The Nine Nations of North America

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'Book of the Week' After All These Years
Canada's national newspaper The National Post ran a four-part series on its "non-fiction book of the week" the first week of July 2017. And -- wait for it -- yup, it was "Nine Nations." After all these years, it still holds up, The Post columnist says. This link is the final installment, and it includes links to the previous pieces in the series. read more

The 2016 Voting Map of the Nine Nations
The quadrennial University of Michigan election maps are out, and sure enough, they illuminate the state of the Nine Nations. Joel finds the sixth map, by county -- that includes the purple results as well as the blue and red -- the most interesting. MexAmerica, Ecoptopia, The Empty Quarter, The Islands and New England pop right out. Dixie, you see the centuries-old classic Southern racial divides of the "Black Belt" crescent. The Breadbasket, serving its role as the "decider" of what is a truly continental idea, is highly nuanced. The Foundry, interestingly, splits at the Appalachians. The western portion, that was totally a product of the Industrial Age and is what we mean by "rustbelt," is still hurting, clearly. The eastern coastal portion that was settled a century or more before the steam engine -- when power meant being near waterfalls -- has started to make an economic comeback earlier and voted accordingly. read more

Most Embarrassing Popular Google Searches By State
A lot to love about this, but I must say "average penis size" for Rhode Island and "Am I a virgin" for Maryland are hard to beat. read more

Where Each State's Immigrants Were Born
Fascinating decade-by-decade for 100 years maps of where each state's then-largest immigrant groups came from. The general story, over decades, state by state -- it used to be Germans. Now it's Mexicans. Almost throughout the U.S. But there are fascinating outliers -- especially in New England and the adjacent Foundry. Like the Dominican Republic in Rhode Island and New York State, Jamaica in Connecticut, China in Massachusetts, and India in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and -- wait for it -- West Virginia. And, of course, lest we forget, in Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine -- O Canada. read more

A Revisit in The New York Times
The New York Times, in "Room for Debate," publishes their package asking how the world's boundaries are being redrawn. One guy gives Siberia to China. Another draws the "real" Kurdistan. And oh yes, here is Joel's revisit of "The Nine Nations of North America," after all these years. It's amazing how durable have been these boundaries of culture and values. read more

Still Talking About It
The extent to which Nine Nations is still a matter of rousing discussion and debate more than three decades after publication continues to amaze Joel. Check out this thread, for example. (Or Google "The Nine Nations of North America.") read more

Mapping Friendly, Conventional, Relaxed, Creative, Etc.
This is a painstaking and painfully earnest study of psychological variables and how they cluster regionally. But check out the maps. They're fun and interesting. The Breadbasket is wildly not "temperamental and uninhibited?" Check. But New England is? And Dixie is *not*? read more

The 2012 Election
Joel Kotkin -- part of the original cabal of journalists who created the Nine Nations vision -- writes that the reason Ohio mattered so much becomes clear from a Nine Nations perspective. read more

The Nine Nations Map of the 2012 Election
Mark Newman -- who studies complex systems at the University of Michigan -- produces some of the coolest electoral cartographs Joel knows. Newman morphs the maps to more accurately reflect population size and similar. Here are his maps for the 2012 election. The Nine Nations boundaries pop pretty nicely. Links to his maps for the 2008, 2006 and 2004 elections are below. Scroll down about two dozen items. Or just change the year at the end of his url here: read more

The New Demographics of Smart Phones
The newest vexing conundum: Blackberry or iPhone or Droid? Well, which smart phone you pick may depend on whether you are skinny, or Democrat, or like to live far from your neighbors. Great interactive map from the Atlantic gives you endless clicking pleasure, correlating which phone you use with your demographics. If anyone figures out what it means, by all means let us know. read more

