Personality Map of the U.S.

Ever notice how places seem to have unique personalities?  Or feel like certain areas “seem like home”?  A researcher from Cambridge, Jason Rentfrow, confirmed this with his personality map of the U.S.  Certain personality traits seem to be more common in some areas than others.  Rentfrow asked people all over the U.S. to complete online personality tests.  The tests categorized personalities according to:

  • Agreeableness
  • Conscientiousness
  • Extroversion
  • Neuroticism
  • Openness to Experience

 I’ve had the experience of living in many different places for educational and career reasons.  Some of his findings do match my own findings. An article in the Boston Globe says

Or perhaps, personality is influenced by our surroundings. More emotionally stable people who live in places where neurotic types form the majority may become irritable and stressed because the people around them are getting to them.

Satya and I have experienced this on the East Coast.  While there are many things I love about the East Coast, like the museums of NYC, it is not a very gentle or polite place.  It does tense our shoulders and quicken our pace.  The energy of New York City is palpable and can be intoxicating, but can also leave us exhausted. 

We know we’d like to leave the East Coast to raise a family, but aren’t sure where yet. For educational and career reasons will be most likely be here for at least another year.  Our short list of places so far is CA (either San Diego or Silicon Valley), MN (Twin Cities, or Rochester), WI (Madison), or MA (outside of Boston). 

Here is an article from a Kansas newspaper about Rentfrow’s research.  Hmm, it says that mathematicians and computer scientists would match well with Kansas’ high conscientious ranking.  Maybe we should move to Kansas?  I do have some relatives there.  Here is what else Rentfrow says about Kansas:

In an e-mail from Cambridge, Rentfrow indicated that Kansans are more than dour drones mindful only of structure and rules.

Kansas’ complete profile, he wrote, shows that Kansans are friendly, trusting and kind.

“It’s probably a place where people feel connected with their communities and are able to rely on family and friends,” he wrote. “The low Neuroticism score suggests that people are fairly relaxed, calm, and easygoing. And the low Openness scores suggest that people value tradition, are pragmatic and down-to-earth.”

I’d worry though about Kansas’ low ranking on openness (38 of 50).  Would a mixed couple be accepted there?  Would they accept a half Christian/half Hindu family?  I don’t know. 

Do you think that research like Rentfrow’s is helpful or reinforces stereotypes?  I’m not sure.  Where in the U.S. do you feel most comfortable?  Is where you live a result of happenstance or a conscious choice?  Would you move to a place based on research like this?

3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Andrea
    Sep 13, 2008 @ 05:19:13

    I read this online, too. I thought it was interesting because my husband and I have been doing a lot of thinking about where we want to live… I grew up in Wisconsin, and, although I cringe at saying this, would move back in a heartbeat — if there were any jobs there. I just really miss the down-t0-earth attitudes there. Also, while materialism is everywhere, WI (and most of the upper midwest) just doesn’t seem as full of it as Arizona/Southern California (which, I’m convinced, is really some sort of hybrid megatropolis). I’m not sure about the “neurotic” “agreeable” “openness” categorization, but, you know, maybe it’s right 🙂


  2. minnesotameetskarnataka
    Sep 16, 2008 @ 12:55:24

    That is always the question–will there be any jobs?

    I loved the sunniness of California, but do worry about the rest (high cost of living, traffic, schools, etc.)


  3. Gori Girl
    Jan 11, 2009 @ 20:45:08

    We’re hoping to move back to California, or at least the Pacific Northwest, in four or five years. In my mind, there are very few places as wonderful to live in as Silicon Valley – lovely weather 9 months out of the year, all the diversity you could possibly want, lots of intelligent, interesting people to talk to, and plenty of great weekend escapes.

    The traffic isn’t really any worse than you see in any major metropolitan area in the country. The school systems in almost all of Santa Clara are quite good. The cost of living is incredibly high, yes, but that’s ’cause everyone wants to live there. 🙂

    Good to know that Santa Clara has good schools. Silicon Valley is on our short list of possible places to settle, though the cost of living is daunting. I don’t know if I could stand Portland or Seattle with all their rain.


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