Jacksonville, Fla.: The Most Average Place in America

A blog about business and economics.
May 1 2013 10:41 AM

The Most Average Place in America Is Jacksonville, Fla.

Downtown Jacksonville, Fla., in 2005
Downtown Jacksonville, Fla., in 2005

Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images

Tyler Cowen offers a distressingly unsystematic look at the question of what is the most perfectly average place in America, recapitulating the excessively anti-urban bias of conventional thinking about the American character.

He offers as his candidate Knoville, Tenn., which has a metropolitan area population of just 824,000 people. Fully 180 million Americans live in larger metropolitan areas than Knoxville. The larger Tennessee city of Memphis is almost spot-on the average, but I'd say Memphis is a bit too distinctive to qualify as "perfectly average." Fortunately for us, if you rank U.S. metro areas by population size and then add up the cumulative totals, you get the conclusion that the median American lives in the Jacksonville, Fla., metropolitan area. And Jacksonville, though it may have its virtues, is not especially distinctive or noteworthy. It's a great example of a generic American city. It's in the South, but not really all that southern. It's on the coast, but it's not "coastal." And since the city of Jacksonville is consolidated with Duval County, it doesn't feature any kind of urban-suburban divide. The typical Jacksonviller, just like the typical American, lives in an auto-oriented, suburban-style community that's part of an integrated urban area. In educational terms, Jacksonville has fewer high school dropouts than the average American city and also fewer college graduates than the average American city. In other words, its citizens are exceptionally average in their educational attainment. 


If you're ever in the Jacksonville area and get the chance to visit the White Oak Conservation Center, I'd recommend it. Very much a non-average experience.

Matthew Yglesias is the executive editor of Vox and author of The Rent Is Too Damn High.



The Democrats’ War at Home

How can the president’s party defend itself from the president’s foreign policy blunders?

Congress’ Public Shaming of the Secret Service Was Political Grandstanding at Its Best

Michigan’s Tradition of Football “Toughness” Needs to Go—Starting With Coach Hoke

A Plentiful, Renewable Resource That America Keeps Overlooking

Animal manure.

Windows 8 Was So Bad That Microsoft Will Skip Straight to Windows 10


Cringing. Ducking. Mumbling.

How GOP candidates react whenever someone brings up reproductive rights or gay marriage.

Building a Better Workplace

You Deserve a Pre-cation

The smartest job perk you’ve never heard of.

Hasbro Is Cracking Down on Scrabble Players Who Turn Its Official Word List Into Popular Apps

Florida State’s New President Is Underqualified and Mistrusted. He Just Might Save the University.

  News & Politics
Sept. 30 2014 9:33 PM Political Theater With a Purpose Darrell Issa’s public shaming of the head of the Secret Service was congressional grandstanding at its best.
Sept. 30 2014 7:02 PM At Long Last, eBay Sets PayPal Free
Sept. 30 2014 7:35 PM Who Owns Scrabble’s Word List? Hasbro says the list of playable words belongs to the company. Players beg to differ.
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 30 2014 12:34 PM Parents, Get Your Teenage Daughters the IUD
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Sept. 30 2014 3:21 PM Meet Jordan Weissmann Five questions with Slate’s senior business and economics correspondent.
Brow Beat
Sept. 30 2014 8:54 PM Bette Davis Talks Gender Roles in a Delightful, Animated Interview From 1963
Future Tense
Sept. 30 2014 7:00 PM There’s Going to Be a Live-Action Tetris Movie for Some Reason
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Sept. 30 2014 11:51 PM Should You Freeze Your Eggs? An egg freezing party is not a great place to find answers to this or other questions.
Sports Nut
Sept. 30 2014 5:54 PM Goodbye, Tough Guy It’s time for Michigan to fire its toughness-obsessed coach, Brady Hoke.