Educational Achivement in the Context of The Five Heartlands of the United States

My friend Mark Safranski asked that I read the “Council of Foreign Relations Independent Task Force Report No. 68: U.S. Education Reform and National Security,” chaired by Joel Klein and Condoleeza Rice, and directed by Julia Levy. Mark’s critical of the report, and I need to compose my thoughts on it. One graphic, however, struck me to comment on it:

Your very first thought reading this should be “We are doing terribly wherever blacks, hispanics, or Scotch-Irish are the dominant ethnic group.”

Here is the same map with the five heartlands of the United States (German, Hispanic, Black, British, and Scotch-Irish) highlighted:

Excepting the 2 non-contiguous states, there are 13 States “below average.” Of these 13, only Michigan, Oklahoma, and Nevada do not have a non-German plurality. Nevada and Oklahoma are contugous with the Hispanic heartland. Michigan goes without saying.

Interestingly, these five heartlands and the obvious ethnic implications of the map are not mentioned in the Council on Foreign Relations report!

17 thoughts on “Educational Achivement in the Context of The Five Heartlands of the United States”

  1. Do you have an email address somewhere on this site (or anywhere else on the internet!) I can’t find? I’d like to send you a private communication.

  2. Florida should probably be in a category of its own. The old joke describes its inhabitants as being born Cuban and dying Jewish. Joel Garreau, more seriously, described it as the commercial capital of Latin America and the Caribbean. The aboriginal population had a somewhat easier time of sticking around than their relatives to the north. And the northern part of the state is a theme park away from being another part of the south.

  3. Michael,

    I defined heartland simply using Wikipedia’s plurality ethnic group data. The Scotch-Irish refer to themselves as “American,” so I changed that term for my map.

    Utah and Florida are oddly parrallel, as both are the result of a mass migration and both effectively border the Latin world.

    I’m assuming hispanic/black/scotch-irish labor brought in by the auto industry disrpoportionately drags down Michigan’s scores, and that the DC suburbs bring up Virginia’s scores. North Carolina’s is surpsising — is the impact of the Research Triangle really that strong?


    I’ll email you directly.

  4. Dan – scale matters. If you did this with a county-scale map the results would be far less coherent. For example, Michigan’s UP has a very large Finnish population who don’t fit into your schema at all. I don’t know about education, on the one hand, there are a lot of poor people, but a couple of decent universities. Ann Arbor, which is Washtenaw County (one to the left of Wayne county), had a lot of German settlers, and the university was established 1817; today it has the highest Asian-American population in the state. And as you well know there are an enormous number of confounding variables in addition to ethnicity. It’s just a much more complex story than a state-resolution graphic suggests.

  5. Hey Fred,

    Thanks for the comment!

    The map would be definitely less easy-to-interpret if I emphasized a level with more than 5 ethnic pluralities. That said, I assume that any place with a hispanic, black, or scotch-irish population is disproportionately likely to have poor educational outcomes.

  6. Hi Dan,

    The map would be less easy to interpret, but much more meaningful! I have worked with geospatial data for years and prefer to err on the side of higher resolution. Your *very first though*t when seeing this map should not be to generalize about ethnicity, it should be ” the statewide averages drown out the variation, where is the county-level data?”

    Also, aren’t you assuming away the whole issue? It’s far from obvious to me that ethnicity of origin would survive after you controlled for everything else.

  7. Hey Fred,

    Your definitely right that higher resolution work is more rigorous! ๐Ÿ™‚

    I haven’t seen an overlap of country-wide ethnic and academic data, but it strikes me the same finding holds-up. I’d expect poor performance from the “black belt” of the American South, from Latino areas of hte South-west, and the “hill country” of the South. Not coincidentally, these line up with ethnic concentrations of blacks, hispanics, and scotch-irish.

    If you controlled “for everything else” you’d be controlling for the entire nomothetic span of ethnicity, which (if you’d constructed it well) should include all the variation of ethnicity. So the survival or not of ethnicity as a predictor in such a case might not be relevant.

    In any case, the main point — รขโ‚ฌล“We are doing terribly wherever blacks, hispanics, or Scotch-Irish are the dominant ethnic group.รขโ‚ฌย — stands whether the ‘reason’ for our terrible performance resides exclusively within us (Coalition of the Oppressed theory), them (cultural/genetic inferiority), or some combination of the two.

  8. “…and scotch-irish.” Don’t you mean Scotch-German? You know, Hatfields and Macoys? Being a little of both, and I think my sister said that our mother’s people were from that area, I was just wondering? Don’t really make much difference, but it could have something to do with my poor ability to spell ๐Ÿ™‚

  9. my ancestry is easier to define geospatially than in terms of ethnicity:

    parents — Zimmerman & Lamar
    grandparents — Zimmerman & Ryan, Lamar & Barnes
    greatgrandparents — Zimmerman, Vandewater, Lamar,?

    Alsace Lorraine, Huguenot, Irish, Dutch

    all within 500 miles of the North Sea

  10. Larry,

    Very cool.

    Scotch-Irish mixed together before they came to the United States, hence the hyphen. Woodrow Wilson (the only President with a PhD) was also Scotch-Irish — I like to think we both hail from the same intellectual strain of that race ๐Ÿ˜‰


    English, Irish, Scotch-Irish, and German myself. It’s pretty easy to frame a square map that includes the main bodies of Ireland, the UK, and Germany — such a map includes much of France, and all of Holland.

    A lot of history in that little area!

  11. At risk of spoiling a perfectly good discussion (Scotch-Irish on at least two branches of my family), I can’t help wondering what would happen if you compared that map with maps of various measures of economic performance, taxation and government expenditure?

  12. Hey Michael,

    Thanks for the link!

    I’m reminded of the TPMB’s line that Hispanics are the next Germans — they will be so numerous and spread out they are invisible. Wonder if it will be true!

  13. The Dr’s line is similar in thought I had about leverage. You add force at a distance and you end up with energy. Leverage (like the invisible Germans) is a multiplier of the force at the distance.

    The structure that makes up the distance between both ends of the energy is the amount of leverage that the force is able to bring to bear. Could it be that for the Germans (and as you say possibly the Hispanics) this leverage translates culturally, if the structure supports it? From TPMB’s line, it sounds like he thinks it is possible.

    Of course the resources used to create the structure for the “force at a distance” is the means to the end, and the path that the structure takes is the way to both ends of the distance, so to understand this we have to look at the end, means and way.

    I should also note that the magnitude of the force is in the culture at one end of the distance, with an equal, greater than, or less than force at the other end, creating a moment of inertia.

    My thought was: which end of the distance is the force that I am from, if all the force of my being can be summed up in the quote by neuroscientist Carla Shatz, from Howard Rheingold’s book, Net Smart: “Neurons that fire together wire together”?

    While it may be true that the purpose of war is to form a gap between neurons, a spark is able to jump the gap if the culture is right. It just depends on what is in the gap, and the magnitude of the force on one side of the gap.

    Or as it has been noted before (, culture eats structure ๐Ÿ™‚

  14. Already happened, to a certain extent, in my town. Went to a fund-raising lunch for a cancer patient, yesterday, didn’t realize we were the only Anglos in the room until I realized they had Spanish-language songs playing on the karaoke machine between torture sessions.

    Not an ethnic slur, btw, just a lack of fondness for karaoke. Fortunately, we were finished eating before a couple of older ladies started in on “Leader of the Pack”*shudder*

  15. Michael,


    The use of the term ‘Anglo’ is interesting — I was the only one of my friends to have an English last name growing up!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *