extra funding is being used well by those wealthier school districts, but that the poorest school districts have so little money to use for anything, whether used well or badly. Too much funding isn’t necessarily helpful. Too little funding, however, is obviously problematic.

The discussion in America tends to focus only on the average amount of funding for each American child, all the while ignoring the vast disparity of funding between populations. This is how serious attention on the real issues gets avoided. No one wants to talk about the elephant in the room, the historical inequalities that are continually reinforced, not just inequalities between wealth and poverty but inequalities of political power and real world opportunities, inequalities of racial prejudice and privilege. These are among the most politically incorrect issues in this country.

As all of this shows, there is more going on here than can be understood in the ideological frame of mainstream American politics (pp. 163-164):

“The more time I spent in Finland, the more I started to think that the diversity narrative in the United States— the one that blamed our mediocrity on kids’ backgrounds and neighborhoods— was as toxic as funding inequities . There was a fatalism to the story line, which didn’t mean it was wrong. The United States did have too much poverty; minority students were not learning enough. Parents did matter, and so did health care and nutrition. Obviously.

“But the narrative also underwrote low aspirations, shaping the way teachers looked at their students, just as Vuorinen feared. Since the 1960s, studies have shown that if researchers tested a class and told teachers that certain students would thrive academically in the coming months, teachers behaved differently toward the chosen kids. They nodded more, smiled more, and gave those kids more time to answer questions and more specific feedback.

“In fact, the kids had been chosen at random. The label was fictional, but it stuck. At the end of the school year, teachers still described those students as more interesting, better adjusted, and more likely to be successful in life. As for other kids who had done well in the classroom, but were not chosen? The same teachers described them as less likely to succeed and less likable. The human brain depends on labels and patterns; if a researcher (or cultural narrative) offers teachers a compelling pattern, they will tend to defer to it.

“What did it mean, then, that respected U.S. education leaders and professors in teacher colleges were indoctrinating young teachers with the mindset that poverty trumped everything else? What did it mean if teachers were led to believe that they could only be expected to do so much, and that poverty was usually destiny?

“It may be human nature to stereotype, but some countries systematically reinforced the instinct, and some countries inhibited it. It was becoming obvious to me that rigor couldn’t exist without equity. Equity was not just a matter of tracking and budgets; it was a mindset.

“Interestingly, this mindset extended to special education in Finland, too. Teachers considered most special ed students to have temporary learning difficulties, rather than permanent disabilities. That mindset helped explain why Finland had one of the highest proportions of special education kids in the world; the label was temporary and not pejorative. The Finns assumed that all kids could improve. In fact, by their seventeenth birthday, about half of Finnish kids had received some kind of special education services at some point, usually in elementary school, so that they did not fall farther behind. During the 2009 to 2010 school year, about one in four Finnish kids received some kind of special education services—almost always in a normal school, for only part of the day. (By comparison, about one in eight American students received special education services that year.)”

This isn’t something unique to particular societies. It isn’t as if we must resign ourselves to a lesser fate in the global scheme of things. There is evidence that high education standards can even be achieved demographically diverse groups of students in the United States (p. 218):

“Unlike most schools in America, including the best public charter schools, these new schools were actually diverse, in the literal sense. Moskowitz wanted a true mix of white, Asian, African-American , and Hispanic students at a range of income levels, and she got it. That is how kids learn best— together, with a mix of expectations, advantages, and complications— according to the hard-earned lessons of countries around the world.

“There are stories like this all over the country: Success Academy charter schools in New York City, the closest thing to Finland in the United States; William Taylor, a public-school teacher who has almost Korean expectations for his low-income students in Washington, D.C.; and Deborah Gist in Rhode Island, a leader who has dared to raise the bar for what teachers must know, just like reformers in Finland and Korea.

“These world-class educators exist, but they are fighting against the grain of culture and institutions. That fight drains them of energy and time . If they ever win, it will be because parents and students rose up around them, convinced that our children cannot only handle a rigorous education but that they crave it as never before.”

It isn’t just that we Americans have low expectations of American students, especially poor and minority students. The real problem is we have low expectations for our entire society. We expect failure at a collective level, and it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

A Disconnection Projected

There is an overlap between those who demand immigrants assimilate to mainstream American culture and those who resist having their children assimilate to mainstream American culture by either homeschooling them or sending them to private schools.

I’m not sure how many people fit into this overlap. I suspect it is a significant number. Whatever their numbers, they seem to be a disproportionately vocal demographic.

Their view appears hypocritical, but maybe there is a hidden consistency based on a false belief. These kind of people seem to think their minority culture, typically of right-wing fundamentalism, often of the rural South Bible Belt, is mainstream American culture.

They are so disconnected that they don’t realize they are disconnected. Instead, they project their disconnection onto others and seek to scapegoat them. In reality, most immigrants tend to be more demanding about their children assimilating than are native-born parents and also tend to take the American Dream more seriously.

If everyone home-schooled their children or sent them to private schools, then and only then would American-style assimilation fail. Public schools are the backbone of our shared culture and they have been for a very long time.

It is strange how people forget history. Right-wing fundamentalists were the biggest supporters who originally pushed for public schools, and a major reason they gave was to help the children of immigrants to assimilate. This same group now attacks public schools.

Single Men and Human Biodiversity Theory

Over at hbdchick’s open thread, a person named ckp left a comment:

There’s the thesis that outbreeding among north-west Europeans contributed to their disavowal of nepotism, clan rivalries, advancement of capitalism, etc. They trusted distantly related people more than did their more inbred cousins in southern and eastern Europe. This brings me to my confusion – in European colonies the attitudes towards the natives seems to be the opposite of what this hypothesis would predict. Northwest Euro colonizers (British, Dutch, later the Germans ..) had very restrictive rules about how different ethnicities interacted with each other – segregation and apartheid. In contrast, the more clannish Euros mixed much more freely with the natives and imported slaves – the Portuguese are canonical examples, but the Spanish did the same. I would have thought that it would be the other way around.

Is this a problem for the hypothesis? Or is it accounted for in a way that I haven’t grasped yet?

Those are the kinds of observations I tend to make. I always have these nagging doubts about HBD theory, a sense that many aspects therein are dependent as much on the data excluded as the data included. There is so much data that it is hard to account for it all. I’ve specifically wondered about demographics like this about gender and marriage rates.

To hbdchick’s credit, she did her best to make sense of this data:

i think the difference probably stems from the differing migration patterns between the nw european colonizers vs. the iberians: the britich, dutch, and germans tended to migrate in whole family units — mom, dad, the kids (see Albion’s Seed on this, for example) — whereas the iberians tended to be mostly males (at least early on — i’m not sure why this was, actually — did they have an excess of second sons or what?). with the mostly male spaniards and portugese in the new world, of couse they were going to “fraternize” with the locals, because they wanted wives (and there were comparatively few iberian girls to choose from)! the nw europeans in north america — they were arriving with whole societies in tow — priests, merchants, farmers — and all with their families. they were really and truly transplanting themselves and their (ideal) societies in the new world.

If she were correct about this difference, the issue may well be fully explained. It is certainly correct that in the northernmost colonies immigrants were more likely to come as family. However, that wasn’t true for the colonies from the Dutch to the Deep South.

“Colonial New Netherland (New York), like Jamestown and other trading post colonies, attracted single men, few women, and even fewer families.
Dutch Americans by Herbert J. Brinks

“In sharp contrast to New England, which was settled mainly by families, most of the settlers of Virginia and neighboring Maryland were single men bound in servitude. Before the colonies turned decisively to slavery in the late seventeenth century, planters relied on white indentured servants from England, Ireland, and Scotland. They wanted men, not women. During the early and mid-seventeenth century, as many as four men arrived for every woman.”
Life in Early Virginia

​”a. Surviving males competed for the affections of the extremely scarce women, whom they outnumbered nearly six to one in 1650
b. Although they were still outnumbered by three to two at the end of the century, eligible women did not remain single for long
c. Families were both few and fragile in this ferocious environment; most men could not find mates and most marriages were destroyed by the death of a partner within seven years”
Chapter 4: American Life in the Seventeenth Century, 1607-1692

“Unlike the New England experience, where young, single men faced a high likelihood of marriage, bachelors in the Chesapeake often remained unmarried into their thirties or beyond.”
Single Men in America by Carl Robert Keyes

Furthermore, this trend of men outnumbering women was true beyond just the beginnings of a few British colonies. In general, “The majority of seventeenth-century English emigrants were poor, young, single men…” The reason for this is, coming “from the bottom rungs of English society”, that “Two-thirds of English settlers came to North America as indentured servants”; single male indentured servants, of course, being more sought after (also, maybe more available along with more willing).

In fact, this trend wasn’t just a general truth in the colonial era. It was also a general truth during the early American period and well into the 20th century. The reason it was so enduring is that America is an immigrant nation and American immigrants for most of our history have been disproportionately single men. This demographic and cultural history is explained well in a passage from David T. Courtwright’s Violent Land (Kindle Locations 69-87):

“Anyone who looks closely at the underside of American history will find mostly young and single men. They have accounted for far and away the largest share of homicides, riots, drug dealing, and the like. This pattern is common to all societies. But the American experience with young, single men has been unusually bad because, until recently, the country has had a higher proportion of them in its population than the European, African, and Asian nations from which its immigrants came. America’s violent history was played out with a bad hand of cards dealt from a stacked demographic deck. As an immigrant society America experienced a more or less continuous influx of youthful male workers, resulting in a population with more men than women for every year prior to 1946. In a monogamous society, many of these surplus young men could not marry. Insofar as young, single men are any society’s most troublesome and unruly citizens, America had a built-in tendency toward violence and disorder.

“The demographic tendency was heightened by cultural and social influences. American men, especially southerners and frontiersmen, were contemptuous of other races and touchy about personal honor, which they were inclined to defend by violent means. American men drank a great deal of hard liquor and grew up in cultures that equated drunkenness with obstreperousness. American men, particularly those of the lower classes, resisted attempts at religious conversion and the feminized style of life associated with it. They often took their recreation with other men in bibulous places of commercialized vice, such as gambling halls and saloons, thereby multiplying the opportunities for violent conflict. The guns and knives they carried increased the likelihood that such conflicts would have fatal results. When killings did occur the police and courts were often unable or indisposed to deal effectively with them.

“This mixture of demographic, cultural, and social characteristics guaranteed that American society would experience unusually high levels of violence and disorder, but not that American society would be uniformly violent and disorderly. These troublesome elements-the surplus of young men, widespread bachelorhood, sensitivity about honor, racial hostility, heavy drinking, religious indifference, group indulgence in vice, ubiquitous armament, and inadequate law enforcement-were concentrated on the frontier. An expanding subnation of immigrants within a larger nation of immigrants, the frontier was, at least as far as white Americans were concerned, the most youthful and masculine region of the country and, consequently, the one most prone to violence and disorder.’

“The frontier was the principal arena of single male brutality in American history. Tens of thousands of drunken and disorderly white frontiersmen perished prematurely, as did countless native and animal inhabitants whose territory they despoiled. Nor is the carnage entirely in the past. Insofar as the frontier experience has become a foundation of the national self-image-that is, insofar as Americans continue to think a manly man is someone with a gun and an attitude-it continues to influence the amount and type of violence in the United States, as well as our collective response to it.”

As Brian Ehresman wrote, along with mentioning of single males: “The South also did not have as good of relationships with the Native Americans as the other regions.” Now that is a major understatement. Even with New England’s rough relationship with the natives, there was a pathway to assimilation and there never was an equivalent to the Trail of Tears. Northern communities with strong foundations of family life, churches and civic-mindedness allowed for assimilation in a way not as possible in the South and it wasn’t for a lack of trying by the natives in the South. Prior to the Trail of Tears, the Cherokee went further than any other tribe to model their entire lifestyle on the example of white people, even owning slaves like their fellow white Southerners.

What made the Iberian and French people so much less clannish than the British? And what is the relationship between clannish cultures in immigrant nations and high rates of single male immigrants? Or is there any direct relation at all? The single male immigrants in the British colonial South had many native women who were theoretically available to marry, but these British men were apparently more resistant to going native than were the Iberian and French men. Why is that? Maybe it is because Iberia and France had long histories of ethnic mixing and so more collective experience with multiculturalism. But if so, how can this cultural element explained by HBD theory?

Here is my personal speculation. Maybe it has more to do with proximity to the Roman Empire and also the nations that maintained longest the political traditions of the Roman Empire. The empires of France, Spain and Portugal followed closest the example of the Romans.

The one thing that the Roman Empire did well that allowed them to survive for so long was multiculturalism. This multiculturalism wasn’t always about inter-marriage/breeding between ethnic groups. Actually, the Roman model purposely allowed for separate ethnic cultures such as the ethnic enclaves and islands of Jews. This model can still be seen in Spain and France to this day. Take for example the Basque who live along the border of these two countries or, as another example, the independent Roma in Spain.

I’ve also speculated that the only reason the United States has lasted as long as it has is because the Northern multiculturalism was able to moderate all of the diversity in this country. It was the South that nearly tore this country apart. The American culture that developed in the Mid-Atlantic and Midwestern region was in many ways a repeating of the pattern going back to the Romans. I’ve pointed out how William Penn was strongly influenced by French culture and how the French Huguenot immigrants had great influence in shaping important elements of American culture.

Just speculations, of course. Whatever one speculates, it is odd the correlation between single males and the enduring American culture of violence, xenophobia and racism. It is also interesting to note that, as this correlation weakened as the gender ration equalized in the late 1800s to early 1900s, the Southern states lost and the Northern states gained political power. Maybe the Civil War was essential in killing off so many of those single men and so allowing a shift in American culture to happen.

