General Question

Gabby101's avatar

Why does it take so long for the midwest to respond to change?

Asked by Gabby101 (2950points) November 23rd, 2014

I am originally from a town in Iowa of ~100,000 people. When I go back and interact with people outside of my family, even though I try to be positive and think past the stereotypes, I still find that the majority of people are about 10 years behind the times (compared with San Francisco or New York).

I remember when I was in school, I was always surprised at how uninterested in and uninformed my friends were about new trends coming from the bigger cities – not just fashion or hair (hey, I was a teenager), but also restaurants, art, etc. Now I see this disinterest in more important ways – how to raise children that can get into good colleges and/or compete economically with the rest of the country, for example. They act as if ignoring what is happening in the rest of the country will prevent the changes from coming.

I would have thought this would have changed with the internet, but mostly it hasn’t. Why is this?

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33 Answers

josie's avatar

How do you know that NYC and SF are not experiencing an accelerated rate of decadence?

Answer; You don’t. But it is certainly possible. So why make an assumption that has about a 50% chance of being correct?

Aethelwine's avatar

I live in the Midwest and my experience is opposite of yours. I’m not saying there aren’t those who want to continue with a lifestyle they are comfortable with, but they are becoming the minority. The internet has helped us. We are more informed and most of us want the best education for our children.

BeenThereSaidThat's avatar

I don’t agree with you. my whole family live in the Midwest but I have lived in New York most of my life. I married a New Yorker.

I breath a sigh of relief when I visited my relatives. They are people who know all the latest fads but elect to live as normal sane people. family and friends mean more to them then pretending to be something they are not comfortable being.

I live in New York with so many people who have no morals, no values and are constantly chasing the newest and latest of everything. The Almighty dollar is their God. Not to mention most of the people I know here are miserable most of the time. The people in the Midwest have smiles on their faces and are nice to be around.

jerv's avatar

The same was largely true of New England, at least outside of NYC and Boston. I think it’s more of an urban vs. rural thing.

Compared to a place like Seattle, Iowa is pretty much rural; they have ~3 million people spread over ~56,000 sq. miles (much of that in just Des Moines, and Cedar Rapids) while the Seattle Metro area has ~3.5 million people in under 600 sq. miles. While the internet helps share information (as @jonsblond implies), the truth is that immersion spreads change faster than mere data flow over the internet. Iowa only really has three cities where that degree of immersion-based information exchange is really possible, so it’s naturally going to take them a little longer to change, just the same as NH changes slower than Boston.

However, that doesn’t mean that they are all like that; I have a couple old friends in Cedar Rapids that most definitely defy that stereotype.

Gabby101's avatar

@josie and @beentheresaidthat – I agree that the change is not always positive, but in my experience it comes all the same.

josie's avatar

@Gabby101
In that case it is sort of like death. It eventually arrives, but why be in a hurry?

hug_of_war's avatar

Not been my experience as a lifelong midwesterner. At all.

elbanditoroso's avatar

Whatever slowness the Midwest takes, the South – Deep South – takes longer.

JLeslie's avatar

I wouldn’t generalize the whole Midwest. On the coasts, especially cities like NYC and Miami, there is more people from many places and more influence of diversity. The exposure is different. Milan and Paris probably feel NY is behind in some ways; especially fashion. Everything is relative.

I remember living in Raleigh, NC and talking to this woman from NY and she said there is something to be said for mediocrity. Her word choice took me aback, but her message was that life can be easier and safer in places not so prominent. 9/11 had just happened so that was part of the conversation, but we also were talking about fashion and other things.

When I visit my sister in NYC I feel people are more concerned with how people dress and I find it exhausting. I worked in retail for years. I worked for Bloomingdales, Calvin Klein, and others. I love the great designers, they are truly artists. Still, I much prefer living where I don’t have to think about keeping up.

At the same time, I tend to be socially liberal, so the Bible Belt can be frustrating. I don’t know if you live in the Bible Belt.

CWOTUS's avatar

You’re actually asking one thing but complaining about something else entirely. You ask why the Midwest is so slow to “respond to change”, but the Midwest responds to change as well as any human society could be expected to.

The thing that you’re complaining about seems to be “why don’t they follow trends established by others?” in the more fashion-forward (and food-forward, to coin a phrase) societies that you note on the coasts and elsewhere.

