Tag Archives: The Big Sort

BOOK REVIEW – The Big Sort: Why the clustering of like-minded America is tearing us apart

Do you live near people who think like you?  Does your precinct vote for the same candidates at election time?  Or how about the bigger metaphorical question:  Do birds of a feather flock together?   Does all of this matter?  If you answered “Yes” to these questions then I recommend you read what I believe is one of the more important books of the year –  The Big Sort: Why the clustering of like-minded America is tearing us apart ( Houghton Mifflin) by Bill Bishop.

In this book, Bishop provides plenty of evidence that people have become very adept at discovering neighborhoods and communities that think like they think.  While most demographers study things like age, race and socioeconomic factors to explain population migration, Bishop looks at voting data to show that people find others who are more alike from an ideological standpoint and how this is changing politics in America.  He devised three tests to check the influence of the big sort:  First, he measured voting patterns of communities over several Presidential elections to determine if majorities in communities were growing; second, he looked at religion and geography; and finally, he looked at demographic movements of Republicans and Democrats over the past 36 years.  The results and his conclusions go a long way explaining our society and why its people do what they do.


About that image thing…

A state’s image is shaped by a glimpse out the window of someone driving through or a story in the national press.  This morning my Google News Alert had two links that really pointed that out.

One is a blog entitled THE EXPEDITIONARY MAN’S BIKE TOUR, an account of a family’s cross-country bike tour.  An excerpt from the Mississippi stage reads, “Terrific people in Tupelo.”  From the Alabama stage comes this:

“I was struck by three things on my first day riding in Alabama. First, of all of the states we’ve gone through, Alabama drivers seem to be the most impatient of bicyclists. It was interesting that literally as soon we crossed the state line, we began to have several drivers honk at us in irritation if they were delayed by even a few seconds. The honk was apparently their sign of disapproval of us being on the road. We had maybe 1-2 drivers do this in Oklahoma, but drivers have generally been great along the way. Fortunately, most of the drivers were fine and all of the semis gave us enough room and were generally patient. Second, on the Alabama state highways we went on, there was litter everywhere—miles and miles and miles of it. Really sad. They need to have those sponsor-a-mile of highway programs for Hwy 18!  Third, there are more churches per mile in Alabama than any other state we’ve gone though. It is dizzying how many small churches there. I hope that these churches are ministering the many in need in this part of the state”

The other blog that mentioned Mississippi this morning was that of Richard Florida, author of The Rise of the Creative Class, who had these words:

“In Flight of the Creative Class, I argued that America was no longer a single country, but  two or more divided along the lines of social and economic class. Now, alongside Bill Bishop’s, The Big Sort, comes a new American Human Development Index, modeled on the landmark UN report.  The Independent summarizes some of its key findings.

“The United States of America is becoming less united by the day. A 30-year gap now exists in the average life expectancy between Mississippi, in the Deep South, and Connecticut, in prosperous New England.(emphasis added)  Huge disparities have also opened up in income, health and education depending on where people live in the US, according to a report published yesterday.”

So, what’s my point?  It is that I find it fascinating that both these alerts were under the search the news heading of “Mississippi Economic Development.”

By the way, I’m just about finished with reading The Big Sort.  I’ll have a book review for you in a week or so.  I’ll tell you now that it is one of the more profound books I’ve read this year.