Saturday, February 13, 2010

That Geographic Facebook Map

...that's been making the rounds (original article here) is interesting because of the social boundaries it shows:

Two perennial questions I have about American demographic boundaries are reflected on this map:

1) Why the boundary between western Stayathomia and northern Greater Texas? Really this just revisits the Upper Midwest vs. Lower Midwest. Iowa and Minnesota are better educated, less religious, and have higher per capita incomes than Kansas and Oklahoma. Echoes of slavery are often raised, not unreasonably, as the source of many of the cultural differences between Northerners and Southerners - but that's really an argument for the Eastern Seaboard, since it was never well-established in Kansas or Oklahoma. So is the reason for this that settlers of the Upper Midwest came from the Northeast and settlers of OK and KS from the Old South or Texas? Something to do with crops there or the early discovery of oil and the subsequent impacts of those resources? The much larger Native American populations in Oklahoma and longer history of conflict in Kansas? I'm at a loss.

2) The boundary between Dixie and Stayathomia tracks the Bad Stripe fairly well. The Bad Stripe is an area of poverty and general unhappiness trending basically along the western side of the Appalachians from West Virginia down through eastern Kentucky and Tennessee, then trending west through Arkansas and to the edge of Oklahoma. (It's not just economics; for crying out loud even the weather is worse - it's cloudier there. Most recent article here). The Stripe first came to my attention when I noticed that people there voted more strongly GOP in the 2008 presidential election than they had in 2004. This could be a coincidence, or it could be that someone in North Carolina is unlikely to be friends with a lower-status, less-educated, less-happy person in Kentucky and Tennessee, and likewise somebody in Ohio, so the chance for a connection from OH to NC through the Stripe is low. (Sorry KY and TN, those are the unpleasant realities.) It's also interesting to ask whether there's a general problem with border regions, i.e. two regions of roughly equal parity have a region between them of lower parity. Is there a similar bad stripe between, say, northern and southern Japan, or northern and southern Germany?

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