Midwesterners whom I have known like the way they live. It’s why they stay there, they raise their families there, and they do very well. They “respond to change” such as floods and tornadoes very well. In the 1980s during a period of real crisis for many farm families they also responded to change by eliminating debt, selling what they needed to in order to raise cash and pay down mortgages so that they could maintain and operate their farms, and they stayed.

Why change fashion, restaurant choices, friends and partners just because it’s trendy somewhere else? If you’re comfortable in your clothes, like what you eat for dinner, enjoy the love and support of your friends, families and spouse, why change? It seems to me that only an idiot or someone very gullible or with low self-esteem would change things that are successful for oneself.

jerv's avatar

@CWOTUS Actually, that is tied in a little more with being conservative (small “c”). The type of person you describe fits senses 1,2, and 3 of the definition of the word according to Freedictionary, especially sense 1.

con·ser·va·tive (kn-sûrv-tv) adj.
1. Favoring traditional views and values; tending to oppose change.
2. Traditional or restrained in style: a conservative dark suit.
3. Moderate; cautious: a conservative estimate.

In general, a conservative culture will avoid change for the sake of change. That doesn’t automatically make them xenophobes (though some are), but it does tend to lead to them being a little behind in a “don’t fix what ain’t broken” sort of way.

As for only the gullible and those with low self-esteem changing what works, if that were true then we wouldn’t have made many scientific/technological advances. Just as it’s possible to be conservative without being stagnant, it’s possible to strive for improvement without having the bad traits you ascribe to those who are not conservative. Do you know why we have electric lights instead of oil lamps? Because some “gullible” person decided to fix something that already worked.

funkdaddy's avatar

People who want to be “in tune” with the latest and greatest move to New York and San Francisco to be part of the scene there. So you have a concentration of those folks that find that important and stimulating. They want to be where the action is.

Not everyone wants to be optimized for rapid change. Change can be unsettling, especially if you like things stable and are pretty happy where you are.

If you’d rather be on the cutting edge as soon as possible, that’s more something you’ve found about yourself than the people in your old town. Enjoy what you enjoy, it doesn’t make others backwards or even oblivious. It’s just not their thing.

filmfann's avatar

Change and new social interaction are not always good, or seen as beneficial.

and stay off my lawn!

ibstubro's avatar

@funkdaddy took the words out of my mouth, and just when it was looking as though I was going to have something to add.

Silence04's avatar

Whoa now… Please remember Chicago is in the midwest.

ibstubro's avatar

What I like best is when a trend starts on the coast and it’s so bloody ridiculous that it never even makes is to the Midwest.

Columbia Missouri is about the center of the country, and one of the most progressive smaller towns in the country. MU is why. Any town with a top-notch university is going to be progressive, no matter its location.

elbanditoroso's avatar

@ibstubro – MAYBE, Brigham Young University is reasonably good in some areas, notably certain sciences (and horribly reactionary in others!) and they are far from progressive in a far from progressive state.

ibstubro's avatar

Amend, @elbanditoroso:

“Any town with a top-notch public university…”

jerv's avatar

” Any town with a top-notch university is going to be progressive, no matter its location.”
Seems most of those are along the coasts though, especially in urban areas. A lot of them are in New England or California with a few in Texas, and some scattered along the rest of the Eastern seaboard. For every “top notch” university in anyplace that qualifies as “Midwest” (mostly Indiana or Chicago, none in Missouri, at least on the “Top 50” lists I saw), there are at least 6 that aren’t.

JLeslie's avatar

I would guess U Michigan and U Wisconsin make the top 50 list.

ibstubro's avatar

University of Missouri’s” :ranking in the 2015 edition of Best Colleges is National Universities.

@jerv. Maybe that’s not good enough? Honestly, I care not. Columbia is a bastion of progressive in the conservative Midwest. A joy to visit.

Here2_4's avatar

Perhaps it is a dysfunction found only in the people with whom you tend to associate. You did mention the word fad. Fads are no measure of one’s ability to comprehend or follow change. Fads are simply personal choice. How snobbish of you to demand all those you know be deeply involved in that which you find compelling, and you turn your nose up at their loves, and interests.

JLeslie's avatar

@ibstubro It says U of MO is ranked 99.