The Magnum Opus From the Master
Wilbur Zelinsky is a demigod of cultural geography and regionalism. The emeritus Penn State professor has written witty, entertaining and learned analyses and celebrations of everything from North America's ethnic restaurant cuisines, to town welcoming signs, to modern male attire. He has asked questions like: "Gathering Places for America's Dead: How Many, Where and Why?" He is the author of the seminal, "The Cultural Geography of the United States." And several decades ago, he took under his supremely generous wing a young man who had the crazy idea that the continent was behaving as if it were nine nations. At the indefatigable age of 90 (!) he has just published "Not Yet a Placeless Land: Tracking an Evolving American Geography." It may be his magnum opus. read more

The Cell Phone Nations of the U.S.
Researchers at MIT Senseable City Lab, AT&T Labs-Research and IBM Research are revealing new research that redefines regional boundaries in the United States, using patterns of social connectedness across the country derived from anonymous and aggregated cell phone data. In some cases, connectedness follows traditional demarcations such as state lines — but in other cases, new patterns are emerging that have little to do with political or administrative boundaries. By looking at billions of instances of aggregated mobile communication, researchers are able to define communities through the more informal lens of social networks. “This work proposes a novel, fine-grained approach to understanding cities and human communities in space,” says Carlo Ratti, director of the MIT Senseable City Lab. read more

The Breadbasket Demonstrates Its Resilience
The distinguished social scientist Robert Wuthnow in his new book "Remaking the Heartland: Middle America Since the 1950s" gets the Breadbasket right, according to this review. One of the things he gets right is that he focuses on the nine states between Denver, Chicago, Oklahoma and the Canadian border. Also smart is his focal case: "the American Middle West has undergone a strong, positive transformation since the 1950s." read more

Where You Live Forms What You Drive
Hard to believe, Lord knows, but back in the day, Detroit automakers used to send the same mix of vehicles to dealers no matter where they were in the country. Then they wondered why, for example, 4x4's didn't sell well in flat, non-icy Southern Florida. New data shows that that era is over. (Lincoln-Mercury, for one, was an early fan of "Nine Nations.") New England's car's are way different than MexAmerica's. read more

Questions from the Way Back
It's true, the Web is collecting *everything.* Up just popped a transcript of one of the earliest presentations of Nine Nations before an audience, on September 10, 1981, at the Midcontinent Perspective Series in Kansas City. The question and answer part at the end is of interest in the way it captures what the social ratifiers of the Great Plains were thinking about at that time in history, the end of the Carter administration and the beginning of the Reagan era. And then Joel answers a question about how seriously he takes secession by saying, "If it ever does happen, you'll have to put a statue of me up in the park, scratching my head." read more

The Nine Nations of Auto Racing
At the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn. We are not making this up. read more

Listening to How the Humans on the Planet Work, Really
Kaid Benfield of the Natural Resources Defense Council makes environmentalist connections among all the new mapping of cultural regions. read more

Increased Interest in 'Nine Nations'
Joel doesn't quite know what to make of this. But of his three books, Google is feeding back to him the most new references to "Nine Nations" -- the oldest. The example made hot here is unremarkable in itself. But what does this notable uptick mean? Ia Google getting better at finding references? Or is the interest in secession increasing? Or what? read more

Soybenia Forever!
When "Nine Nations" first came out in 1981, a number of newspapers across he country had a good time dividing their areas into "nations," demonstrating that this process can be applied at a variety of scales. One of the best was the Chicago Tribune's dividing up of Illinois. Herewith, their map surfaces on the Web. If anyone can find a digital copy of the accompanying article, please holler. read more

Whither Cascadia?
The New York Times, in the midst of the Vancouver Olympics, reviews where the whole Cascadia idea stands, especially in the context of the tougher border. It mentions Joel. read more

Ecotopia Lives?
Joel Kotkin, who, when he worked in The Washington Post's California bureau, was part of the cabal who first brought Joel Garreau's attention to Ernest Callenbach's "Ecotopia," takes another look, three decades later. read more

The Nine Nations of China
The Atlantic Monthly has published a fascinating interactive map of "The Nine Nations of China." Its author, Patrick Chovanec, is a professor at Tsinghua University and a consultant for Asia-focused private equity funds. He says he's turning it into a book. read more

