Middle America (United States)

Middle America is a colloquial term for the United States heartland, especially the culturally rural and suburban areas of the United States.

Middle America is generally used as both a geographic and cultural label, suggesting a Central United States small town or suburb where most people are middle class; Evangelical Christian, Mainline Protestant or Catholic and typically of European descent.[1][2]

As a geographical label

Geographically, the label Middle America refers to the territory between the East Coast of the United States (particularly the northeast) and the West Coast. The term has been used in some cases to refer to the inland portions of coastal states, especially if they are rural. Alternately, the term is used to describe the central United States.

As a cultural label

Middle America is contrasted with the more culturally progressive urban areas of the country, particularly, those of the East and West Coasts. The conservative values considered typical of Middle America (often called "family values" in American politics) are often called "Middle American values".[3][4]

The idea of Middle America may exclude locations such as Chicago (the third largest city in the United States and one of the world's alpha cities) and very wealthy cities such as Aspen, Colorado. The coastal regions of the Southern United States are implicitly included.

The plots of such American films as Sweet Home Alabama and The Judge center on the contrast between big city life and that of a typical "Middle America" small town; in both, a protagonist with a successful big city career is drawn back to an old hometown. Similarly, the protagonist of John Grisham's novel The Associate leaves a well-paid job at a giant Wall Street law firm and goes to work with his lawyer father in his hometown, York, Pennsylvania. The contrast between "Middle America" and big city America is evident in the life of the fictional superhero Superman - growing up as Superboy in the archetypal Smallville and as an adult moving to the equally archetypal Metropolis. The depiction of Ron Kovic's childhood in the early parts of Born on the Fourth of July also fits the cultural perceptions of "Middle America" (though Kovic's hometown, Massapequa, is physically located in Long Island). The same applies to the episode of Ayn Rand's novel The Fountainhead which is set in Clayton, Ohio [5] and which depicts that town as the archetype of "Middle America", the polar opposite of the cosmopolitan New York City where most of the novel's plot takes place.

Recently, there has been a diversification in the demographics traditionally attributed to Middle America. Individuals and families of various ethnic backgrounds, including Asians and Hispanics, have started to reside in small towns in various interior states, including, but not limited to, Oklahoma, Kansas, Ohio and Missouri.


The economy of Middle America is traditionally agricultural, though most inhabitants now live in suburban locales. Compared to coastal America, home prices tend to be low and economic disparities are less pronounced. Housing prices tend to be significantly less volatile than those on the coasts, and houses tend to appreciate in value more slowly.[6]


The phrase Middle American values is a political cliché; like family values, it refers to more traditional or conservative politics, although larger cities such as St. Louis, Missouri, and Minneapolis, Minnesota, and major university towns such as Madison, Wisconsin; Champaign, Illinois; Bloomington, Indiana; Columbus, Ohio; Lawrence, Kansas; and Austin, Texas, are exceptions.[7][1]

Many of the political battleground states are situated in "Middle America."[6]

See also


  1. 1 2 Bouie, Jamelle (2015-05-15). "Whites prefer to live with whites: Why integrating America's neighborhoods and cities is harder than we think". Slate.com. Retrieved 2015-05-29.
  2. Bramlett, Matthew (4 April 2016). "Author explores white male anger in Middle America". Claremont Courier Classifieds. Retrieved 11 June 2016.
  3. "Comment: editorials, opinion and columns". Telegraph. Retrieved 2012-10-30.
  4. "Time: Middle Americans". Chnm.gmu.edu. 1970-01-05. Retrieved 2012-10-30.
  5. The Fountainhead, Part III, Ch. 4.
  6. 1 2 Paul Jankowski (2012-04-18). "Six Ignorant Stereotypes About Middle America". Forbes. Retrieved 2012-10-30.
  7. Gabriel Winant (2010-05-17). "Who's more condescending to Middle America?". Salon.com. Retrieved 2015-05-29.
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