Lots of of hundreds of Airbnb listings allowed us to map and calculate how the American South describes itself
Usually, such an argument could be settled by the Census Bureau, which is the ultimate arbiter of all issues. However the census definition of the South appears wildly liberal, spanning each state from Delaware within the east to Oklahoma within the west.
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Information journalists have rushed to fill the breach. As we defined in final week’s column in regards to the American Midwest, outlined areas Identical to the South has been a ceremony of passage within the business, with people like Walt Hickey taking a wise, data-driven swing like FiveThirtyEight and Sue Oh.
However a closing reply remained elusive till we noticed what number of locations on Airbnb promote their “Southern hospitality” or their “Midwestern attraction.”
We realized they had been all Airbnb hosts, creating a singular map of America’s true cultural boundaries. Airbnb listings symbolize lots of of hundreds of pages of seize textual content, identical to People describe their dwelling areas to outsiders, and every phrase has a geographic location related to it.
That little perception would finally result in a database of over half one million listings. With that, we are able to calculate what phrases and concepts have made Southern tradition distinctive. However first we now have to outline “south”.
Discovering listings for the phrase “southern” wasn’t as simple—many individuals say they’re in “southern Oregon” or promote a “southern show” of their dwelling. However we quickly discovered that looking for phrases like “Southern attraction” or “Southern hospitality” would chop the outcomes right down to true Southerners.
By that measure, the heartland of the South lies within the Deep South Strip of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina. Their northern neighbors — Tennessee, North Carolina, Kentucky, Arkansas and Virginia — are additionally comparatively simple inclusions.
From there it will get dicer: West Virginia, Florida, Texas and DC are on the bubble. Based on us, these locations are solely a few tenth as prone to name-drop the South on the checklist of hosts as are their associates in Mississippi, the southernmost state of all of them.
However they’re considerably extra southern than the remainder of the nation, and our knowledge reveals that they embody main areas with robust southern cultures – suppose East Texas or the Florida Panhandle – so it made sense to incorporate them.
To make sure, this model of the South consists of areas that had been roughly loyal to the Union in the course of the Civil Struggle (that is sophisticated). Kentucky and West Virginia had been slave states with substantial pockets of insurgent sympathizers, whereas DC – additionally dwelling to slaves till liberation in 1862 – skilled a decisive affect of Southern tradition within the mid-Twentieth century, when black women and men from the South introduced a flood there. Seeking financial alternative amidst the good migration.
By firmly drawing the define of the south, we are able to calculate the southernmost issues. To satisfy our standards, one thing needed to be talked about in a minimum of 200 listings. We eliminated place names and something that obtained greater than a 3rd of listings from one state—they symbolize a state, not a area.
The outcome reveals a South that’s nonetheless outlined by the legacy of slavery. The 2 southernmost phrases in our complete database are “antebellum” and “plantation,” that are deeply linked to the Confederacy and the Romantic imaginative and prescient of an period outlined by the mass enslavement of black folks. (“Federal” additionally ranks among the many prime 15 southernmost phrases.)
But it surely additionally reveals a location that’s ecologically distinctive, with crocodiles, dolphins, armadillos, shrimp and redfish all being among the many southernmost phrases within the database. Southern bushes like crepe myrtle and longleaf pine did not have sufficient point out to make the ultimate reduce, however would have been one of many southernmost issues in the whole database. The identical goes for the Daiquiri.
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A number of different entries level to basic touchstones of Southern tradition, such because the second-person plural pronoun “y’all,” Mississippi-born crossover artist and pompadour standard Elvis Presley and He is Most Holy. Southern Holidays, “Sport Day.”
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