The Seven Nations of Facebook
Pete Warden, who works on open-source projects in Los Angeles, has mined Facebook data to come up with a fascinating cultural map of the U.S. dividing it into seven places, with striking echoes to the "Nine Nations" map, but some big differences, too. read more

The Food Nations of North America
The RAFT Regional Map of North America's Place-Based Food Traditions includes Maple Syrup Nation, Moose Nation, Pinyon Nut Nation, Clambake Nation, Gator Nation and Abalone Nation. Yum! read more

In a More Serious Vein
The Salon series about the end of America was great fun, but when they come to us, we told them -- if you want to be serious about this, what you need is scenario planning. They took our advice and enlisted our colleagues at Global Business Network. read more

Apocalypse Are Us did a week's worth of every conceivable way America could come to an end, and of the 144 ways they listed, the readers voted "Nine Nations" the 19th most popular, ahead of the Rapture, Alien Invasion, and Deficit Spending. We are so, um, scratching our heads. ("Nine Nations" also beat "Neo-Humans," number 74. Hey guys, there's this great book you should read -- "Radical Evolution." ; -) read more

The Map of Ripe Old Age -- and the Opposite
Want to live a long time? Ecotopia, New England, the Empty Quarter and the northern Breadbasket is where it's at. Checking out early is a feature of Dixie. Fascinating map. read more

More Devolution from the Wall Street Journal
An author with a new book to flack -- not that there's anything wrong with that -- imagines a broken-up U.S. with remarkable but uncredited similarities to "Nine Nations." read more

Joel's Response to Igor Panarin
The Russian who predicts that the United States will come apart in 2010 is mapping his ideas of how the Soviet Empire worked onto North America. Ah, no, Igor. It's not like that. read more

Russian Prediction About U.S. Break-Up on Front of Journal
The Wall Street Journal is famous for its "A-heads" -- highly readable features out on page one that frequently are compelling because they examine the weird and bizarre. On December 29, 2008, the Journal has this piece out front that paints as a serious person a Russian political analyst, Igor Panarin, who says that the U.S. will fall apart in 2010. Complete with map of his six component parts. BTW, if anyone wants to make an offer, yes, the Russian rights to "Nine Nations" are still available. ; -) read more

The Seven Deadly Sins, Mapped
Check out the hot spots maps at
Gluttony and lust are particularly thought-provoking. read more

Sorry, Just Discovered the Bottle Rockets and Their Poetry Overwhelms Me
Can't go west, can't go East,
Am C G
I'm stuck in Indianapolis, with a fuel pump that's deceased. read more

Pollution Map That Paints Dixie and the Foundry
A blogger named Rich Puchalsky has done something creative. He's taken EPA pollution data that estimates air quality at schools nationwide, and laid it side by side with the Nine Nations map. He points out that when you look up your school, the schools with the worst air quality in your state, and so on, you see a distinct pattern. The worst is in the Foundry, with its industrial and coal legacy, and Dixie, which has often been willing to trade anything for jobs. read more

The 2008 Elections and Nine Nations
Back when he wrote "Nine Nations," Joel saw the neck-snapping change in Dixie as it became increasingly urban, educated and affluent and thought the election results would soon catch up. He even went as far as to say that every time there was a funeral in North Carolina, that was another elderly Jesse Helms voter going to his eternal reward. Joel was wrong. It took 30 years for the politics to catch up with the demographics. Joel thinks this may be because a lot of the people moving into Dixie did so specifically because they were seeking out the traditional values they expected to find there, not trying to change them. This portion was a self-selecting group. Comes now the election of 2008. Scroll down to the county-by-county maps here. They are from the same people who brought you the 2006 and 2004 maps cited below. Virginia and North Carolina are going blue. Note also the way Ecotopia, MexAmerica, New England and the urban areas of the Foundry continue to pop right out. Also of great interest is the way the Breadbasket -- the repository of genuinely continental values -- remains split, but increasingly along new north-south lines. read more

