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Since 2008 – Progress Through Politics

The Demographics of America’s Governors: Place of Birth

This post will look at the demographics of America’s governors by place of birth, as of March 2012. All in all, this series on the demographics of America’s governors examines:

  • Age
  • Place of Birth
  • Race and Gender
  • Race and Gender and Political Party
  • Religion
  • More below.

    The following map indicates the birth place of each of America’s governors. I honestly had no idea what to expect when making this map. On the one hand, the result is quite interesting in several ways. On the other hand, it’s somewhat difficult to interpret what appears in the following map. Is this a result of randomness, or is there a pattern?

    Let’s take a look:


    There are actually a lot of states whose current governor was born in said state. 31 states fit this category.

    This is an interesting result. America is commonly thought of a very mobile society; there are very few regional differences, with the exception of the South, between one part of America and another. You can’t tell a Pennsylvanian from a Californian, for instance. Yet the majority of American states are still governed by native-born members of those states.

    Another element is missing here: foreigners. Not a single American state is governed by a person born outside of the United States. Arnold Schwarzeneggers are very rare.

    There seems to be a degree of regional difference. Most obviously, a band of states stretching from the Pacific Northwest to the Southwest are governed by individuals born outside said state. It’s hard to draw conclusions about the other parts of the country, however.

    The map above does bear some resemblance to the electoral college. States with governors born elsewhere in the United States tend to be states which Barack Obama could possibly win in 2012. There are, of course, plenty of exceptions to this statement (such as Oklahoma and New York).

    Finally, there a lot of Pennsylvanians governing states elsewhere. On the other hand, only one New Yorker (Neil Abercrombie) is governing a state outside of New York. Nor does anybody born in heavily populated Florida govern a state. You can make a lot of jokes about this result, although it’s most probably just randomness.

    Are there any revealing partisan differences in this demographic? Let’s look at states governed by Democrats:


    Now states governed by Republicans:


    If such differences exist, they escape me.

    Perhaps the most relevant conclusion to be drawn from this result is that America is still a pretty introverted place. Chances are pretty good that the your state is governed by somebody born there. And chances are very good that your state is governed by somebody born in the United States.

    (Edit: Apparently about six in ten American live in the same state that they were born, which is a lot higher than I thought. Consider that 12.9% of Americans are foreign-born. Anyways, the number of governors born in the same state that they govern happens to match pretty well the number of Americans born in the same state that they live – although not-so-well the number of Americans born in a different country.)



    1. PadreJM

      between states with higher levels of mobility, perhaps as evidenced by a larger percentage of the population which was born in another state, and the native-born status of their governors.

      I grew up in Oregon.  I am again an Oregonian, but spent most of my adult life out of state.  I didn’t even know that Governor Kitzhaber was born in Washington State, or if I did, it made so little impression that I don’t remember having known it.  It certainly would have had no impact on my vote for him (which I have done, with some reservations, and am more likely than not to do so again, if he chooses to run for reelection).  Few of my classmates still live in Oregon, and it seems like many of my friends and acquaintances here are originally from somewhere else.

      Many of the States in which I’ve lived over the years, and a few (which shall remain nameless especially so), it seemed that we “outlanders” were distinctly in the minority, our attitudes and opinions were discounted (or dismissed entirely) on account of our not having been born there, and that to vote for a non-native-born Mayor, let alone Governor, would have been for most residents unthinkable.

      I taught public school for a few years in a New England village where people from the neighboring village, separated only by a creek as a border between them, were considered “other.”  So much so that when the State forced consolidation of the schools, at lunch time the kids from one village sat on one side of the cafeteria, and from our village on the other.

      So, while most people in America may speak with a homogenized “NBC News” dialect, provincialism is far from dead here, on the local, state, and certainly national level.  

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