I think @Jerv’s point was in the northeast there are many schools that rank in the top 50 within a small geographical location. In the midwest you might have one stand out in a state, and the state is large. I think we would have to look at population totals, not just how big the state is, to make a fair comparison, if we wanted to bother to compare.

ibstubro's avatar

University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

University of Michigan

University of Wisconsin at Madison

From this.

The Midwest hosts 30% of the best publicly funded (non-elitist) universities in the US.

Now, let’s talk per capita.

stanleybmanly's avatar

This is a question that’s been around since the onset of civilization. Aesop’s fable from the 4th century BC. was all about the hayseed “country mouse” and his visit to the sophisticated big city cousin. It’s understandable that more isolated and insular regions of a country would be last in receiving news and adapting to trends. The rugged persistence of this phenomenon in this computer telecommunications era, however is worthy of some serious consideration because it has evolved into a template for defining our politics. It’s no exaggeration to state that the agrarian model which rendered life viable in rural America has been beaten senseless by the splendors accompanying predatory capitalism. The same can be said for the former industrial model in our country. Capitalism (America) is all about winners and losers, and a vernacular replete with terms such as “rust belt” and “flyover country” pretty much indicate where the “losers” are wasting away. It is in places with vibrant interchange of ideas where progress and innovation occur throughout history. They are always places of diverse populations from throughout the world. Notice how quickly the conversation here shifted to the topic of universities. It’s no accident that the bright blue island of Austin shines out from blood red Texas. It is also no big surprise that those regions of the country abandoned to wither economically grow ever more conservative and suspicious of those in our midst afflicted by “book learnin” and scientific “mumbo jumbo”. As those with talent and intellect flee for the coasts and opportunity, the concentration of “those left behind” grows ever more scarlet, and the scourge of regressive nut job politics ensues.

jerv's avatar

@ibstubro We’re not saying the Midwest is uneducated, merely that that’s not where the “best of the best” schools are. Okay, maybe Berkeley and Harvard are a bit elitist, but that doesn’t change the fact that they are higher ranked on most lists. Just realized I typed a 6 instead if a 3 though; damn NumPad…

@stanleybmanly Even my home state illustrates that to an extent, for reasons stated in my first post in this thread. It does call into question how well the “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” attitude of the conservative rural areas works when the rest of the world evolves into a more dynamic world where the old ways are no longer as effective as they used to be.
Given the geographical overlap between conservative (small-c, as in “traditional-minded”) and Conservative (big-C, as in political views) areas, it could be argued that the real political divide in America is between those who recognize that the world evolves and those who seek to fight the tide of history by preserving the status quo and/or turn the clock back in order to try and undo some changes they don’t like. I’m not making that argument, merely throwing it out there as that is how some people see it.
Regardless, there is no denying a strong correlation between conservatism and Conservatism, so this question actually has a strong effect on how unified our “nation” (I use that term loosely, almost sarcastically, due to our current condition) is, and what direction it is heading. And since we affect the world (for better or for worse), it affects the course of humanity as a whole.

ibstubro's avatar

So, @jerv, you attended Harvard, or a school of that caliber, that allows you to look down on about ⅓ of the nation, en mass? Why do people live in the Midwest? So that they and their children can be among the 32,695 undergraduates at one of the highest rated public colleges for $14,750 in tuition and fees. Better odds than Harvard’s 6,722 and $43,938.

jerv's avatar

@ibstubro Nope, I went to Nuke School as a wire-biter. The accelerated pace (31 credits in 24 weeks) is rough, making it one of the most difficult schools in the world. They only even offer the entrance exam (the NFQT; an essay test instead of a standard “bubble test”, and no calculators allowed) to those with an ASVAB of 80+, and only those that get 54/80 or better on the NFQT actually get in. I got 97 and 72/80.

stanleybmanly's avatar

@jerv I would hesitate in down rating Midwest schools. The University of Chicago for example, takes a back seat to nobody!

jerv's avatar

@stanleybmanly You’re going to get my last post on the topic of universities. The Midwest may have some fine schools, but that doesn’t change the fact that there are more top-ranked universities where more people are. Chicago is pretty much the most populated spot in the Midwest, so U. Chicago actually proves my point, as does U. Michigan, which is practically in a suburb of Detroit.

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