Patchwork Nation: You Don't Know America

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If you travel the country enough and pay attention to its complexities and differences you soon realize that the ways we try to understand it – red and blue, Northeast and Midwest – are too simplistic. They are inadequate and misleading.

That’s why we created Patchwork Nation, a demographic/geographic breakdown of the nation into 12 different kinds of community. Using counties as our building blocks we have identified different kinds of places – everything from rural agricultural Tractor Country to the wealthy suburban Monied Burbs – which we use to examine how various kinds of communities experience culture, the economy and politics.

The differences in things like unemployment and media consumption habits and vote patterns are often stark and offer new, more nuanced ways to understand the nation’s shifting socio-economic plate tectonics. And since its inception in 2008, Patchwork Nation has witnessed changes large and small in the American political landscape. The project has won a Knight Batten Award for journalistic innovation and was the focus of the book Our Patchwork Nation, which ties together much of what was learned from the project in a single tome.

In October 2011, Project Director Dante Chinni spoke at the TEDx MidAtlantic conference in Washington DC. That presentation, “You Don’t Know America,” in the video below, offers a good primer on the what, how and why of Patchwork Nation.

Dante Chinni at TEDxMidAtlantic 2011 from Jefferson Institute on Vimeo.