Centerville, IA: Meeting Point of Diversity & Conflict

Let me bring a few thoughts together:

  • Midwestern diversity
  • KKK
  • civic organizations
  • organized crime

I’ll make the connections by focusing on the example of a city in Iowa, as described in Centerville: A Mid-American Saga by Enfys McMurry.

Founded in 1846, Centerville is a small town, once at around 8,000 population and now down to around 5,000. It is located in Appanoose County along the southern border of Iowa. This is a few counties southwest of Johnson County where I live in Iowa City, the home of the Hawkeyes. And this is a few counties southeast of Madison County which is famous for covered bridges and famous for it including the hometown of John Wayne and the temporary home of George Washington Carver. This location leads to a couple of central factors.

First, it was on the edge of slavery. Some of the early residents were abolitionists. And it became part of the Underground Railroad. However, being so close to slave state, escaped slaves and free blacks weren’t very safe living there for they could be easily kidnapped.

Second, it is an agricultural area, but it is also a mining area. This meant it attracted a wide variety of people. Despite it being a small town, its early population included immigrants from more than forty countries and sixty Jewish families. The Midwest (along with the Mid-Atlantic states) has always been where most immigrants have settled. This is why this is the median center and mean center of the United States.

Between location and population diversity, this made Centerville a site of conflict, a contest between political forces and social orders. This was magnified by the vast social change that happened after the Civil War. Blacks were moving North and one of the biggest immigration waves began. Society became very destabilized. It was also a time of increasing social freedom.

There were those who took advantage of these conditions and there were those who sought to enforce new order. There were many Italians in Centerville and with them came the Black Hand which was an early mafia. There was a peak of violence at the turn of the century and then another increase during the 1920s that peaked in the 1930s — see here:

Comparison by year of USA homicide rates

The Black Hand was organized crime, but it also played a role of civic organization in the Italian community. The mafia was a central part of the social order in the region of Italy where many of these immigrants came from. It was based on kinship and shared religion. This is hard for us to understand today. Civic organizations have become tamed and mostly impotent. They are now primarily social gatherings.

The KKK also had this dual role. They held typically conservative values. They sought to defend what they saw as good about society. Like the Black Hand, they would use criminal means at times to enforce their ideal social order. During the early twentieth century, the state and federal governments were far weaker than they are today. This was still the era of the Pinkertons being hired to infiltrate and fight the labor unions. Most power was private at that time. Vigilante and mob justice was common.

It was the early 1920s when the KKK seized political power in Centerville. They used force, threats, intimidation, coercion and about any means necessary. Having gained control of both political parties, their opponents covertly created a third party and ousted the KKK from power after only a few brief years. The KKK wasn’t able to get a permanent toehold and the former members became pariah. Iowa has a mixed history in relation to blacks, at times one of the most progressive and at other times not so much. However, it appears that Centerville was never a sundown town, unlike some other southern Iowa coal mining towns. Winterset, the hometown of John Wayne, was a sundown town.

It should be noted that the KKK wasn’t exclusively focused on blacks, especially not in a town like Centerville that had no large population of blacks. They had other more important agendas such as prohibition and enforcing family values and Christian morality. The prohibition aspect probably was central in an immigrant town like Centerville that included many ethnic groups that loved their drink. Prohibition was an extension of nativism. There is a long history in America of outlawing or trying to outlaw any substance or activity that becomes associated with non-WASP groups, be they a racial or ethnic minority.

I don’t know that the KKK was involved in violence and murder in Centerville. They certainly weren’t pacifists nor did they care much about democratic process. What can be said is that they thrived during violent times of social upheaval.

The following peaceful era of the mid-twentieth century was a rare moment during a century of great violence. We are only now getting back down to those low violent rates. There is an interesting difference, though. The middle of last century was a time of extremely low immigration, but these past couple of decades have had extremely high immigration. So, the violence rates don’t correspond to the immigration rates.

The KKK, of course, associated the violent social disorder to immigrants and blacks. On the other hand, immigrants and blacks might have associated violent social disorder with groups like the KKK.

After the boom era of coal towns like Winterset, I imagine much of this history of diversity and conflict has been forgotten. The patriotism of war and the Cold War era oppression led to some combination of chosen assimilation and forced assimilation. It is just another majority white rural small town, although it does have almost 4% minorities which in a town of 5,000 is a couple hundred people.

I find it interesting that those original immigrant families from so many different countries are now simply considered white. I’m not sure the KKK would be entirely happy about that, but then again neither would the Black Hand. Both the WASP Americans and the ethnic Americans lost the battle for the soul of America. The winner is some new weird amorphous white American, a mutt that is a little bit of many things and nothing in particular.

This is how multiculturalism slowly becomes monoculturalism. I suspect the same fate will happen to the new generation of ethnic outsiders in America. In many regions of the US, regional identities dominate. But in the Midwest, to become assimilated simply means becoming American. That is the role of the Midwest, the Heartland of America. It is where multiculturalism is embraced and where it comes to die. No amount of diversity can defeat this process. There is a faith in this American assimilation here in the Midwest. Bring us your huddled masses and we’ll make Americans out of them. There may be some violence in the process, but unless you want to become Amish the process is near inevitable.

America is where the world comes together. What new thing will be born from this?

The Cultural Amnesia of German-Americans

My reading lately has been varied, by which I mean I’ve been jumping between many books without finishing any of them, but I’ll finish them all eventually. This jumble of reading has my mind in a jumble. I was also doing some genealogical research, actually for someone else’s family as a favor to a friend. Looking at this other person’s family reminded me of my own family with lots of German ancestry. The German aspect came up in my reading as well.

Thinking about this other guy’s family, I was reminded of how much German ancestry there is in the American population. It is the single largest ethnicity in the entire country. What is odd is how invisible is the German influence.

In a post a while back, I wrote about a few books related to American whites, two of which were about specific ethnic populations. One book focused on the Scots-Irish and the other on the Irish. These two cultures have received a lot of attention and they are in many ways very visible cultures. Even if not English, they are still British and so they more easily fit into the standard narrative of America. German immigrant culture fundamentally undermines this simplistic narrative in a way no other ethnicity is capable of doing. Yet I know of no book about German Americans that is equivalent to the many books on the Scots-Irish and Irish.

A little over a century ago, German culture was the complete opposite of invisible. The German language was widely spoken in the US, second only to English. In German majority cities, public schools were taught in German and the newspapers were printed in German. Now, the only viable surviving German culture and language is that of the Amish, and it has survived for the reason the Amish isolated themselves from the changing world around them.

Germans were among the earliest settlers, the British government offloading German refugees onto ships heading for various colonies and plantations. In the American colonies, Germans even formed their own separate communities early on. The influence of Germans only increased over time with several massive waves of German immigrants in the 19th century. The sewer socialism and progressivism emerging out of the early Midwest was mostly the result of German ideas. Germans loved promoting projects for the public good such as public education, even as they mistrusted the federal government and the often nativist populations surrounding them.

The nativism is where I’ve gained a foothold of understanding. The Republican Party arose partly out of the support of the Know-Nothings who were anti-immigrant and anti-Catholic, the former being especially directed at the sizable German population. Non-English immigrants were initially wary of the Republican Party for good reason and non-English immigrants to this day are wary of the Republican Party for good reason.

Nonetheless, the Republican president Lincoln wouldn’t have been able to win the Civil War without the large ethnic immigrant influx that gave the North a population advantage, not to mention the quality of immigrant was very high with Germans on average being more well-trained and well-educated than the average non-German American, specifically more well-trained in fighting modern warfare as many were political dissidents fleeing revolutionary wars against empire. Many of Lincoln’s administration and military leadership were German immigrants and even more were soldiers in his army.

Much of the political foment following the Civil War involved the German population or was in reaction to the German population. Germans fought for workers’ rights and farmers’ rights, the two coming together within the Populist movement. Germans fought against corporatocracy in the way they fought against empire back in Europe. More importantly, they won many of the political battles they fought and we today benefit from their struggle such as with the 8 hour work day and 5 day work week (try working every waking moment continuously 7 days a week and then tell me you aren’t grateful for their struggle and sacrifice). On the other side, Prohibition and Sunday laws were partly enacted in order to control the influence of ethnic immigrants such as Germans and Irish who were fond of their drink.

The ugliness of nativism became a central issue on the national stage when World War I began. The media of the day portrayed Germans as being vile and dangerous which led to mobs forming and many Germans dying. Also, the Germanic culture was nearly eliminated. German newspapers were censored, German names of buildings and streets were changed, German traditions were attacked, and German-Americans experienced political and economic oppression. They were arrested, imprisoned, and deported. They had hard time finding work. Their formerly influential culture suddenly became a liability. Along with the impact of World War II, nearly all traces of German heritage had been eliminated. Many German-Americans experienced a cultural forgetting that scoured the German culture from the collective memory of American history.

There was only one saving grace that helped some minor German identity to survive. The German refugees escaping the Nazis included many of the greatest intellectuals of their day. These German intellectuals gained employment in the arts and education. Slowly, German-American culture has been rehabilitated in correspondence with the German nation itself being rebuilt after WWII. It is no longer shameful to be of German descent, but the living culture in America was nonetheless destroyed beyond repair. The only thing left are a few German newspapers and the popular German festivals involving beer drinking.

This saddens me as so much of my ancestry is German, on both sides of my family. My German ancestry goes back for centuries in American history. But my family has complete amnesia about its Germanic past. America as we know it wouldn’t exist without the German influence. It’s hard to imagine what America would be like if Germans hadn’t been around to help win the Civil War or to help America live up to its democratic promise.

America’s North/South Divide (& other regional data)

I’ve observed in the US certain regional patterns of culture and demographics, the North/South divide being the focus of my present analysis. The basic pattern of a North/South divide originated with the first colonies and was emblazoned upon the national psyche through the trauma of the Civil War. And, despite the change that has happened since, this basic pattern persists. It persists because culture is deeply entrenched and because demographics change slowly.

 

Some of the data I will present and analyze is:

  • voting trends
  • labor unions
  • social problems
  • wealth disparity
  • religions/denominations
  • dialects
  • nationalities
  • taxation
  • IQ differences
  • psychological traits

Be forewarned that my analysis is lengthy. If you lack the motivation or time to read it in detail, you can still grasp the gist of my analysis by skimming the text or even by just looking at the mapped data. I eventually plan on breaking this up into smaller posts, but until then it will remain as is.

By the way, I’m open to suggestions. If you think some of my data is incorrect or partial, then please offer links or other references. If you think my analysis is overly biased or inadequate, then please share your own views.

 – – – 

Let me begin with some comments about the region I consider home, the Midwest.

There is something many don’t understand about the Midwest. States like Iowa, where I live, have tended to be Democratic states for a long time (and, looking further back, much political activism happened in the Midwest during the Populist and Progressive eras… which laid the groundwork for the present Democratic Party). Even as Democrats have lost some power and popularity recently, Iowa and much of the Midwest has remained Democratic leaning. Isn’t that interesting?

Political Party Affiliation (2009)From ’08 to ’10

State of States Political Party Affiliation, 2008

State of the States Political Party Advantage Map, 2010

(If you’d like to see presidential election results going back to 1789, here is a useful interactive map. It’s interesting to see how the two parties flipped between the North and South.)

I want to make note of something very very important. The South isn’t strongly Republican, especially not in the way that the North is strongly Democratic.

So, why do Southern states so often go to Republicans? One obvious explanation is that wealthy Southerners tend to vote Republican and poor Southerners (in particular, the poorest of the poor) tend to vote Democratic, but the South is such a class based society that poor people (in particular, poor minorities) are almost entirely disenfranchised from the political system. If all the poor and all the minorities were to vote, the South possibly could become a Democratic stronghold (or, at least, far from being a Republican stronghold). Rich whites have known of this danger ever since Reconstruction followed the Civil War. It’s not unusual to hear conservative leaders speak about the dangers of democracy which they call mobocracy because they understand that a functioning democracy would undermine their own power (which is becoming a greater issue as the traditional white political elite face a world where whites are becoming the new minority; and which is specifically becoming an issue in the South as the recent census shows Northern blacks are moving to the South in larger numbers).

Now about the North. Why is it that the Democrats aligning with the Civil Rights movement caused the Democratic Party to lose the South (i.e., lose the rich white ruling class in the South) and yet not the Midwest? I could point out the fact that there is not much of a rich white ruling class in the Midwest. But why does this socio-economic cultural difference exist in the first place? Why has a socially and religiously traditional state like Iowa never entirely turned away from Democrats and even is one of the first states to pass a law legalizing gay marriage?

There is an extremely simple answer, but it’s maybe deceptively simple. Before I go into detail about that explanation, I want to provide some more specific data about voting habits in the North vs the South. The divide doesn’t just exist on the level of states but also on the level of cities:

  • racial diversity with many African Americans vs strong Caucasian majority
  • large concentrations of the poor vs large concentrations of the wealthy
  • a population of less educated vs a population of well educated
  • more single people vs more married people
  • large urban areas vs smaller urban areas,
  • former industrial cities vs white collar cities

Basically, Northern liberals vs Southern conservatives is a war of class and race. 

The Most Conservative and Liberal Cities in the United States
The Bay Area Center for Voting Research

America’s voting patterns are split by region, with the Midwest and Northeast predominantly voting for liberal candidates, and the West (with the exception of the coast) and South voting for more conservative candidates. These results confirm the preconceived notions that many have about the conservative nature of the South and liberal nature of the Northeast, but also surprisingly found conservative trends in the West and liberal leanings in the Midwest that defy traditional stereotypes about these areas of the country. 

