The New American Heartland

How can Middle America tap into its potential to drive the nation’s economy?

At "The New American Heartland" forum, hosted by the City Club of Cleveland, J.D. Vance, author of Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis, discussed the economic and cultural challenges facing Middle America. Decline in civic institution participation, drug addiction, and childhood trauma hit lower-income communities higher than anyone else. The key to lifting these communities up is to create economic opportunity because, as Vance explained, “…a good job isn’t just a paycheck, a good job is about having a community, a good job is about going to work and doing something that’s meaningful and dignified…” The source of that opportunity in our country comes from small, but high-growth start-ups, which are largely based on the coasts. However, industries based in the Heartland, such as transportation and energy, are prime for similar innovation which in turn would spur job growth.

Joel Kotkin and Michael Lind, authors of The New American Heartland: Renewing the Middle Class by Revitalizing Middle America report, define the “New American Heartland” as the region between the Appalachians and the Rockies, and from the Gulf of Mexico to the Canadian border. This region holds about half of the country’s population with the power to propel the whole nation’s economy forward. The Heartland’s lower cost of living, high-paying manufacturing employment, and productive power has the potential to foster the middle class and fuel economic growth across the United States.

It is time to change the narrative about Middle America.

Watch the City Club of Cleveland's video of the event here and read a recap, from Peter Krouse of, here.