We aren’t in Kansas anymore

Nor, indeed, in my home state.

Everyone I knew growing up was white, other than a few Hispanic and American Indian families. Everyone was a Christian. Everyone worked on a farm or ranch or in a business that supported farmers and ranchers.

I first met an African-American at the University. I had a Jewish roommate, but everyone she knew was Christian.

Most of my home county is uninhabited. Even in the valleys, ranch houses are miles apart. The largest town in my county has a population of just over 1,000.

My Love’s county is even emptier, whiter and more agricultural. The towns (all three of them) are even smaller. Much smaller.

Our home counties are poor. The per capita and median incomes are only a few thousand dollars above the poverty line. Over 20% of the population is under the poverty line. The median income is less than two-thirds the national median income. The distribution of incomes is flat. My family was comparatively well off – certainly in the top quintile – but I would have gotten a full scholarship at any decent college.

More concretely, the table of census data below hints at some of the differences between home (figures for my Love’s and my home counties, combined) and Manhattan (New York County).

A few things to note in particular:

  • Our two counties together are about 200 times the size of Manhattan. Yet Manhattan has over 100 times the population. The population density of Manhattan is 20,000 times that of our home counties (almost 70,000/sq mi vs 3.6/sq mi).
  • Home is overwhelmingly (93%) White.
    • There are maybe 25 African-American families, in an area larger than Maryland, Massachusetts, Connecticut or New Jersey.
    • The largest minorities are American Indian and Hispanic, and their numbers are negligible.
    • Almost everyone was born in the United States and speaks English at home.
  • Manhattan, on the other hand is ridiculously diverse:
    • A quarter Hispanic.
    • Almost a fifth African-American.
    • An eighth Asian.
    • Over a quarter are foreign-born
    • Almost half speak a language other than English at home.
  • Almost everyone at home lives in a single family home. Almost no one in Manhattan does.
  • Per capita income in Manhattan is 3 times that of home.
  • The entire economy of our home counties is agricultural.
  • People at home are more than 5 times as likely to have served in the military.
  • Although the percentages of high school graduates are about the same, the percentage of college graduates in Manhattan is about three times what it is at home.
Home Manhattan
Population 14,573 1,636,268
under 18 17.6% 14.7%
65 and over 26.1% 14.2%
White 93.1% 65.0%
African American 0.3% 18.4%
American Indian 3.5% 1.2%
Asian 0.4% 12.1%
Hispanic 2.5% 25.8%
Foreign born 2.1% 28.5%
Language other than English at home 3.4% 40.4%
High school graduate (age 25+) 87.4% 86.0%
Bachelors degree (age 25+) 18.9% 58.9%
Veterans 13.3% 2.6%
Housing units in multi-unit structures 5.2% 98.5%
Per capita income 20,749 62,498
Median household income 35,602 69,659
Persons below poverty line 20.5% 17.7%
Private nonfarm employment, 2013 2,544 2,116,201
Manufacturers shipments, 2007 ($1000) 8,315,093
Building permits, 2013 4,856
Land area in square miles, 2010 4,488 22.83
Persons per square mile, 2010 3.6 69,467.5


5 thoughts on “We aren’t in Kansas anymore

    • I absolutely love New York. The thing I love most about it the diversity of the people, of the food, of the customs, of everything. I love to scan the spectrum when I get on the subway.

      It’s a crazy place. And it works.

      I don’t think I could live on the Upper East Side – much too white and 1%. Is it odd that the lack of diversity on the East Side bothers me but doesn’t bother me at home?

      I’ll always love home. Yes, it’s homogeneous, but people are open and tolerant. I need to write something about that, …


  1. It must have been culture shock for you to move to NYC.

    I grew up in a suburb (small city actually) right outside of NYC (about 30 minutes out) and moving to Brooklyn was a bit much for me, I’ve been in and out of the city on day trips my whole life! It really is such a huge difference from there to here, but it seems like you fit RIGHT IN! You seem like a NYer somewhere deep down in there, and I really hope you are loving this city, because it’s pretty damn great!

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s actually been fairly easy!

      My fiancee says that, if you’re going to leave the end of a dirt road 10 miles outside of a town of 50 in the Rockies, there’s no point in stopping short of Manhattan.

      When I first came, the liberation of being able to be me, to be out, to hold my Love’s hand, overwhelmed everything.

      I don’t see the City through rose-colored glasses any more – a hot June in the subway will cure anyone of that. But it’s still a helluva town, everything that Sinatra sang about.

      It’s odd for a country bumpkin to say it, but New York City represents everything I love about America. Not the mountains and the sky and people I love, of course, but the virtues and the sins that make this the most amazing place in the world, all writ larger than life.

      And for me, much of the shock was softened by having her here and coming to visit several times before I moved out. If you look at the posts in the category “New York City”, you can see what the City means to me. Especially Here is New York, which pretty much sums it up.


  2. I grew up in Manhattan (oh, roughly a hundred years ago–it was both a very different city then and also the same lace), and moving Minnesota was a shock for me. It was so white, so Christian, so mono-everything. But what I really wanted to say is something about how uneven the income distribution in New York was and is. Especially compared to where you’re from, but also compared to–well, most places.


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