A number of important demographic factors determine whether cities vote for liberals or conservatives, with race being the most important factor. Cities with predominantly large African American populations ended up as the most liberal cities in America, while the cities with the largest Caucasian populations wound up as the most conservative. These strong correlations seem to indicate that African American votes continue to support primarily liberal candidates. A survey of income and economic status indicates that poorer and less educated than average regions also tend to vote for liberal candidates at a higher rate than their conservative counterparts, indicating that liberal candidates may be ahead in capturing those with concerns about the state of government run social programs and poverty. 

Another major correlation appears between marriage rate and the tendency to vote for conservative candidates, as liberal cities appeared to have more single voters than conservative cities with marriage rates at or above the national average. This data indicates that family centered voters surprisingly voted more for conservative candidates, demonstrating the success of conservative candidates to appear as the more moral, family oriented candidates in a way that did not appeal as much to single voters. Population size also seems to have a significant effect, with larger urban environments tending to favor liberal candidates by a wider margin than those with smaller population sizes, demonstrating the success of liberal candidates in large metropolitan areas where concerns about social programs and poverty spoken of against the incumbent Bush administration were most salient. Suburban or mid-sized cities were on the whole more conservative and split in the 2004 presidential election, with conservative candidates receiving more votes in these areas than from their urban counterparts. These demographic issues indicate that racial makeup, income rates, regional location, marital status, and population size all combine to affect the propensity of American cities to vote on either side of the ideological spectrum.

[ . . . ] In addition, liberal cities tend to be former industrial and factory based centers such as Detroit, New York, Chicago, Flint, and Paterson. On the other hand, conservative cities reflect the opposite. Colorado Springs, Orange, Garden Grove, and Provo are less industrial and more white collar and residential.

The above might create an apparently black and white picture (literally and metaphorically), but that isn’t quite correct. It’s more a matter of diversity vs homogeneity. The liberal cities have a wider range of everything. The Democratic Party attracts both blacks and whites whereas the Republican Party mostly just attracts whites. The Democratic Party attracts both poor and rich whereas the Republican Party mostly just attracts the upper classes. The Democratic Party attracts both the highly educated and the far less educated whereas the Republican Party mostly just attracts the highly educated.

The latter is interesting because the Democratic Party has both a wider range of IQ among its voters and a higher average IQ than the Republican Party. The Democratic Party has both more people with low IQ and more people with high IQ (with the Republican Party apparently dominating the average middle of the IQ spectrum). So, the extremely smart, well educated liberals are truly the intellectual elite of the entire country (I discuss the issue of IQ in terms of race and North/South divide further down).

More interesting is the fact that those who are more oppressed and disadvantaged have consistently seen that their interests are more in line with intellectually elite Democrats rather than with wealthy elite Republicans. Also, I’d assume that the relationship goes both ways. The intellectually elite Democrats perceive their interests being in alignment with or inclusive of those who are more oppressed and disadvantaged.

Let me make this even more clear. It’s not that Republicans are inherently less smart, although conservatives do consistently test lower on IQ tests (sources for this claim can be found further down). It’s that the Republican Party in using the Southern Strategy eventually lost the highly intelligent liberal demographic that once voted for them.

Democrats may now be the more intelligent party
Half Sigma

Once upon a time, the Democratic Party was the party of the less intelligent and the Republican Party was the party of the more intelligent.

But today, the Democratic Party is the party of both the less intelligent and the more intelligent while the Republican Party is the party of the middle.

 – – –

The simple answer I spoke of before relates to the Southern Strategy that caused the GOP to lose the Northern well educated class. The Southern Strategy was all about the North/South divide. Democrats had sided with the Civil Rights movement which opened up the opportunity for Republicans to gain the Southern vote. With the Southern Strategy, the GOP appealed to the Southern states that still had much racial animosity and still had a racially segregated culture. To win the Southern vote meant to take advantage of the bad feelings left over from the Civil War.

The Midwest and the Northeast, of course, had been on the side of the Union during the Civil War. Lincoln’s Republican Union had become the stronghold for Democrats in the latter half of the 20th century. The Republican Party remained the progressive party for decades following the end of the Civil War, but now the Democratic party is considered the progressive party. Essentially, the war of worldviews is still going on… just with the party labels switched.

Map of the Union and Confederate States

Map of the Union and Confederate States

The Civil War was, of course, largely even if not entirely about slavery. It wasn’t just an issue of federal power vs states rights. It was about whether new territories of the Western expansion would expand slavery or not. Southerners feared that if slavery didn’t expand then it would begin to shrink (thus threatening their own power).

Free States and Slave States, before the Civil War

Graphical Map of Free States and Slave States, before the Civil War
Map Key: Free Sates or Territories
Map Key: Slave States
Map Key: Territories open to slavery

Midwesterners were free-soilers who were against slavery or rather against a class-based culture built on slavery… because Midwestern small farmers saw the Southern plantation elite as a threat. Also, non-slave states didn’t like having the practice and institution of slavery forced on them through the fugitive slave laws. Take Kansas for example. The Kansas Territory wasn’t yet a state and so was open territory for the potential expansion of slavery. Kansans, however, were largely free-soilers and didn’t want slavery expanded into their territory. This is why Kansans fought on the side of the Union.

It’s true that international slave trade was illegalized in 1808, but it wasn’t strongly enforced and internal slave trade was still legal (a situation that allowed for a flourishing black market for smugglers):

Abolition of the Atlantic Slave Trade in the United States

It is difficult to explain why it was moralist sentiment was not strong enough to carry the day. One possible explanation is that even though there was strong sentiment to abolish the trade in Congress, constituencies in the South were able to exert sufficient pressure to weaken the force of the law. The delegates to the Constitutional Convention could not have forseen the effect that Ely Whitney’s cotton gin would have on Southern agriculture. The decades following the abolition of the slave trade show that United States did not have enough will to even enforce the laws they had passed.  Illegal slave trade continued overland through Texas and Florida, while ships continued to smuggle slaves in through South Carolina.27  Even though Congress passed a law in 1820 making participation in the slave trade an act of piracy and punishable by death, it was not strongly enforced.

In the 1820’s, the nature of the illegal slave trade changed somewhat. US ships were now primarily involved in the transport of slaves from Africa to other countries in North and South America like Cuba and Brazil. The British wanted cooperation from the Americans in the form of the mutual right of search and seizure. The Americans opposed this principle, not so much out of a desire to continue the slave trade, but out of a sense of national pride and an appeal to the freedom of the seas.28  The US’s refusal to enforce its own anti-slave trade laws, as well as cooperate with other nations allowed the slave trade to continue for decades to come.

Slavery and the slave trade were far from being stopped. There was big money in it. Those who benefited from slavery had lost one political battle, but they weren’t giving up. They were on the defense and were looking for ways to go on the offense. The territories that weren’t yet states were their one opportunity to expand their power (because the governments of new states were allowed to decide whether to legalize or illegalize slavery).

The Westward expansion was a vision of possibility, of what America could become. But conflict arose in the struggle for whose vision would dominate the 19th century. When people today argue about the causes of the Civil War, they are continuing that struggle about whose vision will dominate.

The Civil War had a massive impact on American society. And a majority of Americans say the Civil War is still relevant:

As the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War approaches, most Americans say the war between the North and South is still relevant to American politics and public life today.

More than half of Americans (56%) say the Civil War is still relevant, according to the latest national survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, conducted March 30-April 3 among 1,507 adults. Nearly four-in-ten (39%) say the Civil War is important historically but has little current relevance.

In a nation that has long endured deep racial divisions, the history of that era still elicits some strong reactions.

Another recent poll found similar results with one major difference. In their sample, a majority thought the Civil War was about slavery.

In the CNN/Opinion Research Corporation Poll released Tuesday, roughly one in four Americans said they sympathize more with the Confederacy than the Union, a figure that rises to nearly four in ten among white Southerners.

When asked the reason behind the Civil War, whether it was fought over slavery or states’ rights, 52 percent of all Americans said the leaders of the Confederacy seceded to keep slavery legal in their state, but a sizeable 42 percent minority said slavery was not the main reason why those states seceded.

“The results of that question show that there are still racial, political and geographic divisions over the Civil War that still exist a century and a half later,” CNN Polling Director Holland Keating said.

When broken down by political party, most Democrats said southern states seceded over slavery, independents were split and most Republicans said slavery was not the main reason that Confederate states left the Union.

Republicans were also most likely to say they admired the leaders of the southern states during the Civil War, with eight in 10 Republicans expressing admiration for the leaders in the South, virtually identical to the 79 percent of Republicans who admired the northern leaders during the Civil War.

 – – – 

Because this is such a central issue related to what continues to divide Americans, let me respond to those who think the Civil War wasn’t about slavery. The most obvious response is to point out that there were people on both sides of the war who openly stated that their reason or part of their reason for fighting had to do with slavery. Even official documents made this issue clear:

After 150 years, the Civil War still divides the United States

In fact, the South Carolina secession document […] is pretty explicit on the point. With Lincoln as president, it states, “the Slaveholding States will no longer have the power of self-government, or self-protection, and the Federal Government will have become their enemy”.

In its own decision to secede, the state of Mississippi was yet more explicit. Slavery was “the greatest material interest of the world”, it insisted; attempts to abolish it would undermine “commerce and civilization”.

Those are strong words. Nonetheless, the politics and economics of that time were more complex and conflict-ridden than can be accredited to the issue of slavery alone. Even though slavery was an important issue in its own right, it was maybe even more important as a symbolic issue that inspired and gave a focal point for much public debate.

However, there wasn’t much collective will, at least among the political leadership, to stop slavery or the slave trade and the compromises made by way of laws were half-hearted. Yes, the Civil War was about states’ rights, to be specific, the states’ rights to continue with slavery if they so chose. Even though people feared slave revolts, there was still big money in slave plantations and that money was backed by entrenched power and traditional culture.

Greed not withstanding, fear was probably the greater force at play… with moral apathy being the result. Americans (by which I mean white Americans) were in what they perceived as a no-win situation. The slave population had grown so large that revolts were bound to happen and people had heard about the horrors of the Haitian slave revolt which led to outright revolution (1791-1804). Americans (ahem, white Americans) had just finished their own revolution and didn’t want a new one. On the other hand, trying to eliminate slavery presented other fearful possibilities. Giving blacks their freedom might just make them even more likely to revolt. You know how it is when you give someone a taste of freedom. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t:

The one issue that best demonstrates the difference between moralists and pragmatists was the issue of forfeiture, or what should be done with the confiscated slaves.

Some representatives argued that it was not only the government’s duty, but its right to manumit the seized cargo. Mr. Sloan drew a comparison to British law where any slave who entered Britain was automatically freed. If the slaves were to be forfeited to the national government and became property of that government, it was Congress’ prerogative to set the slaves free.17 Others emphasized the moral hypocrisy of stopping the slave trade, but then turning around and selling the cargo anyway. Mr. Smilie of Pennsylvania argued that if the slaves are not set free, the United States cannot “avoid the odium of becoming themselves slave traders.”18  Representative Pitkin of Connecticut lamented that the profit from such forfeited slaves would be “lodged in the public coffers.”19

The pragmatists opposed the manumission of the slaves on the basis of practical matters alone, not  principle. Mr. Alston argued that because of the laws of the individual states, the government “cannot . . . prevent them from being slaves once brought into the United States, the only way is to prevent importation.”20  This, however required that there be sufficient incentive on the part of all states to enforce the law. Because nearly all the imported slaves arrived in the south, where slavery was legal, large numbers of blacks would be freed on Southern soil. Mr. Early argued that Southerners would be unlikely to cooperate with the law out of fear that large numbers of freed blacks would lead to insurrection and revolt.21  Forfeiture seemed to be the only means of prevention.

When people say that the Civil War wasn’t about slavery, they are making the case that many made before the Civil War. Many people didn’t agree with or care about the moral argument against slavery. They saw it in terms of economics and in terms of the rights of states and of owners (the rights of blacks, specifically the right of blacks to own their own bodies, being conveniently left out of the equation). These people wanted to avoid the moral argument for the very reason they knew they couldn’t win the moral argument. Public opinion, on that issue, was moving against them. But, when stated in terms of rights, slavery became more palatable to many whites of the time (especially businessmen and investors; but maybe not so palatable to the free-soilers, though, who had their own vision of individual rights).

It’s interesting to consider the history of states’ rights. One of the early origins of this argument was in relation to Native Americans. The governments and local populations of states wanted the land Native Americans claimed as their own. States’ rights was a  way of trying to bypass the federal government in order to steal the land from Native Americans in a more direct fashion. So, legal and constitutional claims of states’ rights were used to deny the rights of Native Americans and then later to deny the rights of blacks.

Whether or not the end of slavery was inevitable, the Civil War was probably inevitable. The moral arguments and the pragmatic arguments simply couldn’t find a shared solution to the complex issues surrounding slavery:

The Congressmen themselves seemed to grasp the rift that divided them. Nathaniel Macon, Speaker of the House believed all members were truly united in their goal: “I believe that on this subject there is but one opinion, which is effectually to prohibit the importation of slaves into the United States. This sentiment, I believe, pervades the breast of every member of the community.”22  While that may be true, he made his position clear in the debate on forfeiture: “I still consider this a commercial issue. . . .We derive our powers of legislation, not from the law of nations, but from the Constitution.”23  Mr. Smilie, making one last appeal to the supremacy of morality countered: “but this question is connected with principles of a higher order than those merely commercial.” He then refered to the Declaration of Independence and its central creed that all men are created equal.24  These two positions succinctly sum up the differences in thought over the means to abolish the slave trade. The question remained, who prevailed?

