WHAT is the Middle West? Does it look abroad at all? What, if anything, differentiates its attitudes from those of other regions? Are there any perceptible trends in its attitudes? If so, are the forces that bring them into being deep or shallow? Are they therefore likely to continue and can we look for permanence in the trend?
We generally mean by Middle West the whole great region which begins with the Pennsylvania border and, extending westward, includes all the area north of the Ohio to the Mississippi, at least the northern half of Missouri, all of Kansas and Nebraska, and follows more or less the western boundary of the Dakotas to the Canadian border. It includes about 38,000,000 people, roughly 30 percent of our population. It includes great metropolitan concentrations -- more of them than any other region except the Northeast. It includes much of the nation's agricultural land and most of the best of it. It is regarded as basically an agricultural region.
Actually it is a region of balance between country and city. It contains great mineral resources -- most of the country's iron, for instance. In it appear all the divergent outlooks that characterize diverse city industries. Even on the agricultural side there is no simple pattern, nothing comparable, for instance, to the cotton zones of the South. True, the great central part of the region, from Ohio to mid-Nebraska, from southern Minnesota to southern Missouri and the lower tip of Illinois, significantly comprises the Triple-A's "commercial corn belt." But there are differences even here. So huge is this region, so complex its economic bases, that to generalize about its attitudes is difficult indeed.
In this region as well as on the Pacific Coast, about which Chester Rowell has reported,[i] concepts of economic interest are probably the chief long-run determinants of major attitudes. But these concepts swirl. Some of them seem to change.
Apart from the economic, there are factors of history (which means habit), of racial composition, of
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