'Normal America' According to Demographics

The common perception of everyday America as a land of small towns and white faces doesn't reflect the current reality. Demographic analysis reveals "normal America" in cities like New Haven and Tampa.

1 minute read

May 1, 2016, 9:00 AM PDT

By Philip Rojc @PhilipRojc


Tampa Skyline

Tampa, Florida, the second most "normal" American city. | Roger W / Flickr

According to analysis conducted by Jed Kolko, the idea many of us hold about "normal America" is outdated by over half a century. By the numbers, the American average is something like a mid-sized city on the East Coast.

On his methods, Kolko writes, "I calculated how demographically similar each U.S. metropolitan area is to the U.S. overall, based on age, educational attainment, and race and ethnicity [...] By this measure, the metropolitan area that looks most like the U.S. is New Haven, Connecticut, followed by Tampa, Florida, and Hartford, Connecticut."

The largest cities, like New York and Los Angeles, are outliers, but so are small towns. "Looking across metros of all sizes, the places that look most like America tend to be larger metros, though not the largest ones. The similarity index is highest, on average, for metros with between 1 million and 2 million people." 

Running the numbers for America in the 1950s, the picture changes. "The large metros that today come closest to looking like 1950 America are Lancaster, Pennsylvania; Ogden and Provo, in Utah; and several in the Midwest and South [...] But the places that look today most like 1950 America are not large metros but rather smaller metros and rural areas.

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