Upper Midwest

The Upper Midwest is a region in the northern portion of the U.S. Census Bureau's Midwestern United States. It is largely a sub-region of the Midwest. Although there are no uniformly agreed-upon boundaries, the region is most commonly used to refer to the states of Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan's Upper Peninsula. By most definitions, it extends into North and South Dakota, Illinois, and Iowa.


The National Weather Service defines its Upper Midwest as the states of Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wisconsin. The United States Geological Survey uses two different Upper Midwest regions:

  • The USGS Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center considers it to be the six states of Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin, which comprise the watersheds of the Upper Mississippi River and upper Great Lakes.
  • The USGS Mineral Resources Program considers the area to contain Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin.

The Association for Institutional Research in the Upper Midwest includes the states of Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wisconsin, and the upper peninsula of Michigan in the region.


The region has dramatic variations between summer and winter temperatures; summers are very hot and winters are very cold. For example, Sioux Falls averages 25 days each year with temperatures above 90 °F (32 °C) and 45 days each year with temperatures below 5 °F (−15 °C).[1] Mitchell, South Dakota has a record high of 116 °F (47 °C) and a record low of −39 °F (−39 °C).[2]

The growing season is shorter, cooler, and drier than areas farther south and east. The region's western boundary is sometimes considered to be determined by where the climate becomes too dry to support growing non-irrigated crops other than small grains or hay grass.


The Inland North dialect, most prominently characterized by the Northern Cities Vowel Shift, is centered in the eastern part of the Upper Midwest, including Wisconsin, Michigan, and the northern parts of Illinois and Ohio; it extends beyond the Midwest into Upstate New York. North Central American English (also known as "Upper Midwestern"[3]), a residual accent of American English, is spoken in Minnesota, parts of Wisconsin and Iowa, the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, portions of Montana, and the Dakotas.[4]


The Upper Midwest was the heartland of early 20th-century Progressive Party politics, and the region continues to be favorable to the Democratic Party of the United States and moderate Republicans, with Minnesota favoring each Democratic presidential candidate since 1976 and Wisconsin from 1988 to 2012. Minnesota narrowly supported native Walter Mondale in 1984 in an election where Ronald Reagan won every other state. Michigan, Illinois, and Wisconsin also often favor Democratic candidates. However, beginning with the 2010 midterm elections, Republicans experienced substantial gains in state legislative and executive offices in Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan.[5][6][7] This trend has continued through 2016.[8][9][10][6][7][11] Minnesota is the only Midwestern state with a Democratic governor, Mark Dayton.[12]

Donald Trump's 2016 presidential campaign made significant in-roads in the Upper Midwest.[13][14][15][16][17][8] Trump won the electoral votes of Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan, North Dakota, and South Dakota, leaving Illinois and Minnesota the sole Blue States in the Upper Midwest in 2016.[18][13] Hillary Clinton barely won Minnesota, finishing less than 2 percentage points ahead of Donald Trump.[19][20][16][18]

Industry and tourism

The economy of the region was largely based upon the mining of iron and copper, as well as a very large timber industry. Mechanization has sharply reduced employment in those areas, and the economy is increasingly based on tourism. Popular interest in the environment and environmentalism, added to traditional interests in hunting and fishing, has attracted a large urban audience who live within driving range.[21]

See also


  1. "Sioux Falls, South Dakota Travel Weather Averages". Weatherbase.
  2. "Mitchell, South Dakota Travel Weather Averages". Weatherbase.
  3. Allen, Harold B. (1973). The Linguistic Atlas of the Upper Midwest. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. ISBN 0-8166-0686-2.
  4. Labov, William; Ash, Sharon; Boberg, Charles (2006). The Atlas of North American English. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter. ISBN 3-11-016746-8.
  5. "GOP Makes Historic State Legislative Gains in 2010". Rasmussen Reports. Retrieved 2018-07-31.
  6. 1 2 Lai, K.K. Rebecca. "In a Further Blow to Democrats, Republicans Increase Their Hold on State Governments". New York Times. Retrieved 2018-07-31.
  7. 1 2 Anderson, Tim (2016-12-01). "GOP continues to gain more legislative seats, control in Midwest states". CSG Knowledge Center. Retrieved 2018-07-31.
  8. 1 2 Enten, Harry (2016-12-09). "It's Not All About Clinton — The Midwest Was Getting Redder Before 2016". FiveThirtyEight. Retrieved 2018-07-31.
  9. Cooper, Michael (2010-11-03). "Republicans Gain Upper Hand at State Level, Ahead of Redistricting". New York Times. Retrieved 2018-07-31.
  10. Zeleny, Jeff (2010-11-02). "G.O.P. Captures House, but Not Senate". New York Times. Retrieved 2018-07-31.
  11. Boehm, Eric (2016-11-14). "Democrats Got Wrecked Again in State Legislative Races, and it Matters More Than You Might Think". Reason.com. Retrieved 2018-07-31.
  12. Ostermeier, Eric (2010-11-24). "Minnesota to Have Only Democratic Upper Midwestern Governor for First Time Since 1954". Smart Politics. Retrieved 2018-07-31.
  13. 1 2 Swanson, Ian (2017-08-22). "How the Midwest slipped away from Dems". The Hill. Retrieved 2018-07-28.
  14. Trende, Sean; Byler, David (2017-01-19). "How Trump Won: The Midwest". RealClearPolitics. Retrieved 2018-07-28.
  15. Fahey, Mark; Wells, Nicholas. "Here's a map of the US counties that flipped to Trump from Democrats". CNBC. Retrieved 2018-07-28.
  16. 1 2 Swanson, Ian (2017-08-22). "How the Midwest slipped away from Dems". The Hill. Retrieved 2018-07-28.
  17. Balz, Dan. "Midwestern voters gave Trump a chance. Now, they hold the key to his political future". Washington Post. Photographs by Melina Mara, video by Jordan Frasier. Retrieved 2018-07-28.
  18. 1 2 Bentle, Kyle; Berlin, Jonathon; Marx, Ryan. "Illinois, a blue island in a red sea: Data analysis". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2018-07-28.
  19. Cox, Ana Marie (2018-06-21). "A Night Among the Trump Believers Way Up North". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2018-07-28.
  20. Gonyea, Don; Montanaro, Domenico (2017-04-13). "Trump Supporters In The Upper Midwest Have A Message: Be More 'Presidential'". National Public Radio. Retrieved 2018-07-28.
  21. Shapiro, Aaron (2015). The Lure of the North Woods: Cultivating Tourism in the Upper Midwest. University of Minnesota Press.
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