During January and February 1807, the House of Representatives and the Senate worked on developing mutually acceptable bills. The final vote in the House was 63 for, 49 against. President Thomas Jefferson signed the bill into law on 2 March 1807. In the bill itself, one can see that pragmatic concerns about implementation won out over the moralistic point of view. First, the bill contained provisions for the forfeiture of confiscated property, but such property would be under the jurisdiction of the district court were a slaving ship was seized. Provisions made for the “disposal” of confiscated slaves was not to “contravene” the laws of that specific state. This meant that if seized in Southern territory (which was the likely outcome), blacks would remain enslaved and be auctioned off nonetheless, completely contradicting the spirit of the act. Penalties were comparatively light, consisting primarily of fines.25  In December 1806, Mr. Hastings of Massachusetts had called for much stronger penalties: “It is  certainly a crime of the highest order. Piracy, forgery, and sinking vessels with intent to defraud underwriters, are all punished with death. Yet these are crimes only against property; whereas the importation of slaves, a crime committed against the liberty of man, and inferior only to murder or treason, is accouted nothing but a misdemeanor.”26  This is yet another example of the defeat of the moralists.

Looking into the history of that era, I sense the earliest emerging of that divide (prior to its more fully manifesting as North vs South). We still see this conflict of visions: moral (egalitarianism, human rights, etc) vs pragmatic (economics, ownership rights, etc). It’s the same basic argument of liberalism vs conservatism. The argument began even before the American Revolution happened. Thomas Paine was advocating a radically egalitarian vision (freedom and rights for all, including blacks and Native Americans; and an early version of social security to help the lower classes in their elderly years). Oppositely, many of the founding fathers such as John Adams feared democracy and wanted a political elite to be established so as to maintain order (the order of the ownership class that is, the fear of social conflict and division being the reason slavery wasn’t abolished with the writing of the constitution).

 – – – 

In the Eastern half of the country, the North/South divide remains as true today as it did a century ago. It’s not just a political divide. The two visions of America aren’t merely an issue of ideology. I’d argue it’s more fundamentally a cultural divide. We Northerners tend to be more supportive of social egalitarianism: civil rights, workers unions, et cetera. As long as you work hard, everyone should be given a fair chance to succeed. Despite both having a traditional culture, Midwestern traditionalism didn’t originate from a class-based society and Southern traditionalism did originate from a class-based society.

Most people don’t think of workers’ unions in geographic terms, but even union membership shows a North/South divide — see here:

Union Membership in the United States

 

Where unions are strong so is the Democratic Party. And where unions are weak so is the Democratic Party. Unions are the only organization that represents the working class. As I pointed out above, the Midwest was a hotbed for the Populist movement which set the groundwork for many Progressive policies. A main element of the Populist movement was the workers movement. Unions were born out of this. Also, this relates to the fact that the free-soilers were small farmers who, during the Populist era, joined forces with the labor movement. Notice that the unions are weakest, unsurprisingly, in the states which were formerly the pro-slavery strongholds. Unions are symbolic of the egalitarian ideal and the Northern culture that supports it.

Egalitarianism is a central ideal of social liberalism. It’s interesting that even gay marriage can be defended according to the social values that are traditional in states like Iowa. According to an analysis of various data, Northern states tend to be more tolerant and Iowa ranks as the 12th most tolerant. Also, notice how the above maps with their North/South divide match closely with a map of income inequality (which also correlates to the rates of social problems) and with a map of poverty:

Gross Domestic Product by Industry

% in Poverty Income Map

I can only credit such a divide, such a stark contrast with the power of culture. It’s not just a North/South divide in the whole country. The North/South divide only clearly shows up in the Eastern part of the US. The Southern states closer to the West coast (which also deal with high diverse populations) look relatively good on many rankings compared to the Southern states toward the Eastern coast. This Eastern North/South divide has consistently existed for at least since the Civil War and I suspect before even then. I find that endlessly fascinating. As I pointed out above, income inequality correlates to social problems. Here are just a few examples of social problems mapped out (compare the North/South pattern as seen in the maps of income inequality and poverty) — school performanceteen pregnancygun violence, obesity & diabetes, disability, unmarried & single parents:

schools_patchwork.jpg

Map of obesity rates by county. For data, see link above.Map of diabetes rates by county. For data, see link above.

Here is another map which would explain one cause of some of the health issues. It’s a map of areas that are food deserts. There are a high percentage of poor people living in these areas who don’t own a car nor are near a supermarket. This means they are forced to live off of food from convenience stores. It’s not that all food in a convenience store is unhealthy, but the cheapest food that poor people buy tends to be very unhealthy.

food deserts, food desert map, food

So, health problems are caused by an unhealthy diet which is caused by lack of access to healthy food, but that doesn’t necessarily get to the most fundamental cause. Why don’t supermarkets build in these areas? Is there no way to make a profit off of poor people except by slowly killing them with unhealthy food? I have to wonder if there isn’t more going on.

It’s in poor conservative areas like this that there are also less access to affordable health care. Conservatives are on average more against funding social services that help the poor (i.e., those judged as being undeserving by their low status on the ‘meritocratic’ totem pole). Not all poor areas have these problems. Why is it that California has an area of poverty and yet has no food deserts? Is it for the reason that California is more liberal and liberals (i.e., liberal communities and governments) take care of their own? Like California, Texas is also wealthy. Why does Texas have food deserts when California doesn’t? In one of the wealthiest states in the wealthiest country in the world, why does Texas have food deserts at all? Obviously, Texas has high wealth disparity which is a cause of food disparity, but why do conservative states have so much wealth disparity in the first place?

I was looking at population density and was wondering about the possible correlation to food desert regions.

To be fair, maybe the difference of food desert regions between California and Texas could be partly explained by a difference in population density. However, differences between liberal and conservative states in general, specifically between North and South, can’t be explained just by population density. Let me use my own state as an example again. Iowa, and this non-industrial part of the Midwest in general, has low population density and yet isn’t a food desert. Iowans have a fair amount of poverty. Why is it profitable for grocery stores to operate in poor Iowa but not in rich Texas?

– – –

Here is an interesting way of mapping together some of the above data along with other data as well. A recent study compared states according to the measurements of peacefulness (I discuss in detail the issue of violence further down in this post). The peace index consists of five main indicators:

  1. number of homicides per 100,000 people
  2. number of violent crimes per 100,000 people
  3. number of people in jail per 100,000 people
  4. number of police officers per 100,000 people
  5. general availability of small arms

US Peace Index (state comparison)

The USPI also finds that a state’s ranking is strongly correlated with various socio-economic factors including the high school graduation rate, access to health insurance and the rate of infant mortality. Significant economic correlants included the degree of income inequality and the rate of participation in the labor force. Meanwhile, factors such as median income and a state’s political affiliation had no discernable impact on a state’s level of peace.

Regionally, southern states were identified as being the least peaceful, while states in the northeast were most peaceful. The peacefulness of states in the Midwest and West was about equal, with Midwest states being slightly more peaceful.

United States Peace Index 2011 – Ranking

United States Peace Index 2011 - Ranking

Of course, high rates of social problems such as violence ultimately equates to low rates of experienced well-being.

Well-being of nation

– – –

For the sake of amusement, here are some maps to show social problems as translated into the 7 Deadly Sins:

Greed & Envy

Wrath & Sloth
 
Gluttony & Lust
Pride
 
It’s funny that the one sin the North excels at slightly is Sloth which is measured according to: “Expenditures on art, entertainment, and recreation compared with employment.” Basically, it just means Northerners have more fun and have more high culture. As far as sins go, that is definitely the one to choose.

Another interesting thing is that the Midwest rates low on all the sins. It doesn’t look like Iowa gets touched by much red other than a bit of the Sloth. We Iowans apparently are a religiously pure people… who yet (at least, us Eastern Iowans) still know how to have fun and aren’t entirely uncultured.

Greed is the only sin that doesn’t at all follow a North/South divide. I don’t know what this particular data might mean as I’m not sure what exactly is being measured. Obviously, measuring the “Average income compared with number of people living below the poverty line” is not the same thing as measuring income inequality or poverty. The map shows the Northeastern states as being high on ‘Greed’ and the Southern states (excluding Florida and Texas) as being low on ‘Greed’. However, the maps of income inequality and poverty are the complete opposite.

 – – –  

Before I move on, I want to share a map that brings a lot of this together in a larger picture and shifts the way we normally think. The US is the wealthiest country in the world and so it’s easy to forget how big the divide is in this country. We talk about poor developing countries, but we don’t talk about poor developing states. Fortunately, someone decided to map the data.

Infographic: Does America Have “Developing States”? 

 

The Human Development Index is a metric that measures the life expectancy, education, and standard of living in an area. It’s usually used to sort the world into “developing countries,” like Bangladesh and Burundi, and “developed countries” like the United States and Western Europe.

But this interactive infographic actually uses the Human Development Index to show differences between the states here in America. The highest on the list are Connecticut, Massachusetts, and other states in the northeast. The lowest are the Appalachian states.

Should we start thinking of West Virginia and Tennessee as “developing states”? It’s a little patronizing, but it does make you think about the costs of America’s regionalized coal production, for example, in a new way.

 – – –

Pause for a moment and let all that data sink in. Look at all those maps, really look at them. Imagine all of that data superimposed onto a singular map that is our country. Instead of seeing abstract statistics, imagine the real people who are experiencing these problems, who daily face challenges and suffering that could break the best of us.

Look at the conservative areas of the South and Appalachia. Now imagine that all states, all regions, all the country was dominated by a similar conservative culture. Imagine that all government (local and federal) was run by a majority of conservative politicians. Imagine spread across the entire country the same degree of social problems, the same high rates of: poverty, wealth disparity, violent crime, incarceration, intolerance, broken families, illiteracy, high school drop outs, teen pregnancy, low birth weight, infant mortality, STDs, lack of healthy food and health care for the poor and working class, and on and on. Imagine all of that combined.

Imagine that America was a developing country where people still struggle for basic rights and opportunities. Imagine an America that had no strong tradition of liberalism, no liberal party that could compete with conservative Republicans, no rich liberal states to pay for the infrastructure and social services in poor conservative states. Imagine that a progressively liberal president like Lincoln was never elected and so slavery was never abolished, that no Populist movement ever arose to challenge the Robber Barons, that no Progressive era came to create a social safety net, labor laws, child protection and environmental regulation, that no Civil Rights movement ever happened, that segregation never ended, that women and blacks never fought for and won voting rights.

Heck, go back even further right to the beginning of the country. Imagine that there was no Thomas Paine to communicate to the masses an inspiring liberal vision about what America could be, that early Americans weren’t inspired by that radically democratic vision to such an extent that they risked their lives fighting for radical change against an established conservative elite. Imagine that the liberal values of social democracy never took hold on American soil, that we never gained independence, that a constitution of classical liberal values was never written, that an egalitarian society of representative democracy was never established.

Imagine an America with no liberalism whatsoever or else an America where liberalism forever remained insignificant and powerless.

I don’t know what America would be like if it were almost exclusively conservative in all aspects and in all regions. But, to speculate based on the known data, there is no reason obvious to me for why one would think it would be a better country… not that I mean to imply that the polar opposite would necessarily be better. I just want liberalism to get its due, to be acknowledged for the positive force it has been in this country.

I want to be clear, however, that I’m not arguing conservatism is inherently and inevitably a negative force. I could imagine a conservative country that didn’t have all of these problems originating from America’s radicalized conservatism obsessed with class and culture war and haunted by hyper-individualism and anti-intellectualism. A well established traditional conservatism could make for a very good society in certain respects. Some indigenous societies, for example, are both very socially conservative and very stable. But America’s radicalized conservatism isn’t the same thing as traditional conservatism.

In my mind, I can hear the conservative’s counterargument. They would argue that the US is a republic, not a democracy (the latter being identified with the oppression of the majority, with unconstitutional government overreach). They would, of course, say that the Civil War wasn’t really about slavery but instead was about state’s rights, about the federal government infringing on constitutional rights of liberty and self-determination. They would say that slavery would’ve ended on its own because a free market would eventually result in slavery being unprofitable, that fiscal conservatism inevitably leads to liberty and that Lincoln’s brutally forcing the end of oppression against blacks led to an oppression against Southerners. They would argue that the real problem was how the Civil War caused immense destruction and how Reconstruction undermined Southern culture. The conservative imagines his own vision of America where the War of Northern Aggression never happened and no Reconstruction followed, where the Southern economies had continued to grow unthwarted, where none of these social problems ever developed. It’s a nice dream.

I’ve discussed some of this earlier, but let me add some further thoughts. Ignoring the revisionist history and the mindless debate about republic vs democracy, I’m not sure I have a strong opinion about the case being made for secession. I understand the argument that the federal government supposedly didn’t have the right to infringe on the rights of Southerners. But Southerners didn’t have the right to infringe on the rights of blacks. And neither had the right to infringe on the rights of Native Americans. There was a whole lot of infringing of rights happening on all sides. The Civil War was obviously not beneficial to the South in the short term, but it’s not clear that the South would have been better off if they had been left alone to continue on with their immoral system of slavery. Yes, slavery may have ended on it’s own if given enough time, but then again maybe not. Slavery easily could have gone on for another century. Or slavery might never have ended at all, might have taken on new form to adapt to the changing economy. I just don’t get the argument for not dealing with an immoral situation in the seemingly naive hope that it would eventually resolve itself.

My own view is that the most fundamental differences between the North and South are greater than and probably prior to the Civil War. The Civil War was just an outward manifestation of a conflict that had to be dealt with, one way or another. I see this conflict to be primarily on the level of culture (and the demographic issues and patterns underlying culture: religion, nationality, etc). The broad outlines of our present cultural divisions began to show with the earliest colonists. Some people interpret Alexis de Tocqueville as having predicted the Civil War with his observations of American culture. The seeds of conflict can be seen right from the beginning. Allowing slavery to legally continue was a concession made in order to unite the country, but it was a pact made with the devil. If the founding fathers had lived up their moral responsibility, Lincoln wouldn’t have had to confront the results of their moral failure. The Civil War was a bad solution to an even worse problem.

