The Atlantic

The Three Personalities of America

People in different regions of the U.S. have measurably different psychological profiles.
Source: Lucas Jackson / Reuters

A few years ago, Jason Rentfrow, a psychologist at the University of Cambridge, dug into a question that has captivated him for decades: Do different places have different personalities? Do people in Los Angeles, for instance, have measurably different temperaments from the residents of Augusta, Georgia? If so, what does that mean for both places? Rentfrow decided to test these questions on a phenomenon that has captivated all of America lately: the rise of Donald Trump.

Together with his co-authors, Rentfrow analyzed a set of surveys that had been conducted from 2003 to 2015 in 2,082 U.S. counties—about two-thirds of all the counties in the country. The surveys asked 3 million people 44 questions about their habits and dispositions. Rentfrow and his co-authors focused on neuroticism, a tendency to feel depressed or anxious and to respond more severely to stress. Neuroticism is one of the “big five” traits that psychologists often use to measure personality. The study authors compared each county’s level of neuroticism

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