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Our Patchwork Nation: The Surprising Truth About the "Real" America

3.43  ·  Rating Details ·  350 Ratings  ·  62 Reviews
A provocative counterargument to the blue/red divide that illuminates our country's multidimensional political spectrum. In a climate of culture wars and economic uncertainty, the media have often reduced America to a simplistic schism between red and blue states. In response to that oversimplification, journalist Dante Chinni teamed up with political geographer James Gimp ...more
Paperback, 318 pages
Published October 4th 2011 by Avery (first published September 30th 2010)
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Jul 07, 2012 Ryan rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
The book starts with an interesting premise: The tendency to try and divide the US into red and blue states misses out on the variety of American experiences that in fact exist. Unfortunately the authors of Our Patchwork Nation don't really accomplish their goal of showing that the categorization of red and blue states is insufficient because they go on to make 12 hard categories of different American experiences. The problem is not that the red-blue dichotomy doesn't account for the purple in b ...more
Dec 27, 2010 Rachel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
If you've read The Nine Nations of North America, this book's premise will seem somewhat familiar. The authors attempt to define Americans through an ocean of cultural and economic data. Using this data they designate tweleve different community types, from Industrial Metropolises to Mormon Outposts, offering some explanation of how Americans experience the same country differently, which ultimately guides them to make different political choices. While Chinni expresses concern about the splinte ...more
Apr 22, 2012 Robert rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Trying to analyze the country by breaking it into communities based on shared socioeconomic and religious factors is a very good idea. However, this book approaches it in a way that feels very simplistic. They only spending a few pages describing one location in each of the 12 communities they describe, and give only the most basis demographic information for each type.

One primary argument of the book is that you can't essentialize red states and blue state into one set of stereotypes, but the
Jay Roberts
Sep 27, 2011 Jay Roberts rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: politics, history
This book is an analytic rundown of the nation’s differences, taken down to a county by county level. The findings show that there are 12 types of communities that make up the basis of our nation. Good insight is given into the history, politics, and economies of each location.

The book is an enjoyable read about why we are different. The author hopes that our society is one in transition rather than one that is falling apart. However, a common theme emerges from the most economically depressed
A random library pick-up, this is an attempt to provide a more nuanced picture of America than just "red and blue," using statistics and narrative. The authors, a journalist and a professor of government, analyzed factors like income, gas prices, church attendance, etc. by county and found twelve clusters. They gave the twelve types of communities cute names like "Evangelical Epicenter" and "Boom Town." The book consists of brief profiles of a representative of each community type followed by co ...more
Nov 21, 2010 Caren rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: adult-nonfiction
Some very interesting ideas here. Rather than the simplistic red state/blue state scenario, the authors have divided the country into twelve community types with representative examples of each. In the back of the book is a list of every county in the USA and the first and second choice of what type each may represent. The authors are quick to concede that life is more complex than twelve "types" can reveal, but upon looking at my own county, I thought their description was spot-on. The twelve t ...more
David R.
Chinni and Gimpel's answer to the "American nations" blitz (e.g. Garreau's "Nine Nations", Woodward's "11 Nations) is underpowered and unconvincing. That Americans are readily divisible into computer-detectable geo- and psychodemographic clusters has long been known to market researchers, and anyone else who can perceive that various counties, zip codes, census tracts and neighborhoods may differ in consumer behavior (i.e. some are wealthy, some not). But to assume that these congeries of cluste ...more
Nov 10, 2010 Svelteassassin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Does a great job of explaining differences in American culture, politics, and economics by classifying counties in America into 12 different community types, instead of just Red State/Blue State. Sounds dry and boring, but it's actually an easy read and quite fascinating. It follows the Freakonomics model of research done by an academic but the writing done by a journalist, so it it's rigorously researched but is not a boring academic tome.
I had hopes that this book would be along the lines of an updated The Nine Nations of North America. The first section, outlining various American "segments", seemed similar, though a bit dry. After that things became too wonky and technical for me to follow, so I bailed.
Jeff Raymond
A surprisingly great read about modern demographics and how they affect culture and politics. I figured a lot of it would be a rehash of what we see in the media, but the book really drills down into what the communities mean and how they impact each other and themselves. Definitely recommended on a number of levels.
Steven S.
Nov 12, 2010 Steven S. rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Just a really smart way of breaking down the differences in America. It takes you to different places and explores different communities without being judgmental. And helps explain a lot of the oddities in opinion in you see on the news and read in the paper. A great read.
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Good theory, bad statistical presentation.

I've lived in seven states in all four continental US time zones, and understanding regional behavior in this country is a personal interest of mine. I also have graduate-level research methods training, making me the perfect person to critique this book. And I really wanted to like it. Unfortunately, it just doesn't pass the smell test once the methodology is poked at even a little.

The basic premise of this book is to counteract the sweeping and inacc
Daniel Stefanski
If you like reading about pop-sociology, demographics, and culture, than this book is for you. The book is satisfying especially if you enjoyed "The 11 Nations of North America". If anything, that book should be required reading before delving into this one. Together, they paint a realistic portrait of the U.S. The authors propose that there are 11 different types of American communities, "industrial megalopolis'", "evangelical outposts", "tractor country", etc. Having lived in a few different a ...more
Mar 28, 2015 Harris rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: library-book, ebook
Published back in 2010, as others have pointed out, this title has really not aged well since, but then, I am not sure if I would have really been convinced by the authors’ arguments even five years ago. Most obviously, the authors could not take into account the 2012 Election and the insights here that might have affected their takes on these various demographics discussed here. The lack of this really made much of the book seem sadly lacking, though the author’s website does updates, and in fa ...more
Jan 02, 2013 Follin rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Being a nerd for books like this--mix of political science, geography, demography, cultural differences in US--I was excited to read this book, which purports to go beyond the simplistic red-blue divide to a finer-grained analysis of 12 different types of communities. The methodology seemed sound, the arguments compelling. But the first sign of trouble was the names of the 12 types, which authors admitted were not descriptive of many communities included therein--e.g., Tractor Country included l ...more
Robb Bridson
Interesting premise but disappointing.
Unlike those books seeking to define American "nations" this one tries to divide by community type. By its methods the differences are less historically contextual, more based on here and no stats.
The only purpose I can really see here are for helping politicians more efficiently pander.