– – –

I’ll now shift gears by returning to the original impetus of this whole line of thought.

I had a debate where I was arguing about the cultural difference between the North and South (the very debate that led me to do much of this research and analysis). The central basis of my argument was that differences in religion are a factor behind this difference in culture. I hadn’t looked at the data closely enough at that point and so my argument was partly just based on my own experience of having lived in both the North and the South (along with a general familiarity with diverse data about different states).

I was specifically considering my experience of Iowa and what I thought makes it distinct.

If I recall correctly, the first church in the Iowa territory was a Unitarian church. Unitarianism was popular among Northerners such as some people among the Revolutionary generation. It’s important to note that the difference between Unitarians and the Calvinist fundamentalists (who are mostly in the South) is that the former believe that all are saved and the latter believe only a select elite are saved (a massive cultural difference).

The other thing I recall from Iowa history is that Quakers helped build the some of the early public schools. This valuing of education was central to the Populist and Progressive eras in the Midwest. Education was how farmers and the working class fought back against those who sought to exploit them. I think related to this is how widespread Catholicisim is in Iowa. Like the Quakers, Catholics built schools everywhere they went.

The last observation is that Iowa is Amish country. The Amish are Anabaptists who have been a driving force behind the pacifist tradition in American history (and the Southern Scots-Irish Calvinists have a culture quite opposite of pacifism).

There is something about these religions (Unitarians, Quakers, Catholics, and Amish) that is uniquely Midwestern and, more generally, Northern. As I was looking at the above maps, I was wondering what maps of religions would look like and whether they would confirm my personal observations. The following are the maps I could find for all the different religions. But first let me show you a map of atheism just for additional context:

Unsurprisingly, rates of atheism are lowest in the South. It’s particularly unsurprising that rates of atheism are highest in the Northeast. On the more surprising side, rates of atheism are (relative to the South) higher in the Midwest and even higher in Mormon country. So, in relation to the other maps, even atheism shows a North/South divide.

Let me now show a general map with several different religious traditions shown:

Do you happen to notice a North/South divide? However, the religious divide is less clear at the most Southern points of the US. Catholicism has been in Texas for a long time (almost certainly longer than Protestantism) and the Cubans have brought Catholicism into Florida. Now here are some relevant examples of maps for individual religions:

(To see more of these religious maps, go here.)

There are particular religions that are mostly found in the North or mostly found in the South. I think this is very significant for the reason that religious differences are a strong indicator of cultural differences.

I was also thinking about this in terms of the those who fought for American independence and helped found the country (after all, they had a greater impact on American culture than almost any other group in American history). The founding fathers, many of whom were born in or lived in the Northeast, were religiously diverse including a fair number (depending how terms are defined and what evidence is used) who were Deists and Unitarians or who held beliefs that were in part Deist or Unitarian (for further reading, see here).

The Revolution of Belief

Deist-Orthodox Charts

The chart below explores the differences between orthodox Christian action and beliefs and Deist actions and beliefs as it specifically deals with eight of the Founding Fathers.

I chose to look at the years from around 1770 to 1800 as the defining years to establish the particular belief set up in these charts. A couple of these men had a change of heart from earlier years, and a few have been rumored to have yielded to more traditional feelings of religion very late in life.

The Chart Categories

Much of what is inferred about the founding fathers and their religious beliefs cannot always be taken from their letters. There are other ways above and beyond their letters that I have outlined in their church actions. Again, this informational content comes from the book, “Faiths of the Founding Fathers” by David Holmes, although these tables are entirely my creation.

From their actions, the following ideas are considered indicators of Christian orthodoxy, Deism, or some combination of both:

U.S. Presidents
 

Actions: Communion, Confirmation, Church Attendance, Vocabulary

  Communion Confirmation Attendance Vocabulary
Washington No No Yes Mostly Deist
Adams, John not applicable not applicable Yes Both
Jefferson No No Yes Deist
Madison No No Yes Deist
Monroe No No Yes Mostly Deist
Franklin No No Yes Deist
Paine, Thomas No No No Deist
Adams, Samuel not applicable not applicable Yes Orthodox

Beliefs: Resurrection, Christ-Divinity, Trinity, Miracles

  Resurrection Christ-Divinity Trinity Miracles
Washington ? ? ? ?
Adams, John Yes Yes No Yes
Jefferson No No No No
Madison ? ? No ?
Monroe ? ? ? ?
Franklin No No No ?
Paine, Thomas No No No No
Adams, Samuel Yes Yes Yes Yes

Significantly, of 204 founding fathers, apparently only one was explicitly and solely identified as a Calvinist (Fisher Ames). However, others could be included as Calvinist (depending on whether Calvinism is being defined as a specific religious denomination or a general religious affiliation; technically, Calvinist denominations include: Pilgrims, Puritans, Baptist, Presbyterian, Congregationalist and Reformed) or as partially Calvinist in terms of certain beliefs (such as the depravity of human nature; however, such a belief or similar beliefs were also common in other Christian denominations, e.g., Catholic original sin).

Most importantly, there are two distinctions to be made here. First, there is a vast difference between the Calvinism of the South and the Calvinism of the Northeast (the former being the main influence on the fundamentalist tradition and the latter being the denominations more common among the founding fathers). Second, Calvinism was popular in early America, especially among the general population, but it lost membership and influence over time. Some of the Founding Fathers such as Benjamin Franklin and John Adams had been raised in Calvinist homes, only to renounce Calvinism as adults.

Religious Affiliation of the Founding Fathers of the United States of America

Religious Affiliation
of U.S. Founding Fathers
# of
Founding
Fathers
% of
Founding
Fathers
Episcopalian/Anglican 88 54.7%
Presbyterian 30 18.6%
Congregationalist 27 16.8%
Quaker 7 4.3%
Dutch Reformed/German Reformed 6 3.7%
Lutheran 5 3.1%
Catholic 3 1.9%
Huguenot 3 1.9%
Unitarian 3 1.9%
Methodist 2 1.2%
Calvinist 1 0.6%
TOTAL 204  

 – – – 

Now I’ll show some maps showing other indicators of cultural differences.

Here is some info about American dialects.

It’s interesting to note that the region I live in is the very center of Standard American English. Looking at this small region, it seems very odd how the English spoken here became Standard American English. From what I’ve read, the English of this region spread during the Dust Bowl years when many farmers left the Midwest and went West. Also, I suspect that early national radio and tv stations intentionally chose people from around this area to be news anchors. It’s the approximate center of the country, after all. Maybe this central location makes the dialect linguistically closer to and more easily understood by speakers of all other dialects. Also, the region of Standard American English is part of the larger regional dialect known as the Midland American English, specifically North Midland. The lower edge of the Midland region approximates the border between free states and slave states.

American English Dialects

And, of course, dialects are based in ancestry. Those concentrated in the South are Hispanic, African-American, and Scots-Irish. I’d also add the Cavaliers (the aristocrats and loyal Royalists) from Southern England who settled Virginia (which, along with the Scots-Irish and two other British immigrant groups, is discussed in the book Albion’s Seed).

File:Census-2000-Data-Top-US-Ancestries-by-County.svg

English & German

File:English1346.gifFile:German1346.gif

Irish & French

File:Irish1346.gifFile:French1346.gif

Norwegian & Swedish

File:Norwegian1346.gifFile:Swedish1346.gif

Asian & Hispanic

Scots-Irish & African-American

File:Scotch irish1346.gif

File:USA 2000 black density.png

Two details interest me about the Scots-Irish.

First, there is a large clump of Scots-Irish in Texas (not so surprising) and a large clump in Southern California (more surprising). One thing that is mentioned in something I was reading (quoted below) is that the Scots-Irish and Quakers were two major groups pushing the Western expansion. It’s partly for this reason that the conflicting worldviews of these two groups have been central to what American society has become.

Second (and more relevant to my analyis), there is concentration of Scots-Irish around South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia. This general area is part of Appalachia which also extends into some Northern States (such as Pennsylvania which is traditional Quaker territory, much different than Southern Appalachia).

White Voters, Obama and Appalachia

First, let’s define how we’ll be using “Appalachia.”  In the 1960’s, one out of three people in Appalachia   lived poverty, per capita income was 23% lower than the national average, and the region was rapidly losing population.  In 1963 the Appalachian Regional Commission was created by Congress and President Kennedy to address the problems in the area highlighted in the map.  Since the 1960’s counties near Atlanta, Huntsville AL and Pittsburgh have become wealthier much more developed.  But much of the region remains well below national standards in most measures of economic and social well-being.

The ethnic and cultural character of this part of the country has been more static since the 19th century than anyplace in America.  Outside of some of the new growth areas north of Atlanta or Huntsville, or in some of the college towns, most of the people in Appalachia trace their heritage back to immigrants from the borderlands of Northern Britain who began settling the region over 200 years ago.  Outside of the Northern part of Appalachia—Pennsylvania in particular—relatively few Eastern or Southern Europeans from the great waves of immigration that started in the 1880’s have moved in to the area.  It’s the most homogeneous region in America.  The region is home to few Catholics, and is heavily Baptist and Methodist.

In the 19th century, migrants from Appalachia moved west.  People from Appalachia settled and put their stamp on the Ozark region of Missouri and Arkansas, on Okalahoma and the southern Plains, on North Texas, and eventually they were a big part of the initial growth of Southern California.

This same general region of and around Appalachia, interestingly, is also where there are concentrated those who identify simply as ‘Americans’. I find that amusing. It could be that these are just poor Americans who are unaware of their own ancestry and so simply identify as American. But I suspect it’s, at least, partly a cultural identity. The Scots-Irish are very ethnocentric and I’m willing to bet that this is the origin of conservative oft-stated belief that they are ‘Real Americans’. Why would conservatives want to claim their own European ancestry when they are always criticizing Europeans as socialists?

File:American1346.gif

I was recently reading Deer Hunting with Jesus by Joe Bageant. It gave me great insight into the Scots-Irish culture. Bageant explained it in terms of a specific Calvinist tradition (Kindle location 2357):

“Since arriving in America during the first seventy-five years of the eighteenth century, Calvinist Ulster Scots have constituted a parallel culture to that of enlightened Yankee liberals. Scots-Irish Calvinist values all but guarantee anger and desire for vengeance against what is perceived as elite authority: college-educated secular people who run the schools, the media, and the courts and don’t seem to mind if their preacher is a queer. One Calvinist premise has always dominated: The word of God supersedes any and all government authority. Period. That same flaming brand of Calvinism brought here by the Ulster Scots launched American Christian fundamentalism. Now it threatens to breach the separation of church and state. Worse yet, its most vehement elements push for a nuclear holy war.”

This culture formed much of Southern tradition, especially the tradition of fundamentalism. These Scots-Irish weren’t the plantation owners. In fact, they were quite the opposite in being poor. But in modern America it’s the Scots-Irish culture that has come to define the South (and, more broadly, to add a distinct flavor to the American identity): kinship affiliation, family values, ethnocentric pride, nationalism, xenophobia, fundamentalism, working class identity, lack of prudishness, machismo, heavy drinking, gun rights, property rights, territorialism, libertarian values of autonomy, anti-intellectualism, anti-elitism, etc. The Scots-Irish were the complete opposite of the Puritans who first settled the Northeast, even though both were Calvinist. Talk about cultural differences.

 – – – 

The following is a very detailed article analyzing a particular set of British immigrants. The author explains much about the Scots-Irish and the historical reasons for their culture.

Yo, Pundits! Here’s What’s Up With the Republicans
By Geenius at Wrok

We have two dominant political parties. Each of those parties is built upon two of the four primary waves of migration from Britain that defined America in its earliest years. Historian David Hackett Fischer, in his book Albion’s Seed: Four British Folkways in America, identifies these waves as:

  • Puritans, who settled in New England;
  • Cavaliers, who settled in Virginia;
  • Quakers, who settled in the Delaware River Valley; and
  • Borderers, who settled in the “backcountry,” as Appalachia and the Highland South were termed back then.

These four waves weren’t the only immigrants to bring their cultures to America — there were also Dutch colonists and Jews in the Hudson River Valley, French colonists in Louisiana and Maine, Catholics in Maryland and Huguenots in South Carolina — but they came to dominate American culture and politics, for two reasons. First, they held not just local power but regional power. Second, they migrated westward.

Through the 18th and early 19th centuries, politics revolved on a Puritan–Cavalier axis. The Civil War was fought, essentially, between Puritan abolitionists and Cavalier slaveholders. But in the late 19th century, the descendants of Quakers and Borderers settled the West, while the descendants of Puritans and Cavaliers mostly stayed east of the Mississippi River. Consequently, the balance of power began to shift, and the four cultures found themselves on more equal footing. Today, if anything, the Quaker and Borderer strains in our culture and politics are stronger nationwide than the Puritan and Cavalier strains. Since the political realignment of the 1960s, we have essentially had a Northern Party (the Quaker–Puritan Democrats) and a Southern Party (the Borderer–Cavalier Republicans), with the Great Plains and the Mountain West leaning toward the Republicans until just recently.

[ . . . ] Conflicts between the newly arrived Borderers and the Quakers who resided around the Borderers’ primary ports of entry, Philadelphia and Newcastle, Del., encouraged the Borderers to move upland into the Appalachian mountain range and south into Maryland, Virginia and the Carolinas, then across what was then the “Southwest” — Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama and Mississippi. In the 19th century, they crossed the Mississippi River and migrated into Missouri, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Texas. These areas were already populated by proud and fierce Native American nations that tried to fight off the new settlers, creating a new environment of perpetual strife to replace the one the borderers left behind in Britain.

When looked at closely, aspects of this culture can appear hypocritical. For example, Southern states are socially conservative and yet rate very poorly on living up to socially conservative values.

