Middle America (US)

From Academic Kids

Alternate meanings: a synonym for Central America, or an obsolete variant on Mesoamerica

Middle America is an American colloquialism used—in contrast to "coastal America"—to describe a region of the United States that, geographically, comprises the bulk of the nation.

Similar to the phrase, "Third World", the term "Middle America" is often disdained because it assigns a large set of culturally, geographically, and socially quite different regions a vague and unflattering label.



Geographically, the label "Middle America" refers to the territory between the east and west coasts of the United States. The exact interface between "coastal" America and "Middle America" is debated. For example, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania is considered coastal while Pittsburgh is not. Likewise, Las Vegas (within California's sphere of influence and quite wealthy) is considered part of the "west coast" while geographically, it is very far from the coast.

The continental climate of "Middle America" gives this region the image of being an undesirable place to live: Upper Midwestern winters are considered intolerably cold, while Texan summers are viewed as insufferably hot. To a degree, these stereotypes are hyperbolic: Ann Arbor, Michigan, for example, has winter temperatures only 9 degrees Fahrenheit (5 C) colder than New York.


"Middle America" is more of a cultural than a geographical label. Wealthy regions of Colorado and Texas, which culturally have more in common with the coasts than the Midwest, are normally not considered part of "Middle America".

The term "Middle America" may suggest a somewhat idyllic small town or suburban America where most people are middle class. "Middle America" is often caricatured in the same way as is the American 1950s decade.

Derisively, self-titled bicoastalites refer to this region of the United States as "flyover country" or "white-bread America" and depict it as uncosmopolitan, anti-progressive, bland, and lacking in culture and ethnic diversity. This is debatable; "Middle America" contains metropolitan areas such as Minneapolis, Denver, St. Louis, and perhaps most importantly Chicago, the third-largest city in the United States and one of the worlds ten Alpha world cities. "Middle America" also includes several of the nation's best colleges and universities. It's perhaps worth noting, however, that because the term is almost always used in a cultural sense rather than relating to actual geography, the idea of 'middle America' implicitly excludes those metropolitan areas, referring instead to the culture of the suburbs and small towns which lie outside of such cities.


The economy of "Middle America" is, traditionally, agricultural, though presently most "Middle Americans" live in suburban locales. Compared to coastal America, home prices tend to be low (because land is abundant) and economic disparities are less pronounced. However, the latter is probably less to do with any superiority of the economic model of suburban America and more relating to the fact that on the whole, such communities are far more homogenous than their metropolitan cousins, often with a disproportionately white population, who, by the nature of the suburbs and their existence as planned communities with a set economic bar in order to live there, tend to be in roughly the same financial bracket. Housing prices in "Middle America" tend to be significantly less volatile than those on the coasts, and houses tend to appreciate in value more slowly within Middle America.


The phrase "Middle American values" is a political cliche, which like "family values", is ill-defined. For example, said values usually involve conservative politics, yet a comparison of Madison, Wisconsin against Orange County, California refutes this stereotype.

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

"Middle America" in fiction

In The Simpsons, the titular family inhabits a town called Springfield, usually considered to be a parody of stereotypical "Middle America". This depiction is satirical, though not maliciously so in that it lampoons an idea, a "dinner at 6" suburban America that does not exist and never did.

The comic strip Calvin and Hobbes portrays "Middle America" as a "magical world" of lazy summers, snowy winters, open land, and abundant wagon rides.

See also


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