Characteristics of the Great Lakes Region

Great Lakes Region Map

The data from the State Similarity Index groups the Midwestern states of Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio into the Great Lakes Region. Pennsylvania is a transitional state between the Great Lakes region and the BosWash region, since it has traits of both regions. Here are some of the characteristics most of these states share:

As its name suggests, all the states in the Great Lakes region border the Great Lakes. Despite bordering these large freshwater lakes, most of the water in this region flows into Gulf of Mexico via the Mississippi River and its tributaries. Their climates are similar as well. They get a moderate amount of rainfall, while having warm summers and cold winters. Corn and soybean are especially popular crops in farmlands of the region. Before they were colonized, the majority of this region was forested with a mix of broadleaf and coniferous trees. These states also have a moderate amount of population density. They are not extremely densely populated or sparsely populated.

The demographics of states in the Great Lakes region are fairly representative of the entire United States, except that they have a lower percentage of Latinos. With the exception of Illinois, around 80% of the people in these states are White. These states are all mostly Protestant, but have significant Catholic populations as well. The average age of the people in these states is neither exceptionally old nor exceptional young. The percentage of married people is similar to the national average as well. Their residents also tend to have an average weight and height, compared to the rest of the country. Furthermore, this region is neither especially poor or rich. Every state in this region has more women than men.

The Great Lakes region was colonized after the 13 original colonies were established. These states did not allow slavery and were all part of the Union during the Civil War. With the exception of Indiana, they all allowed interracial marriage before 1900. The people in this region are neither especially religious nor especially irreligious. They have about the same percentages of Evangelical Protestants, Mainline Protestants, and Roman Catholics. Few languages other than English are natively spoken in the region. Their people are known to be friendly and practical. Interestingly enough, all the states in this region have at least one university that is part of the Big Ten.

In the past 20 years, all of the states in the Great Lakes region have had both Republican and Democratic governors. However, most of these states tend to vote for Democratic presidential candidates. In fact in the 2008 election, they all voted Barack Obama. With the exception of Indiana, these states have many laws that ban smoking in public places and corporal punishment in schools. Ohio is the only state in the region where the death penalty is still regularly used. All these states do not allow marriage to first cousins. Moreover, their state supreme court justices and trial court judges tend to be elected rather than appointed.

A nickname for the Great Lakes region is the Rust Belt, since these states have experienced a decline in manufacturing and industry due to outsourcing. These states still more produce more manufactured goods per capita than the national average, but have diversified their economies. Iron is one mineral that is commonly mined in these states. To transport their goods, these states tend to have a particularly dense network of freight railroads. Since they are located next to the Great Lakes, almost all the public water supply in these states has their source in freshwater. Furthermore, all of these states are part of the Eastern electrical grid. Natural gas heats the majority of homes in the region.

Great Lake Region’s Most Representative State: Ohio (77.5 regional average)

Most Similar Region to the Great Lakes: Great Plains region

(Statistics as of 2020)

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