The 2006 Elections and Nine Nations
By the same people who came up with the 2004 maps cited below. The story of the 2006 election was the Democratic gains, so look at the blue districts. Ecotopia and New England pop solid blue, predictably. Interesting how much blue there is in Dixie, despite its political reputation, and this map does not track the high concentrations of blacks the way the 2004 map did. It's a much more diverse result. Also interesting is how solid blue the northern Breadbasket is. And look at that big patch of blue in the southern Empty Quarter/northern MexAmerica area! read more

April Fool's New England
The Bethel, Maine, Citizen reports that it is about to become the center of the New England nation, citing Joel. To read it is to fully appreciate it. read more

The Grand Tour of North America
Sidebar to the above, even funnier. read more

The Eleven Nations of the Former Soviet Union
It's amazing the similarities between the former Soviet Union and North America in this map, from their version of the Breadbasket, to the Foundry, to MexAmerica -- Mexistan! read more

"The 17 Nations of the Middle East"
In the January 2008 issue of Vanity Fair, page 60, Cullen Murphy brings together a team that draws "The 17 Nations of the Middle East," duly crediting "Nine Nations." This effort joins similar ones like the Five Nations of Mexico, the Eleven Nations of Europe, and the Thirteen Nations of the Former Soviet Union. read more

"The Five Nations of Mexico"
Louis Casagrande's extention of the Nine Nations beyond MexAmerica and into the rest of Mexico. read more

The 2004 Election and Nine Nations
Look at the county-level maps. Note how Ecotopia, MexAmerica, The Empty Quarter, The Islands and New England pop out. See also how conflicted The Breadbasket is, which is appropriate, given its role as the arbitrator of what constitutes true North American values. read more

The Buffalo Commons Coming Into Being
Combined climate, economic, and ecotourist facts are bringing the once-pilloried idea of returning the western Breadbasket to the buffalo into reality. read more

Viva Atlantica?
The idea of "Atlantica" -- essentially the same as the "New England" of Nine Nations -- is getting a lot of buzz in the Canadian press. Check out not only this article but the ones accompanying it in the rail on the right. read more

$10,000 an Acre for Breadbasket Land?
Thanks to ethanol? How insane is that? Note: real farmers historically have never been able to make the numbers work at more than $2,000-$3,000 an acre. read more

Things Are Looking Up in the Northern Breadbasket
North Dakota is hot! read more

Heading Inland
Michael Barone, one of the nation's smartest analysts of history and demographics and how it shapes our politics, reports that our ridiculously high-priced coastal metropoli are full. The growth is in the inland metros that offer better value. read more

America the Mighty Manufacturer
The U.S. continues to be by far the world's dominant manufacturing nation, accounting for a quarter of the total global output, as usual. What's declining is how many bodies are needed to produce all that stuff. What's increasing is the education of the 10 percent who still have manufacturing jobs. They're now essentially white collar workers overseeing very sophisticated machines. read more

What if "Nine Nations" Went Viral?
Millions of people online are reshaping the world of mapmaking, collectively creating a new kind of atlas both richer and messier than any other in history. This could bring the "Nine Nations" process to the entire globe. read more

As You Take Your Tortillas to China and Japan, Nine Nations Matters
"In Texas, for example, people generally like fluffier tortillas than those sold in the rest of the U.S. In California they like elastic tortillas, and in Arizona they like chewy tortillas. Why? At first it baffled us, but then we learned that each of those areas had been settled predomi­nantly by Mexicans from a particular region, where variations in the local quality of tortilla manufacturing ingrained certain preferences. Now we target our sales accordingly." read more

As New England Goes, So Goes Ecotopia
"Live Free or Die" New Hampshire becomes the final New England U.S. state to legalize same-sex unions. Washington, California and now Oregon follow suit. read more

Why New Orleans Is Not Going to Be Rebuilt
Joel says he hopes he's wrong, but the driving forces for the reconstruction of New Orleans do not appear to exist. read more