The Borderers also displayed a degree of sexual freedom that appalled Americans of other cultures, and premarital sex and pregnancy were rampant.

Is this where the “Republican = Borderer” equation breaks down? True, no one can reasonably point to the Republican Party as the “pro–promiscuity and early pregnancy party.” But here’s an interesting fact: For all the Republicans’ family-values talk, the Highland South remains the region of the country where teen pregnancy rates are highest. In fact, when you think about it, it makes perfect sense: If you look around you and see social disorder everywhere, of course you’re going to panic and look to someone to save you from it. (If you live in another part of the country and don’t see that degree of social disorder, of course, you’ll wonder what all the fuss is about.) It’s also telling that, for all the talk of abstinence and purity pledges and so forth, when teen pregnancy happens under one’s own roof, suddenly it’s no longer a threat to the social order but rather a chance to show your love and forgiveness!

Relevant to my own thoughts, the author discusses how the Republican Party has incorporated much of the cultural worldview that came from the Scots-Irish. What is particularly relevant is how this culture originated in poverty and wealth disparity. Along with this, the author explains why property rights are prioritized over human rights.

Today’s Republican Party tolerates inequality of wealth because Borderers have historically experienced more of it than any other culture in America. Despite the myth of the meritocratic, sweat-of-one’s-brow frontier, the backcountry was characterized by “a system of landholding characterized by a large landless underclass of tenants and squatters, a middle class that was small by comparison with other colonies, and a few very rich landlords,” Fischer writes.

With some exceptions, landed wealth was always highly concentrated throughout the Southern highlands, as it would be in the lower Mississippi Valley, Texas and the far Southwest. Inequality was greater in the backcountry and the Southern highlands than in any other rural region of the United States. (749)

Violence has pervaded Borderer life for literally a thousand years. Rather than place their trust in the political systems that exploited them, Borderers developed their own system of retributive justice and vigilantism, one which punished property crimes far more severely than crimes against people: a rustler might be hanged, while the rapist of a young girl might be fined a shilling (768). Here we see the roots of American “gun culture,” the attitude that shooting trespassers is acceptable and the prioritization of property rights over civil liberties. We also see a tolerance of violent acts in general, from domestic violence to abortion-clinic murders to shooting wolves from airplanes.
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This kind of violence seems strange. The data shows the violence concentrated in Southern states, but why? How does a culture of violence develop in the first place? Is it just violence perpetuating violence? Or is there something specific about a culture that predisposes people to violence?

The Scots-Irish Vote

Richard Nisbett and Dov Cohen, psychology professors at the University of Michigan and University of Illinois, conducted an in-depth study in the 1990s examining what they dubbed the “Culture of Honor” prevalent in the South. In trying to find out why violence rates were significantly higher in the South, they discovered that white southerners tended to be much more likely to resort to violence to defend their property or honor than whites in other parts of the country. Their studies controlled for poverty rates throughout the region, as well as for other factors including weather (warmer areas tend to be more violent) and the legacy of slavery (areas with fewer blacks actually experienced more violence amongst whites, they found). This trend was not nearly as strong in the larger, more metropolitan cities of the South but was especially prevalent in the small, more isolated and culturally distinct small cities and towns throughout Appalachia and the rural South. These are the areas where the Hatfields and McCoys, the Turners and Howards (all Scots-Irish) feuded for years. The psychologists then ran a series of experiments where they antagonized both southerners and northerners, and found that southerners were much more prone to violence when slighted.

Nisbett argues that many of the cultural traits of the modern South can be traced back to the heritage of the population’s descendants. “The Scots-Irish were a herding people, while people from the north [of the U.S.] were English, German and Dutch farmers. Herding people are tough guys all over the world, and they are that because they have to establish that you can’t trifle with them, and if you don’t do that then you feel like you’re at risk for losing your entire wealth, which is your herd. This creates a culture of honor, and the Scots-Irish are very much a culture of honor, and they carried that with them from the Deep South to the Mountain South, and then out through the western plains.”

According to Nisbett, the Scots-Irish were a warlike people distrustful of a powerful central government, a result of the herder mentality as well as centuries of fighting, first against the English and Irish, then against Native Americans, then against the Yankees. As he points out, “The Scots-Irish are very much overrepresented in the military … and you find them there because they’re a fighting people.”

I find myself fascinated with the Scots-Irish. They have such a distinctive culture which has had an immense influence on American society. America would not be the country we know, good and bad, without the Scots-Irish. Having lived in the South, I’m familiar with how much of the culture is obviously Scots-Irish.

However, the South wasn’t initially and primarily defined by Scots-Irish. The Scots-Irish were escaping a class-based society, but they immigrated into regions (e.g., Virginia Territory) where the Cavaliers had settled. One of the most obvious elements of Cavalier society was that it was class-based. They were the aristocrats who initially brought along indentured servants and later introduced the large African-American slave population. You’d think the Scots-Irish would hate this, but it was just like their homeland and the Scots-Irish seemingly just reinforced this class-consciousness. The Scots-Irish apparently prefer to have an elite that they can hate and maybe secretly admire. For all their poverty, the Scots-Irish respect the rights of property owners like almost nothing else… and the Cavaliers had plenty of property. The Cavaliers and Scots-Irish were a match made in Heaven.

 – – –

Let me share some of my own anecdotal evidence here.

While living in South Carolina, my family was upper middle class. We had a neighbor lady who was an authentic Southern Belle, although she had married below her class. Still, she lived the life of an aristocrat. She didn’t work a job. She didn’t even do her own housework or yardwork. She had a personal servant (black, of course) who took care of her every need. This lady was no longer wealthy, but she was still living the life of wealth that she had grown accustomed to from her youth.

This Southern Belle wasn’t unusual. The way she lived her life was the norm for many upper class and upper middle class Southerners. In the South, only the working class (and Yankee transplants) do all or most of their own yard work. Why would a person with money dirty their fingers when there is cheap black labor?

My mom grew up a working class Midwesterner and she taught me the mentality of a working class Midwesterner. Such a mentality is the complete opposite of the mentality of Southern aristocracy. The Midwest doesn’t have an aristocracy, no history of indentured servitude, no history of slavery, no history of plantations, no history of Cavaliers. In the Midwest, it is a point of pride to do one’s own work. In the Midwest, it’s looked down upon for one to act superior to other in one’s community. Midwesterners don’t want to stand out. Midwesterners don’t hate the elite in the way the Scots-Irish do, but even so Midwesterners have little desire to become the elite. There is an informal neighborliness about Midwestern culture.

I should point that, since I went to public schools, I knew a variety of people while living in South Carolina. My best friend in school was your traditional redneck (a term I use endearingly). I don’t know his specific ancestry, but like most rednecks he was obviously a part of the Scots-Irish culture. Some Southern people can be quite friendly as well. The difference is that there is an element of formality that comes from traditional class and race distinctions. In the South, people tend to keep to their own group. The poor and rich, the blacks and the whites tend to not mingle as much, although interestingly a history of plantation slave culture has forced a closer proximity that might surprise some Northerners (the division between people tends to be less about physical distance and more about social distance). Desegregation has forced some more extensive intermingling, but culture persists (with the help of private schools).

I’ve often tried to pinpoint a major distinction between (my experience of) the North and (my experience of) the South. The defining factor of the Midwest seems to be community (community as extended family). If you move into a community, you are a member of that community. It’s not unusual for neighbors and welcome wagons to immediately welcome someone into the community (often bringing along baked goods). The defining factor of the South seems to be family (family as the definition of community). Kinship loyalty is strong (clan mentality of the Scots-Irish?). Southerners don’t seem to warm up to strangers as quickly. However, once a person is accepted, they are treated as part of the family.

Let me use another example to clarify this difference. In the Midwest, when someone invites you over for coffee, they more often literally mean it. Genuine neighborliness is a Midwestern tradition. Midwesterners like to help each other. In the past, this might have meant raising a barn together. Today, this often means something as simple as shoveling your neighbors sidewalk. In the South, when someone invites you over for coffee (or iced tea), they may not literally want you to come over for a visit. The Southern Belle I mentioned invited my mom over for coffee when we first moved into the neighborhood, but it immediately became apparent that the invitation was merely a formality. Of course, this dynamic is a bit different with working class Southerners (i.e., Scots-Irish rednecks) who are more informal, although I don’t think they are informal to the same extent or in the same way as seen in the Midwest.

(I admit that I’m less confident about my own observations because it can be dangerous to generalize based on anecdotal evidence. The reason I’m writing this post is to see if my personal observations can be confirmed by the data. I think they are confirmed to some extent, but I’m still not entirely sure.)

 – – – 

This brings me to the cultures of two other early immigrant groups that mostly settled in the North: Puritans and Quakers.

ALBION’S SEED – DAVID HACKETT FISCHER

Puritans (Virginia)

So important was the idea of a covenanted family in Massachusetts that everyone was compelled by law to live in family groups. The provinces of Conneticut and Plymouth forbade any single person to “live of himself.” These laws were enforced. In 1668 the court of Middlesex County systematically searched its towns for single persons and placed them in families. This custom was not invented in New England. It had long been practiced in East Anglia.

[ . . . ] Literacy was higher in New England than in any other part of British America… The zeal for learning and literacy in New England was not invented in America. The proportion of men and women in the Bay Colony who could sign their own names was almost exactly the same as yeomen and their wives in eastern England.

Quakers (The Deleware)

Persecution played a major part in driving Quakers to America, but it was never the leading cause. The primary religious goals of the Friends’ migration were positive rather than negative. An historian observes that the founders of the Delaware colonies wishes “to show Quakerism at work, freed from hampering conditions.”

At the center of Quaker belief was a God of Love and Light whose benevolent spirit harmonized the universe. The Puritans worshipped a very different deity — one who was equally capable of love and wrath — a dark, mysterious power who could be terrifying in his anger and inscrutability. Anglicans, on the other hand, knelt before a great and noble Pantocrator who ruled firmly but fairly over the hierarchy of his creatures.

[ . . . ] On the subject of gender, the Quakers had a saying: “In souls there is no sex.” This epigram captured one of the deepest differences between the founders of the Delaware colonies and their neighbors to the north and south. Of all the English-speaking people in the 17th century, the Quakers moved farthest toward the idea of equality between the sexes.

Acts of violence against Quaker women arose in part from their headlong challenge to an entire system of gender relations. In the 17th century, there mere appearance of a female preacher was enough to start a riot. As late as 1763 the spectacle of “she-preaching” seemed perverse and unnatural to many Englishmen

[ . . . ] Quakers refused to touch foods that were tainted by social evil. Some did not use sugar because it had been grown by slave labor. Others banned salt from their tables, because it bore taxes which paid for military campaigns.

Liberty of conscience was one of a large family of personal freedoms which Quakers extended equally to other. William Penn recognized three secular “rights of an Englishman”: first, “a right and title to your own lives, liberties and estates; second, representative government; third, trial by jury.” In Pennsylvania, these liberties went far beyond those of Massachusetts, Virginia and old England itself… The laws of Pennsylvania also guaranteed the right of every freeman to a speedy trial, to a jury chosen by lot in criminal cases, and to the same privileges of witnesses and counsel as the prosecution. These ideas went far beyond prevailing practices in England and America.

Quakers genuinely believed that every liberty demanded for oneself should also be extended to others.

The Quakers were among the most radical libertarians of their age, but they were not anarchists. Penn himself wrote in his ‘Frame of Government’ that “liberty without obedience is confusion, and obedience without liberty is slavery.” Penn instructed his governor to “rule the meek meekly, and those that will not be ruled, rule with authority.”

The British, of course, weren’t the only immigrants to have such a major impact. Later in history, the German and Irish mostly immigrated to the Northern states (by the way, one side of my family are of German ancestry and settled in Indiana). The following map is a screenshot (go here to see the interactive map) of German immigration in 1900 (the Irish immigration looks similar).

German Immigrants

Irish and German Immigration

In the middle half of the nineteenth century, more than one-half of the population of IRELAND emigrated to the United States. So did an equal number of GERMANS.

[ . . . ] Impoverished, the Irish could not buy property. Instead, they congregated in the cities where they landed, almost all in the northeastern United States. Today, Ireland has just half the population it did in the early 1840s. There are now more Irish Americans than there are Irish nationals.

In the decade from 1845 to 1855, more than a million Germans fled to the United States to escape economic hardship. They also sought to escape the political unrest caused by riots, rebellion and eventually a revolution in 1848. The Germans had little choice — few other places besides the United States allowed German immigration. Unlike the Irish, many Germans had enough money to journey to the Midwest in search of farmland and work. The largest settlements of Germans were in New York City, Baltimore, Cincinnati, St. Louis and Milwaukee.

With the vast numbers of German and Irish coming to America, hostility to them erupted. Part of the reason for the opposition was religious. All of the Irish and many of the Germans were Roman Catholic. Part of the opposition was political. Most immigrants living in cities became Democrats because the party focused on the needs of commoners.

I’ve thought about the Catholic influence more in recent years. When I’ve traveled in rural Iowa, I was always amazed by how widespread is Catholicism. I would suspect most people (or, at least, most non-Midwesterners) don’t think of Catholicism when they think of the small farming towns in the Midwest.

There are two factors that distinguish Catholicism, especially from Southern fundamentalism.

First, Catholics are extremely community-oriented. Catholic culture seems to have been very beneficial to small farming towns that were isolated and so required close-knit communities. The Catholic Church provided a strong social framework with a strong social safety net. Catholics have their own schools, their own orphanages, etc.

Second, Catholics are more suspicious of unregulated capitalism. Partly this is just because big business is a threat to religious authority. Also, the amorality of modern capitalism doesn’t fit well into the traditional Catholic worldview. These might be reasons why labor unions have high membership in areas where Catholicism has high membership. An example of this is Michael Moore who grew up in a working class family that was both Catholic and involved in union activism. Moore is still an active Catholic and claims that Jesus’ message of social justice is what motivates all of his work.