The attempts the authors make to find other purposes are often bad, and they realize it.
I think they understate just how much tension would erupt if federal programs only inc
Nov 13, 2010 Shawn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I wish this book were more popular. It's just as well-written and interesting as any of a number of popular social science books (think Jared Diamond or Malcolm Gladwell).

The premise is the authors' search to find an alternative to the "red state/blue state" language to describe different sections of the U.S. They opted to create ten to fifteen sections, based on a huge variety of county-level data. Based on the data, they decided on twelve. Each county is statistically assigned into one of the
Feb 23, 2015 Chuck rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Dante Chinni and Jame Gimpel's "Our Patchwork Nation" is a statistical analysis of the United States. "Our Patchwork Nation" attempts to assign every county of the 2008 United States into one of 11 different political viewpoints based upon a large number of data points.

I found the book is well written. And found that within the goals of the book, it was transparent in terms of methodology and data used.

I found the book's analysis far more nuanced than the standard "Red State- Blue State" narrati
Mar 14, 2015 Louis rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Dante Chinni and James Gimpel’s Patchwork Nation: The Surprising Truth About The “Real” America proposes a new framework looking at the politics and culture of the United States of America, examine a dozen categories of regions. Chinni and Gimpel argue that the traditional “red state” versus “blue state” is outmoded and over-simplified—there isn’t a single part of the country that accurately represents the so-called “real” America. Chinni and Gimpel also examine the implications of having so man ...more
Nov 11, 2010 Michelle rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Hmm. I liked the first part of this book, an analysis of the country on the premise that states or even portions of states are too big to be a truly useful tool for understanding American communities. The authors make a good case for use of the county, and for at least some of their community types (one could quibble a little with the number and grouping of types). The second half of the book was weaker, rather shallow consideration of the impact of these communities on the economic, political a ...more
Harry Lane
Chinni and Gimpel have done in-depth research on a county level to explore the similarities and differences among the populations across the country. In some ways, their work is similar to that of Joel Garreau, who in 1981 published a book titled "The Nine Nations of North America." Both books seek to understand cultural, economic and political distictions among various groups and regions. Patchwork Nation is more detailed, and identifies twelve categories rather than nine. If you happen to be a ...more
Oct 26, 2015 Liam rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"In Minority Central communities class and income are inseparable from race. If the people who live in these places are unable to bridge their divide and engage one another in a more open way, it's easy to imagine them stumbling through the next decade enacting half measures to deal with problems as tensions rise. The people on both sides of the street who have 'stopped throwing rocks at each other' may find reason anew to pick up stones." (93)

"The Monied Burbs hold about 69 million people, the
Jul 05, 2013 Mark rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this book and wished that it had been updated to today, but its perspective from 2010 was not to far off all things said. I enjoyed this book and all but it should have been longer and better detailed to deserve a 4 star rating. The book seemed to go to great lengths to skirt around describing voting patterns as racially/religiously normative behaviors. But I do think that my friends and family would like this book a bit more than the average American because many Michigan counties were d ...more
Dec 25, 2010 Kristen rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: american-society
I like the premise, but felt the book was too anecdotal overall. I'm not so interested in who the author talked to on a two-day visit to Nixa, Missouri or even who the residents of Nixa voted for in the 2004 election. I would be more interested in an in-depth look at the different community types. The statistics displayed for each type of community didn't seem to vary much and didn't help to illustrate the point. The focus on identifying characteristics of geographic regions makes it mostly appl ...more
Robert  Baird
It's a valid and worthwhile analysis of types of American communities. I had no qualms with the methodology.

Like a lot of good demographic analysis, it dragged.

It's interesting to compare this work to American Nations (Colin Woodward), which was published around the same time. The place typologies of the two books are quite different from each other, and each is probably useful in their own way. Patchwork Nation gives you the nuance and evidence that you wish for in American Nations. But, the
This book starts off great. I found the idea of looking at the country by county as opposed to states to be interesting and probably more accurate that looking at the country through the red state/blue state dichotomy. His descriptions of each county type were engaging. However, the book really begins to drags toward the end. It became very dry and uninteresting. The first 150 pages are good but after that, I had to work really hard to finish the book.
Done with "Our Patchwork Nation" ( I think the 12 categories of communities was great. I really enjoyed the visits to the representative communities. The last three chapters on economics, politics and such were pretty conventional media bland. I still give a thumbs up. And it did go well with "American Nations" ( "American Nations" was an historical approach while "Patchwork Nation" was statistical.
Michael Garner
Interesting report on our nations 12 major types of communities, determined by various parameters. Details how the makeup of the country is much more diverse then the Red State Blue State dichotomy the mainstream media enjoys portraying this country as.

It is a short read, slightly over 200 pages with large appendices in the back. Overall I enjoyed it, but it could have been more entertaining, but I don't believe that is what the author was going for.
Roger Haskins
This book takes the long time tool of marketers to segment populations by similar characteristics of community, life, and beliefs and applies it to socio-political context that is much richer than the red state/blue state label typically found in today's media. A well researched and well written book that gets to a level where real opportunities are uncovered. I'd recommend this to anyone looking to move into public service.
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