Can you guess which American city is the most like the country as a whole?

If you tried to imagine the most stereotypical American town, what does it look like?

Is it something kind of "Pleasantville"-y — all black and white, and you're sipping milkshakes as you walk through an adorable downtown shopping strip, waving to your ever-friendly neighbors as they drive past in the family car with their 2.5 kids and a dog in the back? Does a certain demographic come to mind — maybe some specific display of diversity in class, race, and gender?

A new study from FiveThirtyEight analyzed the age, education level, and race/ethnicity of every metropolitan cluster in America to identify the most "normal" place in the country — that is, the place that most accurately reflects the overall demographics of the United States as a whole in relation to those three areas.


And, well, let's just say if you thought a place like Oshkosh, Wisconsin, or Lincoln, Maine, was a good representation of "mainstream American culture," you might be in for a surprise.


This is the first thing I found when I did an image search for "normal America." (Apparently it's Normal, Illinois — which is far from the real normal America.) Photo by Willjay/Wikimedia Commons.

So what is the "most normal place in America," based on FiveThirtyEight's criteria? Here are a few hints:

1. The main city's population of 130,000 people is probably more diverse than you expected.

According to the latest census information, it breaks down to 31.8% white, 35.4% black or African-American, 27.4% Hispanic or Latino, 4.7% Asian or Pacific Islander, 0.5% American Indian or Alaska Native, and 3.9% of the people identify as two or more races.

However, the surrounding metropolitan area looks more like 65% white, 14.2% black or African American,16.8% Hispanic or Latino, 4.3% Asian or Pacific Islander, 0.5% American Indian or Alaska Native, and 2.2% of those 860,000 people claiming two or more races.

Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images.

2. About 82% of residents over the age of 25 have a GED or high school diploma, but only about 33% have a bachelor's degree or higher.

In terms of public schools, the city boasts 32 elementary and middle schools, 10 high schools, five transitional schools, and one adult and continuing education center; it also educates about 3,000 students from the surrounding suburbs through various magnet programs. There are several renowned public and private schools to choose from as well.

Public high school students with good grades and attendance are also eligible to have their college educations paid for by a local private university — one of several in the area, in addition to a branch of the state college system.

3. Nearly two-thirds of the population are adults between the ages of 18 and 65.

About another third are children, with 7.1% being under the age of 5. Those over 65 comprise only 9.2% of the population. And of all those groups, more than 50% are female.

That pretty much covers FiveThirtyEight's basic idea of "normal America." But things get even more curious when you start to look at the other demographic facts about this "normal" place …

Again, the original study was based specifically on age, race/ethnicity, and education. While some of these other details might not be 93.2% similar to the country as a whole, they paint a thought-provoking picture of what a community might look like as an accurate microcosm of America — for better or for worse.

Photo by Christopher Capozziello/Getty Images.

4. The median rent is a little over $1,000 a month, and the median cost to own a home is about $250,000.

That's according to this recent census information. As for the split between those? Only about 30% of residents own their homes, and the average household size is 2.55.

5. The minimum wage is $9.15.

This city is in one of the first states to announce a gradual increase to more than $10 an hour by 2017. That being said, the necessary living wage for one adult with no dependents is estimated at $11.88 an hour. For a single parent, that number jumps to $26.09.

Photo by lracaz/Wikimedia Commons.

6. Nearly 70% of the population identifies as Democrat, about 26% identify as nonpartisan, and less than 4% are registered Republicans.

This is obviously not representative of the country as a whole. But it is interesting to consider alongside the rest of the city's demographic makeup.

7. The unemployment rate is 35% higher than the national unemployment rate.

The current unemployment rate in this "normal America" is 7.4%, compared to 5.5% throughout the country; of course, this doesn't necessarily factor in underemployment.

Photo by VersaGeek/Wikimedia Commons.

8. About half the population does not claim a religious affiliation.

More than one-third identify as Catholic, and about 7% identify as some form of Protestant, plus 3.9% who are Evangelical; 4% are Jewish, and 2.3% identify their affiliation as "other."

The rest of the country is more like 20% Catholic, and 70% Christian overall, with 1.9% Jewish, and 22.8% who don't affiliate with any religion, plus the less-than-1% each of Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, and other world religions.

9. The city has had a reputation for high crime.

At one point, a study using FBI statistics identified it as the 18th most dangerous city in America. But that ranking also fell under some heavy criticism, and another analysis placed it around 168th in the nation. Either way, crime rates are something worth considering, even if crime levels in the city vary dramatically from neighborhood to neighborhood.

Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images.

10. Median household income is about $37,500 in the city itself, and $61,000 in the surrounding areas...

Per capita income in the city is around $24,000, or $33,000 in the suburbs. 24.4% of individuals and 20.5% of families in the city live below the poverty line, including 32.2% of those under age 18 and 17.9% of those age 65 or over.

11. … but it also has one of the fastest-growing rates of income inequality in the entire country.

¯\\_(ツ)_/¯

Have you figured out where this "normal American" city yet? Here a few more hints to help paint a picture.

Photo by Milkyoreo/Wikimedia Commons.

12. There's no professional sports team.

Neither The Beast nor the Ninjas nor the Ravens ever amounted to anything more than a cool name. But it is home to one of the greatest rivalries in the nation.

13. It is said to be the first "planned city" in America.

It's historic Ninth Square district dates all the way back to 1638, and it was originally blocked out as a grid of, well, nine squares.

Photo from Noroton/Wikimedia Commons.

14. Interchangeable rifle parts were invented there, as well as the first automatic revolver.

To this day, military technology and defense contractors are some of the largest industries — even though this place also has some of the most strict regulations for guns owners in America, and only 3.75% of the residents are known to own guns.