MexAmerica Triumphant
Richard Rodriguez, author of "Days of Obligation," says that the young man who christened "MexAmerica" 25 years ago was prescient, but too cautious in his projections. He says MexAmerica -- no matter how much it still makes the United States and Mexico uncomfortable -- has now become an overwhelming reality that no fence can stop. read more

The Re-emergence of the Frontier
In the western Breadbasket and eastern Empty Quarter, 261 counties hold fewer than six residents per square mile (an old census yardstick for "frontier"). That represents more than one-eighth of the contiguous U.S. - an area larger than France and Germany, but more sparsely populated than any nation on earth. You'd have to travel to places like the North Pole or Greenland to find fewer people per square mile. With fascinating map in which Empty Quarter-Breadbasket boundary pops out. read more

An Exceptional Ode to Dixie Barbecue
"Hale dismisses the other supposed lineages, including the French claim deriving barbecue from the phrase barbe à queue -- from beard to tail -- perhaps a description of a pig on a spit; Hale calls this etymology 'flagrantly fatuous Franco-poop.' ” read more

Related Articles by Joel

Igor Looking in the Mirror
Igor Pananin's breakup prediction sounds an awful lot like the Kremlin projecting its own insecurities onto the United States, Joel says. read more

What It's About

Joel Garreau is a noted observer of what makes all the people of the United States, Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean tick.

Author of the best-selling, widely translated, Book-of-the-Month Club selection
The Nine Nations of North America, he is one of those rare analysts whose scope comfortably includes all the people from the Arctic Circle to Mexico, and from Hawaii to Newfoundland.

His insights have been embraced by a remarkable portion of the continent's business community – from the makers of automobiles to the sellers of over-the-counter medicines. He has seen some of the phrases he coined enter more than one language – "MexAmerica" to describe the American Southwest plus Northern Mexico, for example. His work also has become a cult item among the continent's marketers, broadcasters, reporters and political consultants.

In his spirited speaking presentations, which are illustrated by slides and punctuated by humor, Garreau shares up-to-the-minute research on the wildly different behaviors of people in the varying parts of our continent. He shows that no matter what the lines on our maps may say, the people of this dauntingly complex continent are really behaving as if they were parts of nine separate civilizations or economies.

Garreau's work destroys once and for all the notion that the airports and interstates and the celebrated franchised hamburgers have made North Americans all one and the same, as bland and homogenous as tapioca pudding. Instead, he shows that as power and money and influence is dispersed throughout the continent, attitudes shift dramatically, and understanding the differences in our cultures and values become crucial for decisions makers.

This is why Garreau has been a regular contributor to the International Forum of the University of Pennsylvania's innovative Wharton Business School, briefing top executives from Korea to Sweden. He has appeared on over one thousand television and radio programs, including "Good Morning America," "Today," "The CBS Evening News With Dan Rather," "the NBC Nightly News," "ABC World News With Peter Jennings," National Public Radio's "Morning Edition," Cable News Network, The Jesse Jackson Show and The Larry King Show.

Joel Garreau is a senior writer for The Washington Post in Washington DC, president of his company, The Garreau Group, and a member of the scenario-planning consortium Global Business Network. He writes and consults from his Virginia home, which he shares with his wife and two daughters.

Joel's Picks

THIS ALL STARTED as a kind of private craziness.

A small band of newspaper people who spent their time on the road across America, reporting on it for the Washington Post, started getting used to a certain question from me, their desk-bound editor. What, I wanted to know, was it like wherever they found themselves? read more

"The Nine Nations"
FORGET the pious wisdom you've been handed about North America.

Forget about the borders dividing the United States, Canada, and Mexico, those pale barriers so thoroughly porous to money, immigrants, and ideas.

Forget the bilge you were taught in sixth-grade geography about East and West, North and South, faint echoes of glorious pasts that never really existed save in sanitized textbooks. read more

"New England"
EAST OF THE GREEN MOUNTAINS, under a bridge that carries the main street of the town of Randolph, Vermont, over the Third Branch of the White River, lies a small mill.