Social justice is a key element which ties together the factors of community-oriented and suspicion of unregulated capitalism. It’s not surprising that Catholicism has been central to the social justice movement in South and Central America. And it probably shouldn’t be surprising that Populism and Progressivism were particularly strong in the Midwest and North. It should be noted, though, that Populism and Progressivism also had some appeal to the Scots-Irish with their mistrust of monied elites. Populism, in particular, was able to bridge the Northern and Southern divide like no other movement since. Still, in reading about Populism and Progressivism, I’ve been amazed at how much of a role the Midwest played. Many of the policies that came out of that era such as Social Security were grounded in Midwestern ideas and values. As explained in What’s the Matter with Kansas? by Thomas Frank (Kindle location 251):

Certain parts of the Midwest were once so reliably leftist that the historian Walter Prescott Webb, in his classic 1931 history of the region, pointed to its persistent radicalism as one of the “Mysteries of the Great Plains.” Today the mystery is only heightened; it seems inconceivable that the Midwest was ever thought of as a “radical” place, as anything but the land of the bland, the easy snoozing flyover. Readers in the thirties, on the other hand, would have known instantly what Webb was talking about, since so many of the great political upheavals of their part of the twentieth century were launched from the territory west of the Ohio River. The region as they knew it was what gave the country Socialists like Eugene Debs, fiery progressives like Robert La Follette, and practical unionists like Walter Reuther; it spawned the anarchist IWW and the coldly calculating UAW; and it was periodically convulsed in gargantuan and often bloody industrial disputes. They might even have known that there were once Socialist newspapers in Kansas and Socialist voters in Oklahoma and Socialist mayors in Milwaukee, and that there were radical farmers across the region forever enlisting in militant agrarian organizations with names like the Farmers’ Alliance, or the Farmer-Labor Party, or the Non-Partisan League, or the Farm Holiday Association. And they would surely have been aware that Social Security, the basic element of the liberal welfare state, was largely a product of the midwestern mind.

– – –

Some people argue that the main difference about the South is simply that more blacks live there. Southern conservatives, of course, would love to be able to blame all the problems of the South on blacks. High rates of poverty, wealth disparity, high school drop outs, STDs, teen pregnancy. Et Cetera. All the blacks fault? That is giving blacks a lot of credit for having so much powerful influence on Southern society. Yes, blacks have higher rates of many social problems. They were, after all, enslaved and oppressed for most of American history. To this day, the data shows that racial prejudice continues to negatively impact the lives of blacks… which I have several posts about:

African-Americans didn’t choose to become slaves and be forced into poverty. It’s rather disingenuous to claim that it’s all their fault for supposedly having ‘inferior’ genetics. It’s also disingenuous to claim their culture is ‘inferior’ after centuries of white Americans destroying their culture. Even if their destroyed culture is judged inferior (by the Western standards of white Americans), it would be unfair and cruel to blame it all on them. Anyway, that misses the point that there is something distinctively different about all of Southern culture. African-Americans didn’t dominate Southern society for centuries. The society that exists in the South was created mostly by white people.

Let me bring in the context of IQ because it’s such a politically incorrect topic. The white supremacists love IQ because African-Americans on average have lower IQs. The white supremacists argue that this is genetic, but there is no conclusive evidence for this hypothesis and much evidence against it. For example, the IQs of all children tend to be more similar and significant IQ differences are mostly seen in later education. The most obvious and simplest explanation is poverty. There are many factors related to poverty that are known to impact brain/cognitive development and hence IQ: pollution (such as lead poisoning from older houses), malnutrition (especially during pregnancy and early childhood), social stress, lack of educational resources, etc.

Here is a map showing the IQ differences in America with, once again, the same North/South divide (with the exception of West Virginia with its Scots-Irish population). The source of the map was using it apparently to make an argument for racism/racialism:

“Finally, it can be viewed in relationship to race. Alone, the racial composition of a state‘explains’ 72% of that state’s estimated IQ, with the two correlating at a robust .85. Expenditures per student, teacher salaries, and classroom size combined explain a paltry 15%. Considered independently, they are statistically insignificant and explain virtually nothing.”

There are different measures of IQ. This map is measuring math and science test scores. There does seem to be a correlation between ethnic diversity and lower average IQ (such as with California and the Southern states), although the ethnically diverse Texas isn’t dissimilar to some Northern states.

This map, however, makes the issue of race seem simpler than it actually is. When looking at other maps of IQ data, black populations in some Northern states have on average higher IQs than black populations in Southern states. And, even more significantly, white populations in many Northern states have on average higher IQs than white populations in Southern states (excluding Texas). So, doing comparisons just within single races, there are IQ differences that show a North/South divide for both black and white populations. However, the difference is most clear for white populations. This can only be explained, as far as I can tell, by poverty being the central factor in IQ differences. Blacks experience higher rates than whites of poverty in all states, but whites mostly just experience high rates of poverty in the South.

It seems the maps of IQ are essentially just another way of mapping poverty. So, why does poverty show a North/South divide? I’d also include in this question the issue of wealth disparity which also shows a North/South divide:

The 10 Most (and Least) Tolerant States in America

California and Texas are good ways of disentangling the poverty from wealth disparity. Both are wealthy states with high wealth disparity which causes them to measure positively on some indicators and measure negatively on other indicators. However, excluding Texas, most Southern states are both poor and have high wealth disparity. Many Northern states have both wealth and low wealth disparity, but there are states like Iowa which are relatively poor and yet have low wealth disparity. In a developed nation like the US, wealth disparity rather than poverty seems to be the more important indicator of societal health (rates of high school drop outs, bullying, STDs, teen pregnancy, etc).

I extend this argument on IQ in another post:

Here are two maps related to IQ. What is measured in these maps are such things as people with Bachelors degrees or more. The Creative Class, as defined and measured by Richard Florida, is mostly concentrated in the Northeast.

Creative Class & Human Capital

Fig: 7.2: The Creative Class MapFig: 6.1: The Human Capital Map

Also, these maps are showing the liberal hotspots which somewhat correlate to population density. There are two reasons for this correlation. Well educated people tend to be more liberal and areas of concentrated populations such as metropolises tend to be more liberal (with rural sparsely populated areas tending to more conservative). Partly, liberals move to such areas for the opportunities and for being near those of a similar mindset.

It’s not clear that Northerners are smarter because of some inherent reason such as culture or whether it’s that some reason such as good schools attracts smarter people to Northern cities. Likewise, it’s not clear whether liberals are inherently smarter or if being intellectually encouraged at a young age naturally leads to a liberal mindset. Either way, a correlation exists.

Beyond Red vs. Blue
Pew Research Center 

[Liberals are the] most highly educated group (49% have a college degree or more)

Why Liberals and Atheists Are More Intelligent
Satoshi Kanazawa

The analyses of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Study 1) and the General Social Surveys (Study 2) show that adolescent and adult intelligence significantly increases adult liberalism, atheism, and mens (but not womens) value on sexual exclusivity.

Conservatism and cognitive ability
Lazar Stankov

Conservatism and cognitive ability are negatively correlated. The evidence is based on 1254 community college students and 1600 foreign students seeking entry to United States’ universities. At the individual level of analysis, conservatism scores correlate negatively with SAT, Vocabulary, and Analogy test scores. At the national level of analysis, conservatism scores correlate negatively with measures of education (e.g., gross enrollment at primary, secondary, and tertiary levels) and performance on mathematics and reading assessments from the PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) project. They also correlate with components of the Failed States Index and several other measures of economic and political development of nations. Conservatism scores have higher correlations with economic and political measures than estimated IQ scores.

College Faculties A Most Liberal Lot, Study Finds
By Howard Kurtz

By their own description, 72 percent of those teaching at American universities and colleges are liberal and 15 percent are conservative, says the study being published this week. The imbalance is almost as striking in partisan terms, with 50 percent of the faculty members surveyed identifying themselves as Democrats and 11 percent as Republicans.

The disparity is even more pronounced at the most elite schools, where, according to the study, 87 percent of faculty are liberal and 13 percent are conservative.

“What’s most striking is how few conservatives there are in any field,” said Robert Lichter, a professor at George Mason University and a co-author of the study. “There was no field we studied in which there were more conservatives than liberals or more Republicans than Democrats. It’s a very homogenous environment, not just in the places you’d expect to be dominated by liberals.”

Public Praises Science; Scientists Fault Public, Media
Pew Research Center 

– – –

All of this research and analysis was mostly me trying to confirm suspicions I had about my experiences of having lived in both the North and South. It seems to me that culture is centrally important in understanding this difference. To my mind, it’s not surprising that blacks and Southerners have been negatively impacted by the poverty caused by the history of a slave society with it’s class-based culture. Also, to my mind, there is a massive cultural difference between Southern fundamentalism and Northern religious traditions (Unitarians, Amish, Quakers, Mennonites, etc). This seems obvious to me, although it doesn’t seem obvious to others.

Despite having spent many years in the South when younger, I’ve always identifed as a Midwesterner. I get tired that many people think that the rural Midwest is just a watered-down version of the fundamentalist South. My experience of other Midwestern states is more limited, but I can state with certainty that moderate Iowans are far from having a culture similar to the Southern Scots-Irish. Iowa, even though not wealthy, measures very well on most indicators. Most Northern states, whether wealthy or not, measure well on most indicators. That seems like very important data to me. It’s obvious that Northern states are doing something very much right. And, I would argue, that it seems obvious that Southern states have much room for improvement. Southern states like to threaten secession, but no one takes these threats seriously. Many Northerners would be perfectly fine if Southerners seceded. Southern states, on average, take more in benefits from the federal government than they give in federal taxes (and vice versa for most Northern states). In short, Southern states are a financial drag on the entire country.

Here are two maps showing the correlation between taxation differences and voting differences:

The red state ripoff

Over at the Fourth Branch, they’ve got a nice map showing the states that receive more than a dollar back for every dollar they pay in taxes (which they’ve coded red), and the states that receive less than a dollar back for every dollar they pay in taxes (which they’ve coded blue). Just to repeat: Red states are getting a good deal, and blue states a bad one. Here’s the map:

mapstatestaxes.gif

Remind you of anything?

Final2008USPresidentialElectionMap.jpg

Fourth Branch comments:

There is a very strong correlation, then, between a state voting for Republicans and receiving more in federal spending than its residents pay to the federal government in taxes (the rust belt and Texas being notable exceptions). In essence, those in blue states are subsidizing those in red states. Both red and blue states appear to be acting politically in opposition to their economic interests. Blue states are voting for candidates who are likely to continue the policies of red state subsidization while red states are voting for candidates who profess a desire to reduce federal spending (and presumably red state subsidization).

As an egalitarian liberal who is far from being rich, I actually don’t mind financially helping poor people in states with high wealth disparity. God knows that rich conservatives in those states aren’t likely to offer much assistance to the poor in their own communities (because it goes against their ideology of a hierachical ‘meritocricy’). There is something that makes sense to me which is, for some reason, beyond the grasp of many conservatives. I’ve written many posts about wealth disparity and the data confirms the liberal theory of egalitarianism (or at least aspects of it), the theory being that helping others is to help oneself, that to help all people individually is to help all of society collectively.

For example, obesity rates (in developed countries) are correlated to both poverty and high wealth disparity (whereas, in developing countries, obesity and poverty are negatively correlated). So, societies with high wealth disparity tend to have higher obesity rates and societies with low wealth disparity tend to have lower obesity rates. But the real interesting part is that even wealthy people have higher obesity rates in societies with high wealth disparity. The explanation is that high wealth disparity societies tend to be more stressful places to live with higher rates of violence, bullying and social conflict. All of this stress impacts the poor and wealthy alike. The body responds, as a survival mechanism, to stress by increasing fat reserves. This is particularly true for babies whose mothers experienced high rates of stress while pregnant, in which case the body becomes permanently set at fat reserve mode.

I came across another example offering support for egalitarianism. Some conservatives like to point out the fact that gays have higher rates of suicide, implying homosexuality is unnatural and inferior. But, of course, it’s rather convenient for conservatives to ignore their own complicity. A study showed that “Suicide attempts by gay teens – and even straight kids – are more common in politically conservative areas where schools don’t have programs supporting gay rights”. When one group is singled out and treated unequally, all people in that social environment will suffer the consequences.

The study relied on teens’ self-reporting suicide attempts within the previous year. Roughly 20 percent of gay, lesbian and bisexual teens said they had made an attempt, versus 4 percent of straight kids.

The study’s social index rated counties on five measures: prevalence of same-sex couples; registered Democratic voters; liberal views; schools with gay-straight alliances; schools with policies against bullying gay students; and schools with antidiscrimination policies that included sexual orientation.

Gay, lesbian and bisexual teens living in counties with the lowest social index scores were 20 percent more likely to have attempted suicide than gays in counties with the highest index scores. Overall, about 25 percent of gay teens in low-scoring counties had attempted suicide, versus 20 percent of gay teens in high-scoring counties.

Among straight teens, suicide attempts were 9 percent more common in low-scoring counties. There were 1,584 total suicide attempts – 304 of those among gays, lesbians and bisexuals.

 – – – 

In the discussion that motivated much of my thinking, one person was arguing against my arguing for the cultural significance of this North/South divide. She was playing the politically correct card of multiculturalism. Every culture is different, but it’s not about one culture being better than another. We just all need to get along. I’m fine with that argument as far as it goes. Still, the facts are the facts… whether or not they’re politically correct.

