What The U.S. Region You Grew Up In Says About You, According To Social Science
Where you're from matters — whether you're a born-and-bred New Yorker or a tried and true Texan. Even if we spend most of our adult years running from our hometown, attempting to hide our neighborhood-specific accents and sayings, the region where we grew up has imprinted some serious characteristics onto us, and they're here for the long run. And the social science backs that fact up.
Jason Rentfrow, a psychologist at Cambridge University, led a team of researchers to collect people's demographic data in order to determine how the area where they grew up related to their personality traits; the fascinating results were published in a 2014 edition of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. He says the psychological qualities that reside in each region are so powerful that they can "alter people's natural dispositions."
Rentfrow and his team based their data on the "Big Five" elements: openness, conscientiousness, agreeableness, extraversion, and neuroticism. Below you can peruse through how each of them play a role in your childhood stomping grounds, along with the results from other related research.
Of course, although it's easy for our brains to categorize each other according to a solid set of standards, you shouldn't get too caught up in what the scientists have to say. After all, they themselves encourage us to take it all with a grain of salt — these are generalizations that hold true for many and stroke our curious minds, but they don't exist as gospel.
Read on about how your personality is affected by the region of the United States you're from.
If You're From New England (Massachusetts, Vermont, Maine, Rhode Island, etc.)...
People in this region, particularly in Boston, tend to care very much about their social status markers, according to Victoria Plaut, a social and cultural psychologist at the UC Berkeley School of Law. This area's history of Puritan colonies and rich American history has left its residents committed to a standard of excellence, and, if you hail from here, you probably are concerned, even if unconsciously, with community and well-kept institutions. You've been exposed to a lot of sources of learning, so you're intellectually open and not very judgmental.
Personality-wise, you're likely a relatively even-tempered individual, rather than a drama queen who loves a good squabble. Because New Englanders tend to be more uninhibited than, say, their Midwest counterparts, chances are you are politically liberal — yet you aren't the most creative individual. You appreciate structure and order, and you like how everyone in your hometown and surrounding areas is polite in public.
If You're From The Southeast (Georgia, Alabama, the Carolinas, Tennessee, Kentucky, etc.)...
Statistics suggest that you're an extrovert — with an adorable accent. It's easy for you to chat with a stranger or brand new acquaintance because you're agreeable upon initially meeting someone. Southerners pride themselves on tradition, and it's hard to break them out of what they've been raised to believe; so although you've got the Southern hospitality thing down pat, you likely aren't as open to new ideas and experiences. It's hard for you to seriously entertain adopting novel concepts into your life.
A typical Southerner isn't as physically healthy as their neighbors up north, but their tendency to be conventional contributes to a less stressful lifestyle. You're likely politically conservative and a supporter of male chivalry.
Do you happen to be from North Carolina? If so, you might be an exception to the rule; you guys are more creative, interested in nature, and a bit quirkier.
If You're From The Midwest...
Not unlike the Southern bells, you are some of the friendliest Americans roaming our land. Sociability and likeability come easily to you; it's not uncommon for you to put a smile on people's faces. You tend to be much less neurotic than the rest of us, but that doesn't automatically mean you live a consistently relaxing life. Folks in this region usually lack open-mindedness and individualism, even if they are extra helpful to strangers.
You're used to living within the realms of fulfilling your duty as a community and family member. There is a strong likelihood that you grew up with social capital — that is, within social organizations that brought people together on a regular basis, such as bowling leagues and churches — making you a loyal individual who sticks by her loved ones, even when things get rough. You're so trusting of your neighbors that you rarely lock your front door or use the nifty alarm system you had installed when you first moved in.
If You're From The Pacific West (California, Oregon, Washington, Hawaii, etc.)...
You're less bound to social norms and running after the status quo; you and your friends and family are more likely to champion individuality, no matter what shape or form it comes in. Plaut says you are more concerned with showing people around you how much fun you allow yourself to have, instead of toting around your work schedule in their faces. Take San Francisco as an example: the history of this city lies in the Gold Rush and a new frontier, and it now tends to spit out people who are less concerned with tradition and more focused on innovation.
If you're a true Westerner at heart, you are most inclined out of everyone in the country to embrace new experiences. On the "Big Five" scale, you fall into the relaxed-and-creative category; you're a bit of an introvert and maybe not so warm and welcoming to people you don't know, but you certainly know how to be true to yourself.
If You're From The Southwest (Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, Colorado etc.)...
It wouldn't come as much of a surprise if you're a politically conservative person, conventional and mild-tempered. You take the values of family and community with you through your adult life, yet you're known to have a stronger intuition than others. Like your neighbors in the Southeast, though, you tend to be close-minded, especially when it comes to racial diversity.
Folks from the New Mexico and Nevada desert-like regions are tough cookies — it takes a lot to shake you up, so you have no problem standing your ground when it's necessary. Research suggests you're a Sentinel, meaning you're the kind of gal who is reliable and connected long-standing tradition. However, the complement to these qualities is rigidity; there's little room for variation in your day-to-day goings about.
If You're From The Northeast (New York, New Jersey, Delaware, DC, Maryland, etc.)...
Don't worry, I won't harp for too long about how naturally neurotic and surly you are compared to the rest of the country — but you do fall smack dab in the hottest spot of the "neuroticism belt." You may not score the highest on friendliness, but you are extremely tolerant of others' life choices; you're more liberal and supportive of progressive, forward-thinking causes. Multiculturalism isn't even an issue for you because it surrounds you on the daily, so there's no need to talk about it like it's a taboo subject.
Because where we all grew up influences the kind of iconic status we keep with us for the rest of our lives, folks from this part of the U.S. tend to have adopted strong ideas about what constitutes success. They like to live within the status quo and achieve things in their career and personal life that propel them forward in the social ladder. Sure, you might be more anxious, but you are a hard-worker with a competitive streak that gets you somewhere.