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

3.36 of 5 stars 3.36  ·  rating details  ·  255 ratings  ·  51 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
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ebook, 336 pages
Published October 1st 2011 by Gotham Books (first published September 30th 2010)
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Rachel
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
Ryan
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
Robert
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
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Emily
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
Caren
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
Jay
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 what and why we are different, and the authors spin hope that our society is one in transition rather than one that is falling apart. However, a common theme emerges from the most econo ...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
Svelteassassin
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.
John
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.
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.
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
Mollie T
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
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Patrick
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Nathaniel
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
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Follin
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
Michelle
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
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
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Kristen
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
Mark
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
Jamie
Overall, I really liked the book and enjoyed reading about the 12 community types. It provided a sociological view of America above and beyond "red vs. blue." The last half of the book focused on economic, political, and cultural factors -- both now and into the future -- for each of the 12 types. My only minor complaint: I wish the authors would have provided more stories from each of the 12 communities; it would have been interesting to read more of the locals' views.
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.
Rick
Done with "Our Patchwork Nation" (http://amzn.com/B0052RDI78). 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" (http://amzn.com/B0052RDIZA). "American Nations" was an historical approach while "Patchwork Nation" was statistical.
Katie
Interesting theory and research. Divides the US by county, sorted by various demographic, political, religious, educational factors. Finds twelve basic community types, like Military Bastions, Evangelical Epicenters, Boom towns, Monied Burbs, and Mormon Outposts. You can look up your county and see what type of community you live in. It's pretty interesting, lots of good graphs etc. Ordered it after I heard the author on NPR, a really enjoyable segment.
Faith
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.
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.
Stuart Lutz
As someone who has traveled throughtout the US extensively, I found this book a great guide to understanding some of the political and cultural subtleties found throughut the land. I learned a lot and the book was easy to read and understand. It also functions as a great snapshot of the US in 2009 and 2010. A valuable book for one who wants to learn more about the United States, its regions, and its people.
Brian
Forget "real America" or NASCAR moms, this journalist and Political Scientist have provided a well thought methodology for getting who we are as a nation. It's a complex take on america and does not allow for pidgeon holing based on entirely racial, economic, religious or other factors, although those all do play a role.
Kelsey
While the premise was promising, the book didn't seem to execute. I'm not really sure what to take away from the book except that different parts of the country are different. Furthermore, the writing seemed stiff and dry, despite the fact that they tried to add in first hand accounts to flavor it up.
Adam
An inside look at the 12 communities the author designates as representative of the types of communities present within counties in the US. There are some great insights, interviews,and analysis presented in this book. If you have any interest in people and their place, check out this book.
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