Anyway, I found it ironic that she was using a socially liberal argument to defend the socially conservative South. It’s the social conservatives who are always making the argument for cultural superiority (often in tandem with the argument that they are the “Real Americans”): American culture is superior to the rest of the world (especially socialist Europe), white culture is superior to black culture, etc. When social conservatives stop making this argument for cultural superiority, I’ll stop pointing out that socially liberal Northern culture is superior based on many different factors. Of course, I don’t actually think so simplisitically. As a liberal, I realize and accept that many cultural differences are just differences. But I’m also intellectually honest in admitting that not all cultures are equal on all measures.

Let me summarize. The North/South divide includes all of the following: ancestry, dialects, religion, poverty, wealth disparity, violent crime, STDs, teen pregnancy, IQ, education level, and on and on. Not all states perfectly fit this divide, but most of them do. The divide is stark and the pattern holds across diverse data. This North/South divide has existed at least since the Civil War and quite likely goes back to when the earliest immigrants arrived. I don’t claim to fully understand all of the possible reasons for this divide, but the correlations are obvious. Also, much of this data has been correlated in other countries as well:

The key indicator seems to be wealth disparity. Unsurprisingly, conservative ideology promotes the acceptance of wealth disparity and liberal ideology promotes the challenging of wealth disparity. Does the difference in ideology cause the difference in wealth disparity? Or vice versa? I don’t know. What I do know is that this question is at the heart of the problems Americans are dealing with. Wealth disparity has been growing in recent decades during which conservative ideology predominated. Mere coincidence? I don’t think so.

– – –

Nonetheless, there are always a lot of diverse factors underlying the diverse data. My conclusions, therefore, are tentative.

For example, consider the high rates of violence in the South. What is the cause?

It’s true that, in general, warmer climates (i.e., Southern regions in the Northern Hemisphere) tend to have higher rates of violence. I guess high levels of heat tend to make people irritable and feisty.

Even so, the research done by Richard Nisbett and Dov Cohen (mentioned above in some of the quoted material) shows that the violence in the Southern US is caused by factors besides just irritatingly hot climate. I still wonder about this. I imagine other factors similar to climate could also have an impact on culture. I did notice that many Northern Europeans immigrated to the Northern US. It seems there might be a correlation of factors involved in why particular people develop particular cultures in particular regions and why particular people with particular cultures are attracted to particular regions.

It’s always easier to point out correlations than to determine causations. Nisbett’s and Cohen’s research is a good example of this.

A Matter of Respect
James D. Wright

In sum, Nisbett and Cohen make a strong case that the South is truly (not just accidentally) distinctive in its attitudes and behaviors concerning violence. Unfortunately, that does not necessarily tell us very much, if anything, about the ultimate source of the distinction. To say that the observed patterns reflect a generalized “culture of honor” restates but does not explain those patterns. If there is, indeed, a culture of honor in the South that lends itself to violence, where did it come from? And why is it uniquely Southern? Here Culture of Honor is rather thin and unpersuasive: “We believe that the southern culture of honor derives from the herding economy brought to the region by the earliest settlers and practiced by them for many decades thereafter.” Elsewhere the authors refer to the Scotch-Irish origins of the early South, the hard-scrabble herding economy of the era, and the “worldwide” association between herding economies and “concerns about honor and readiness to commit violence to conserve it.”

Nisbett and Cohen call this argument “the weakest part of our thesis,” with good reason. The implication is that Yankees of Scotch-Irish origins would be just as prone to violence as Southerners, which is not likely to be the case. This is not to suggest that the herding thesis is wrong, only that it seems rather a stretch as argued here. One would like to see evidence on the origins of the Southern culture of violence that is as persuasive as the evidence of its existence.

It also can be easier to determine what isn’t the cause than what is. What Nisbett and Cohen found was that the violence was lower in slave regions than in non-slave regions, in black populations than in white populations, and in cities than in small towns. Even poverty was ruled out as a cause of this high rate of Southern violence. When all factors are calculated, it’s specifically rural white Southerners who are most violent. Therefore, it would be unfair to blame all Southerners. As the above quote points out, we can’t prove that it can be explained by culture… but, then again, it’s hard to imagine what else could explain it.

It’s true that Scots-Irish are found elsewhere and yet these high rates of violence aren’t found elsewhere. However, maybe the cause is twofold. Maybe Scots-Irish culture only manifests this kind of violence when placed in the context of a larger class-based culture (i.e., the Southern culture largely created by the Cavalier aristocracy). As such, Scots-Irish maybe are perfectly peaceful people until provoked by some authoritarian aristocratic elite.

Still, this is just speculation.

As another example, I recently analyzed a study that showed metropolises in the North were more ‘segregated’ according to the authors definitions and methods of measurement. The study seemed problematic to me in that, the focus being narrow, the data was very limited and hence easily misinterpreted. It wasn’t clear to me that the pattern found by the researchers was in the real world data or merely in the way the authors spliced up the data.

That relates to the danger of my present attempt at interpreting the data. I don’t know all the complex details of all this diverse data and so I could be misinterpreting. I offer so many examples in the hope of decreasing the possibility that I’m cherrypicking data to fit my own biases and preconceptions. Any single data could be wrong or misleading, but a perceived pattern becomes more relevant when seen across many sets of data.

I’ve made a case for a pattern I’ve noticed, but it’s up to others to decide if my analysis of the data is valid. I won’t claim any absolute conclusions. I prefer following my curiosity rather than merely trying to prove my own preconceptions. I just find all of this fascinating, whatever it may mean. The kind of data I’ve presented seems to say a lot about American society, seems to show that real differences do exist. I find it sad that the mainstream media rarely investigates such issues. At best, it gets portrayed in terms of red vs blue during election campaigns. My point, however, is that what we think of red vs blue is based on (or, at least mired in) deeper cultural and demographic issues.

The personal is political, and the communal is political as well. We individually are formed by our social environment and we collectively shape that environment. But too often we get lost in the details of life and so don’t see the big picture. And too often we are so focused on our own views and our own lives that we don’t see the larger society we are a part of. Culture matters. Demographics is destiny.

– – –

Just for the fun of it, let me throw out some other mapped data.

I should point out that, looking at various data, I noticed there often is a West/East divide as well. The US can be divided in many different ways depending on what data is emphasized and depending on how small of pieces one wants to divide the country.

The next map is a simplistic and amusing portrayal of the North/South divide. It’s a bit inaccurate. I’m mildly offended that my home state of Iowa is included as part of Jesusland. In the last 23 years (i.e., last 6 elections), Iowa has gone to all Democratic presidents except for once (2004) which apparently is the year this map is based on. I want to secede from Jesusland.

United States of Canada vs Jesusland


A recreation of the Jesusland map; the colors differ from the original, and state lines have been added (Some versions of the map include Alberta in Jesusland)

“United States of Liberty & Education/Canada”, Canada plus blue states
“Jesusland”, red states

On a more serious note, many people have attempted to divide America into regions. For example:

A New 10 Regions of American Politics Map

A group called MassINC created a map called the “10 Regions in American Politics” in 2004 and has now released an updated version.  Some of the regions such as the “Upper Coasts” and “El Norte” are the same, although some other regions have been shuffled around.  The area called “Appalachia” in the 2004 report, for example, seems to have been expanded westward and renamed “Cumberland.”

2008 Version of the Ten Regions of American Politics

2008 Version of the Ten Regions of American Politics

2004 Version of the Ten Regions of American Politics

2004 Ten Regions of American Politics

Another example:

Quilted North America

But a different book, Joel Garreau’s “The Nine Nations of North America” has already survived the test of time. First published in 1981, it outlined a model for the nine socioeconomic regions of the continent.

The map speaks for itself, but I’ll just make a couple of comments about its strengths and weakness and also offer a side note.

  • Strengths – Quebec and Dixie are indeed very unique regions. Secession is part of their DNA’s.
  • Weaknesses – “The Foundry” is very clumsy.
  • Side Note – Dixie correlates with SEC Country and the Breadbasket with the Big 12, while the Foundary is roughly Big Ten territory (if it were shifted a bit west).

Garreau’s “Nine Nations”:

Nine Nations

I asked Joel Kotkin, the master demographer, what he thought of Garreau’s model and he emailed this response: “Garreau got the MexAmerica vs. Ecotopia right on the money. The divides are racial, cultural, climactic. Quebec is a no-brainer.”

One very interesting analysis is the Patchwork Nation. I’m reading the book based on the data, Our Patchwork Nation by Dante Chinni and James Gimpel. They also have a website: Patchwork Nation. I like the data because it looks at specific communities and then compares/contrasts those specific communities. It’s much more detailed than just looking at regions, but still it shows that particular community types tend to be found more in particular regions.

– – –

Here is some more unusual and random data.

Wine vs Beer States

Where people swear in the United States
(more swearing = brighter red)

Twitter and swearing

What’s Cooking on Thanksgiving

What’s Cooking on Thanksgiving, Mapped and Rankedpie-crust

Singles

Fig: 13.1: The Singles Map

– – –

I’ve wandered far from my original starting point, but that is fine. The main thing that my mind has been revolving around is the issue of culture. To end this discussion, let me put this all in a new context: personality traits. I think psychology can be a less threatening way of thinking about social differences.

The United States of Mind
By Stephanie Simon

Even after controlling for variables such as race, income and education levels, a state’s dominant personality turns out to be strongly linked to certain outcomes. Amiable states, like Minnesota, tend to be lower in crime. Dutiful states — an eclectic bunch that includes New Mexico, North Carolina and Utah — produce a disproportionate share of mathematicians. States that rank high in openness to new ideas are quite creative, as measured by per-capita patent production. But they’re also high-crime and a bit aloof. Apparently, Californians don’t much like socializing, the research suggests.

As for high-anxiety states, that group includes not just Type A New York and New Jersey, but also states stressed by poverty, such as West Virginia and Mississippi. As a group, these neurotic states tend to have higher rates of heart disease and lower life expectancy.

[ . . . ] While the findings broadly uphold regional stereotypes, there are more than a few surprises. The flinty pragmatists of New England? They’re not as dutiful as they may seem, ranking at the bottom of the “conscientious” scale. High scores for openness to new ideas strongly correlates to liberal social values and Democratic voting habits. But three of the top ten “open” states — Nevada, Colorado and Virginia — traditionally vote Republican in presidential politics. (All three are prime battlegrounds this election.)

And what of the unexpected finding that North Dakota is the most outgoing state in the union? Yes, North Dakota, the same state memorialized years ago in the movie “Fargo” as a frozen wasteland of taciturn souls. Turns out you can be a laconic extrovert, at least in the world of psychology. The trait is defined in part by strong social networks and tight community bonds, which are characteristic of small towns across the Great Plains. (Though not, apparently, small towns in New England, which ranks quite low on the extraversion scale.)

[ . . . ] It’s also a wake-up call for proud residents of the great state of wherever — some of whom aren’t fond of the findings. Mr. Rentfrow said he’s had to help some of them feel better. Yes, North Dakota and Wyoming rank quite low in openness to new ideas. But why label them narrow-minded and insular? Say, instead, he suggests, that they value tradition. New York may be neurotic, but he offers another way to put it: “It’s a state in touch with its feelings.”

Or take a cue from Ted Ownby, who studies Southern culture at the University of Mississippi. His state came up highly neurotic — and he suspects his neighbors would be proud.

“Here in the home of William Faulkner,” Mr. Ownby said, “we take intense, almost perverse neuroticism as a sign of emotional depth.”

If you go to the above article, there is a detailed interactive map. I’ll share two sets of static maps below showing the same data in two different ways: with state boundaries and without state boundaries.

neuroticism.jpg

extraversion.jpg

conscientiousness.jpg

agree.jpg

openness.jpg

What I like about the psychological perspective is that it’s neutral toward specific cultural values. These personality traits are neither good nor bad. In fact, the research shows that beneficial and adverse factors are correlated to all the traits. What we define as good and bad is dependent on the values we’re judging by. Any trait brought to an extreme tends to be problematic.

There are a few things I noticed.

High Neuroticism is found in the North. Neuroticism correlates with a tendency to internalize psychological problems. So, those with low Neuroticism will tend to externalize their psychological problems. It will depend on the culture whether internalizing is considered good or bad. I was guessing that high Neuroticism would correlate to high rates of suicide, but it turns out that it’s the opposite:

Text description provided below

Suicide, Big Five Personality Factors, and Depression at the American State Level
By Stewart J. H. McCann

Multiple regression analysis showed that neuroticism accounted for 32.0% and agreeableness another 16.3% of the variance in suicide rates when demographics and depression were controlled. Lower neuroticism and lower agreeableness were associated with higher suicide rates. Lower neuroticism and lower agreeableness may be important risk factors for completed suicide but not suicidal ideation or attempted suicide.

I was surprised by that data. Some have theorized that suicide and homicide are negatively correlated, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. The Northeast has low rates of both suicide and violence (I assume violence rates are representative of homicide rates). The areas in the East with high suicide rates include, once again, Appalachia. However, all of the East looks relatively good compared to the West (excluding California). I’m not sure what is going on with suicide in the West. Most of the West scores low on all the traits except for Openness (maybe that is a bad combination, I don’t know).

Neuroticism was the one trait that showed the most North/South divide. In the Eastern US, the Northeast seems to have the highest rates of Openness. That is no surprise as Openness correlates with such things as education and IQ. Two traits that most of the Midwest scores highly on are Agreeableness and Extraversion. Certain parts of the South actually rate highly on Agreeableness and other parts of the South not so much.

 – – – 

Anyway, I don’t know how much psychological factors may or may not cause or be caused by other factors I’ve discussed. The main thing that is compelling is that the distinctions between regions can be objectively measured according to diverse data. There may be no single fundamental factor, just many factors creating patterns over time with some of these patterns reinforcing one another. Maybe ‘culture’ is just the term we use to label patterns that are more consistent and enduring.