Upper Midwest

The Upper Midwest is a region in the northern portion of the U.S. Census Bureau's Midwestern United States. It is largely a sub-region of the Midwest. Although the exact boundaries are not uniformly agreed-upon, the region is defined as referring to the states of Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin; some definitions include Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota, and parts of Nebraska and Montana as well.

Map of the USA with the Upper Midwest highlighted (as defined by the National Weather Service)


The National Weather Service defines its Upper Midwest as the states of Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin.

The United States Geological Survey uses two different Upper Midwest regions:

  • The USGS Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center considers it to be the six states of Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin, which comprise the watersheds of the Upper Mississippi River and upper Great Lakes.
  • The USGS Mineral Resources Program considers the area to contain Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin.

The Association for Institutional Research in the Upper Midwest includes the states of Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wisconsin and the upper peninsula of Michigan in the region. According to the Library of Congress, the Upper Midwest includes the states of Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan.[1]


The USDA reported that corn, soybean, sunflower and sugar beet crops saw harvest gains in 2018, but were still below the five-year averages. In North Dakota, for example, 49% of corn was harvested by November 4 compared with the five-year average of 97%. This was in part due to weather conditions in October that affected the harvest.[2]

Upper Midwest Köppen climate classification (excluding Iowa)


The region has dramatic variations between summer and winter temperatures; summers are very hot; and winters are very cold. For example, Sioux Falls averages 25 days each year with temperatures above 90 °F (32 °C) and 45 days each year with temperatures below 5 °F (−15 °C).[3] Mitchell, South Dakota has a record high of 116 °F (47 °C) and a record low of −39 °F (−39 °C).[4]

The growing season is shorter, cooler and drier than areas farther south and east. The region's western boundary is sometimes considered to be determined by where the climate becomes too dry to support growing non-irrigated crops other than small grains or hay grass.


The Inland North dialect, most prominently characterized by the Northern Cities Vowel Shift, is centered in the eastern part of the Upper Midwest, including Wisconsin, Michigan and the northern parts of Illinois and Ohio; it extends beyond the Midwest into Upstate New York. North Central American English (also known as "Upper Midwestern"[5]), an accent of American English defined more by the absence of certain features than their presence, is spoken in Minnesota, parts of Wisconsin and Iowa, the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, portions of Montana and the Dakotas.[6]


The Upper Midwest was the heartland of early 20th-century Progressive Party politics and the region continues to be favorable to the Democratic Party and moderate Republicans, with Minnesota favoring each Democratic presidential candidate since 1976 and Wisconsin from 1988 to 2012 (again in 2020). Minnesota narrowly supported native Walter Mondale in 1984 in an election where Ronald Reagan won every other state. Michigan, Illinois and Wisconsin also often favor Democratic candidates. However, beginning with the 2010 midterm elections, Republicans experienced substantial gains in state legislative and executive offices in Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan.[7][8][9] This trend has continued through 2016.[10][11][12][8][9][13] In 2020, the region had three Democratic governors (in Minnesota, Michigan, and Wisconsin) and three Republican governors (in North Dakota, Iowa, and South Dakota).


Donald Trump's 2016 presidential campaign made significant in-roads in the Upper Midwest.[14][15][16][17][18][10] Trump won the electoral votes of Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan, North Dakota and South Dakota, leaving Minnesota the sole blue state in the Upper Midwest in 2016.[19][14] Hillary Clinton barely won Minnesota, finishing less than two percentage points ahead of Donald Trump.[20][21][17][19]


In the 2020 presidential election, Democrat Joe Biden won the electoral votes of Wisconsin, Michigan, and Minnesota. Donald Trump won the electoral votes of Iowa, North Dakota, and South Dakota quite easily.[22] Despite Biden winning Wisconsin and Michigan, both states were close, with Biden winning Wisconsin by roughly 20,000 votes[23] and Michigan by 2.8 points.[24]

Each state elects two senators to a six-year term. As of January 2020, Minnesota and Michigan had two Democratic Senators, while North Dakota, South Dakota and Iowa had two Republican Senators. Wisconsin is the only state in the Upper Midwest that has elected one Republican and one Democratic Senator.