With the words SARGENT ROUNDY CORPORATION fading on its smokestack, the place might seem to be abandoned. There are many deserted factories in this beautiful land, much of whose industry has seen hard times for a century. read more

"The Foundry"
"Oh-ho say can you see . . ."

Dull green with yellow tips, the hefty cranes up on towers cluster, sporting the markings of Bethlehem Steel. Amid them, incongruously, are nestled the white-tipped black yardarms of a three-masted sailing ship, the U.S.S. Constellation. read more

ON FORTY-FIFTH STREET In Manhattan, there is a transvestite disco called G. G. Barnum's.

For ten bucks, its patrons get two unwatered drinks, the opportunity to exercise as many kinks as they can conjure up, and - unusual even by the standards of midtown - an air show.

The ceiling above the dance floor is perhaps thirty feet high. Just over the heads of the paying customers, cargo netting has been strung from wall to wall. Above the cargo netting are trapezes. Also, shiny chrome vertical and horizontal bars. And gymnast's rings. read more

IN HINDS COUNTY, Mississippi, in a dark-paneled reception room by striking orange Scandinavian furniture, on a mahogany pole, stands a Confederate battle flag.

As recently as ten or fifteen years ago, there would be nothing remarkable about the presence of the flag in this, the deepest of the Deep South, just below the state capital of Jackson. In fact, if it were standing alone, it might not attract any attention today. But this particular, full-sized, gold-fringed symbol of a certain time and place stands in a row of four. read more

"The Islands"
ABOUT THREE MILES into the heart of the city, but at a point where the Miami River is still wide enough for a small ocean freighter to just squeeze through, the denizens of the Gunkhole were trying to figure out why the Coast Guard was on their case. read more

RICHARD MILHOUS NIXON always liked Coronado Island, and no wonder. It would take an incomprehensible hardening of the soul not to feel a surge of gratitude toward the Pacific Ocean for creating the beaches, waves, and breezes that give the island what is possibly the finest year-round climate in North America.

But perhaps more important to him, the island, just an hour south of San Clemente, is full of the former president's kind of people. read more

PARADISE, as it turns out, smells like bee glue.

Near the crest of the Cascade Mountains of Oregon, Paradise is guarded by Three Sisters. North, Middle, and South - 10,085 feet, 10,047 feet, and 10,358 feet, respectively - the Three Sisters are snowcapped behemoths that tower over the Douglas fir near the top of the valley of the McKenzie River. read more

"The Empty Quarter"
DOWN AT the Blyth & Fargo Co. mercantile, where he takes payments on the credit sales of groceries to ranchers and puts the cash into an Antonio y Cleopatra cigar box, Harry Bodine talks about the Wyoming frontier as if it were yesterday. He really does.

"We had two barns in town to house these horses to do our delivering with. We'd go from town to town, sometimes, with these horses. You had to have just as stylish a horse, just as nice and useful as you would an automobile or truck today." read more

"The Breadbasket"
IN THE HUSH of the high-ceilinged expanse of teak and cork, near the soaring walls of glass, below the enormous chandeliers, oblivious of the hundreds of people who filed, blinking, into the bright, lofty space through a low portal, the three men talked of cathedrals.

"One is pretty similar to the other," said one thoughtful acolyte. "Basically, they're worshiping the same monolithic higher power. You know, the rules are different, just as the ritual is different. But essentially, these things tell us how to live. Very often where to live. How we dress." read more

SIX HUNDRED MILES north of Montreal, the land is so wild and forbidding that even the moose won't put up with it. Around La Grande Riviere, where the snow begins to blow in mid-September, but stops soon after Christmas, when it becomes too cold even for that, the caribou begin their range.

The fishing is terrific in this crumpled, glacier-scoured plain. The land is so tattered with lakes and ponds that, despite the thousands of years the Indians and Eskimos - Cree and Innuit - have lived off it, there are untold numbers of waters where trout and pike have never been disturbed by man. read more

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