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Tampa Bay is like America, but more so

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

Many red state politicians — and even POLITICO co-founder Jim VandeHei in a recent op-ed — often talk of a “real America,” a nation apart from the latte liberal denizens of our urban, coastal cities.

But new research has found one of the most “normal” cities in America is right here in Florida — the greater Tampa Bay area.

FiveThirtyEight’s Jed Kolko recently compared each major U.S. metropolitan area to the U.S. overall, based on age, educational attainment, and race and ethnicity, and discovered none other than the Big Guava is one of the most typical cities in America.

The Tampa Bay metro area, including Tampa, St. Petersburg and Clearwater, is nearly 92 percent similar to the makeup of the U.S. overall, second only to the Hartford-Milford, Connecticut area.

Others high up on the list may surprise “flyover country” denizens as well: Springfield, Massachusetts, Chicago, and Philadelphia also made the Top 10, each looking at least 86 percent like the U.S. writ large.

“Looking across metros of all sizes, the places that look most like America tend to be larger metros, though not the largest ones. The similarity index is highest, on average, for metros with between 1 million and 2 million people,” wrote Kolko.

“The metros that look least like America are those with fewer than 100,000 people,” he added, to drive the point home.

VandeHei and talk radio types do have a point when they speak of “normal” America, but only if you go by demographics from the Eisenhower administration.

Back then lily-white Ogden, Utah; Lancaster, Pennsylvania; and Chattanooga and Knoxville, Tennessee were the most typical American metropolitan areas.

So the next time some sanctimonious New Yorker sees an anomalous news story, notes that it went down in Florida, and Tweets out a link with the sneering “Florida man” hashtag, just remember — Tampa Bay is exactly like the rest of the country.

Just more so.

Ryan Ray writes about campaigns and public policy in Tampa Bay and across the state. A contributor to and before that, The Florida Squeeze, he covers the Legislature as a member of the Florida Capitol Press Corps and has worked as a staffer on several campaigns. He can be reached at

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