Industry and tourism

The economy of the region was largely based upon the mining of iron and copper, as well as a very large timber industry. Mechanization has sharply reduced employment in those areas, and the economy is increasingly based on tourism. Popular interest in the environment and environmentalism, added to traditional interests in hunting and fishing, has attracted a large urban audience who live within driving range.[25]

See also


  1. LOC (2019). Pioneering the Upper Midwest: Books from Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin, ca. 1820-1910. Library of Congress (LOC), 2019. Retrieved from https://www.loc.gov/teachers/classroommaterials/connections/upper-midwest/.
  2. Knutson, Jonathan Staff (7 November 2018). "Making progress on crop harvest, but Upper Midwest pace still..." Agriculture Week. Retrieved 8 November 2018.
  3. "Sioux Falls, South Dakota Travel Weather Averages". Weatherbase.
  4. "Mitchell, South Dakota Travel Weather Averages". Weatherbase.
  5. Allen, Harold B. (1973). The Linguistic Atlas of the Upper Midwest. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. ISBN 0-8166-0686-2.
  6. Labov, William; Ash, Sharon; Boberg, Charles (2006). The Atlas of North American English. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter. ISBN 3-11-016746-8.
  7. "GOP Makes Historic State Legislative Gains in 2010". Rasmussen Reports. Retrieved 31 July 2018.
  8. Lai, K.K. Rebecca. "In a Further Blow to Democrats, Republicans Increase Their Hold on State Governments". The New York Times. Retrieved 31 July 2018.
  9. Anderson, Tim (1 December 2016). "GOP continues to gain more legislative seats, control in Midwest states". CSG Knowledge Center. Retrieved 31 July 2018.
  10. Enten, Harry (9 December 2016). "It's Not All About Clinton – The Midwest Was Getting Redder Before 2016". FiveThirtyEight. Retrieved 31 July 2018.
  11. Cooper, Michael (3 November 2010). "Republicans Gain Upper Hand at State Level, Ahead of Redistricting". The New York Times. Retrieved 31 July 2018.
  12. Zeleny, Jeff (2 November 2010). "G.O.P. Captures House, but Not Senate". The New York Times. Retrieved 31 July 2018.
  13. Boehm, Eric (14 November 2016). "Democrats Got Wrecked Again in State Legislative Races, and it Matters More Than You Might Think". Reason. Retrieved 31 July 2018.
  14. Swanson, Ian (22 August 2017). "How the Midwest slipped away from Dems". The Hill. Retrieved 28 July 2018.
  15. Trende, Sean; Byler, David (19 January 2017). "How Trump Won: The Midwest". RealClearPolitics. Retrieved 28 July 2018.
  16. Fahey, Mark; Wells, Nicholas. "Here's a map of the US counties that flipped to Trump from Democrats". CNBC. Retrieved 28 July 2018.
  17. Swanson, Ian (22 August 2017). "How the Midwest slipped away from Dems". The Hill. Retrieved 28 July 2018.
  18. Balz, Dan. "Midwestern voters gave Trump a chance. Now, they hold the key to his political future". The Washington Post. Photographs by Melina Mara, video by Jordan Frasier. Retrieved 28 July 2018.
  19. Bentle, Kyle; Berlin, Jonathon; Marx, Ryan. "Illinois, a blue island in a red sea: Data analysis". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 28 July 2018.
  20. Cox, Ana Marie (21 June 2018). "A Night Among the Trump Believers Way Up North". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 28 July 2018.
  21. Gonyea, Don; Montanaro, Domenico (13 April 2017). "Trump Supporters in the Upper Midwest Have A Message: Be More 'Presidential'". NPR. Retrieved 28 July 2018.
  22. Alberta, Tim. "Three Reasons Biden Flipped the Midwest". POLITICO. Retrieved 13 January 2021.
  23. Helderman, Rosalind S.; Gardner, Amy. "Wisconsin recount confirms Biden's win over Trump, cementing the president's failure to change the election results". Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 13 January 2021.
  24. "Live election results: 2020 Michigan results". www.politico.com. Retrieved 13 January 2021.
  25. Shapiro, Aaron (2015). The Lure of the North Woods: Cultivating Tourism in the Upper Midwest. University of Minnesota Press.
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