Eight of every 10 Americans now lives in a city or its suburbs. As these maps hint, I believe many of the political divisions between the "Blue" and "Red" states are manifestations of growing cultural differences between urban and rural Americans.
First, there are the economic differences. The 10 largest metropolitan areas produce a whopping 34% of the country's total GDP (Gross Domestic Product). In every state except three -Montana, Wyoming, and Vermont- metro areas produce the majority of each state's economic output according to an analysis by the Brookings Institute. The Brookings Institute study also finds 93% of scientists and engineers live in metro areas. In 30 states, the bulk of international exports are produced in metro areas. Cities large and small are America's economic engines.
Merica, the mostly rural, Republican-voting counties of the United States, tend to be older, less educated, and poorer. There is an on-going debate over the nature of net dollar transfers of Federal tax dollars that I will discuss in future posts. Ironically, -to quote recent political rhetoric- the counties of rural Merica are the 'Takers' who receive more Federal tax dollars in entitlement programs and other Federal programs than the wealthier, Democrat-leaning 'Makers' in urban areas. Urban areas do not pay higher taxes into the Federal coffers, but they do contribute more in total dollars because of higher incomes among city-dwellers and a greater production of the nation's GDP. Most -though not all- rural areas produce less and have older, sicker, and poorer residents who use more Medicaid, Medicare, and other Federal programming dollars.
So, from an economic perspective, rural voters should be supportive of programs that help rural areas and the poors by maintaining or raising taxes. These are more the positions supported by Democrats. Yet, rural voters -as the maps below show- in areas except of New England, New York, Illinois, Maryland and California voted Republican in the 2012 Presidential election. In turn, the urban voters who pay in more than they get back should economically do better in theory by supporting politicians who seek to lower Federal taxes and cut social safety net programs. Again though, urban voters heavily supported the Democratic candidate over the tax-and-social-programs-cutting Republican candidate in 2012. Clearly, other factors around economic and cultural values outweigh voting based on how much you pay in and get back from the Feds.
The 2012 Presidential