State of the Union

The Old Regionalism vs. the New Cosmopolitan Hyper-Localism

A suburb of Phoenix, Arizona. jkirsch /

African-Americans, for understandable reasons, tend not to be “regional” people. And given their history, I can understand fully why a resident of South Phoenix might feel closer to Harlem or the South Side of Chicago than to the Valley of the Sun as a whole, for example. But apparently, increasingly, the rest of us are starting to think the same way. Marketers like Claritas Prizm have divided our population into 66 tribes with colorful names like Money and Brains, God’s Country, Big Sky Families, Boomtown Singles, and other such. And America’s Zip codes are classified by which is dominant.

What seems to be happening is that, say, the Money and Brains pockets of Southern California identify more with similar pockets in New York, Chicago, Seattle, and Dallas than they do with Southern California as a region; and the same all over the country. The one exception to this is when sports comes on TV; for the duration of the game, all the tribes of Eastern New England rally behind the Red Sox, all of Southeast Michigan behind the Detroit Tigers, and the Los Angeles Basin behind the Lakers.

(Sports team owners themselves are not that regionally loyal, often moving to whichever city will build them the nicest stadium at the expense of the public. Los Angeles Lakers? Los Angeles Trolley Dodgers? The only time there are any appreciable number of lakes in Los Angeles is during a severe El Nino, when the city gets national attention—and more than a little schadenfreude—for mudslides. And for most of the last half of the 20th century there was not a single trolley to dodge in the city. The explanation, of course, is that the Lakers were once in Minneapolis, a place richly endowed with lakes, and the Dodgers were in Brooklyn.)

Furthermore, members of these tribes change tribes when they marry, when they have kids, and when the kids move out of the house. I have noticed that in many parts of our society the apartheid between People With Kids and People Without Kids is radical; they live in different kinds of places, and they vote differently. Admittedly, when you have kids, you kind of go into what I call the “baby monastery” and have to do different things for the next 20 years than you used to, but to completely segregate yourself from People Without Kids—or for People Without Kids to segregate themselves from you—is sad. Read More…

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