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538: Tampa Bay is a lot like 'Normal America'

Think Tampa Bay is weird? It's not.

KATHLEEN FLYNN l Tampa Bay Times (2012)

Think Tampa Bay is weird? It's not.

Tampa Bay is often characterized as just another example of weird Florida. So it was interesting to see a completely different take on our region in Nate Silver's FiveThirtyEight blog. 

According to Jed Kolko, an economist and a senior fellow at the University of California, Berkeley Terner Center for Housing Innovation, Tampa Bay is far from bizarre.

Instead, the region (referred to as "Tampa" in the blog post -- sorry St. Petersburg and Clearwater!) ranks No. 2 nationally in being most similar to the rest of the nation.

Come again?

Kolko calculated how each metro area compares to the overall U.S. based on age, educational attainment and race and ethnicity. The index reaches 100. The closest to 100, the more identical a region is to the U.S. overall.

Tampa scored a 91.6, close behind No. 1 New Haven-Milford, CT (93.2). Rounding out the top five were Hartford, CT (90.2); Oklahoma City (89.4); and Springfield, MA (89.3). 

Of the top 10, Tampa Bay was the outlier in that it's the only region not located in the Northeast, Midwest or center of the country. Not one city in the West was in the top 10.

Large metro areas least like the U.S. include McAllen-Edinburg-Mission and El Paso, both in Texas, both with younger, less educated and more Latino than the overall U.S. Honolulu, with its Asian-American and Pacific Islander population, was also ranked high on the list of those least like the U.S.

That doesn't mean Tampa Bay is whitebread. That would be reserved for those cities that Kolko said have demographics most like 1950s America, "when the country was much whiter, younger and less educated." Places like Ogden-Clearfield, UT; Lancaster, PA; Chattanooga, TN; Knoxville, TN; and Cincinnati, OH; rank high on this list. 

Nope, Tampa Bay has the demographics that make it look most like the rest of the nation more than just about any other place. With such middle of the road demographics, and sunny weather that beckons tourists, why else do you think this region births so many chain restaurants

We're just one big test lab for what passes for normal in America, circa 2016.

[Last modified: Monday, May 2, 2016 8:13pm]


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