And of course, like many normal American cities, much of that industrial real estate is now becoming luxury condos...

15. It's also reported to be the home of the hamburger.

OK so this little detail is one of the most stereotypically "American" things imaginable. They also have pizza so good it has its own Wikipedia page. (Of course, I might be biased; I did grow up there.)

Photo by Christopher Capozziello/Getty Images.

Believe it or not, the "most normal" place in America is … New Haven, Connecticut.

Whatever preconceived notions you may have had about the home of the frisbee, it's probably not what most people think of when they think about "normal America."

And those wholesome, "Leave It To Beaver"-esque images that most people do think of? You can still find that today in places like Kentucky, West Virginia, and Indiana — but the statistics only rate them as a little more than 50% representative of the real United States as a whole.

That's not to say that either one is necessarily better than the other. But it is the reality of the country we live in.

The whole FiveThirtyEight study is a fascinating look into what the United States of America really looks like — and why it's so important that we reconsider how we think and speak of "Main Street America."

Images courtesy of Mark Storhaug & Kaiya Bates

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The experiences we have at school tend to stay with us throughout our lives. It's an impactful time where small acts of kindness, encouragement, and inspiration go a long way.

Schools, classrooms, and teachers that are welcoming and inclusive support students' development and help set them up for a positive and engaging path in life.

Here are three of our favorite everyday actions that are spreading kindness on campus in a big way:

Image courtesy of Mark Storhaug

1. Pickleball to Get Fifth Graders Moving

Mark Storhaug is a 5th grade teacher at Kingsley Elementary in Los Angeles, who wants to use pickleball to get his students "moving on the playground again after 15 months of being Zombies learning at home."

Pickleball is a paddle ball sport that mixes elements of badminton, table tennis, and tennis, where two or four players use solid paddles to hit a perforated plastic ball over a net. It's as simple as that.

Kingsley Elementary is in a low-income neighborhood where outdoor spaces where kids can move around are minimal. Mark's goal is to get two or three pickleball courts set up in the schoolyard and have kids join in on what's quickly becoming a national craze. Mark hopes that pickleball will promote movement and teamwork for all his students. He aims to take advantage of the 20-minute physical education time allotted each day to introduce the game to his students.

Help Mark get his students outside, exercising, learning to cooperate, and having fun by donating to his GoFundMe.

Image courtesy of Kaiya Bates

2. Staying C.A.L.M: Regulation Kits for Kids

According to the WHO around 280 million people worldwide suffer from depression. In the US, 1 in 5 adults experience mental illness and 1 in 20 experience severe mental illness, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Kaiya Bates, who was recently crowned Miss Tri-Cities Outstanding Teen for 2022, is one of those people, and has endured severe anxiety, depression, and selective mutism for most of her life.

Through her GoFundMe, Kaiya aims to use her "knowledge to inspire and help others through their mental health journey and to spread positive and factual awareness."

She's put together regulation kits (that she's used herself) for teachers to use with students who are experiencing stress and anxiety. Each "CALM-ing" kit includes a two-minute timer, fidget toolboxes, storage crates, breathing spheres, art supplies and more.

Kaiya's GoFundMe goal is to send a kit to every teacher in every school in the Pasco School District in Washington where she lives.

To help Kaiya achieve her goal, visit Staying C.A.L.M: Regulation Kits for Kids.

Image courtesy of Julie Tarman

3. Library for a high school heritage Spanish class

Julie Tarman is a high school Spanish teacher in Sacramento, California, who hopes to raise enough money to create a Spanish language class library.

The school is in a low-income area, and although her students come from Spanish-speaking homes, they need help building their fluency, confidence, and vocabulary through reading Spanish language books that will actually interest them.

Julie believes that creating a library that affirms her students' cultural heritage will allow them to discover the joy of reading, learn new things about the world, and be supported in their academic futures.

To support Julie's GoFundMe, visit Library for a high school heritage Spanish class.

Do YOU have an idea for a fundraiser that could make a difference? Upworthy and GoFundMe are celebrating ideas that make the world a better, kinder place. Visit upworthy.com/kindness to join the largest collaboration for human kindness in history and start your own GoFundMe.

Photo by R.D. Smith on Unsplash

Gem is living her best life.

If you've ever dreamed of spontaneously walking out the door and treating yourself a day of pampering at a spa without even telling anyone, you'll love this doggo who is living your best life.

According to CTV News, a 5-year-old shepherd-cross named Gem escaped from her fenced backyard in Winnipeg early Saturday morning and ended up at the door of Happy Tails Pet Resort & Spa, five blocks away. An employee at the spa saw Gem at the gate around 6:30 a.m. and was surprised when they noticed her owners were nowhere to be seen.

"They were looking in the parking lot and saying, 'Where's your parents?'" said Shawn Bennett, one of the co-owners of the business.

The employee opened the door and Gem hopped right on in, ready and raring to go for her day of fun and relaxation.

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When a pet is admitted to a shelter it can be a traumatizing experience. Many are afraid of their new surroundings and are far from comfortable showing off their unique personalities. The problem is that's when many of them have their photos taken to appear in online searches.

Chewy, the pet retailer who has dedicated themselves to supporting shelters and rescues throughout the country, recognized the important work of a couple in Tampa, FL who have been taking professional photos of shelter pets to help get them adopted.

"If it's a photo of a scared animal, most people, subconsciously or even consciously, are going to skip over it," pet photographer Adam Goldberg says. "They can't visualize that dog in their home."

Adam realized the importance of quality shelter photos while working as a social media specialist for the Humane Society of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

"The photos were taken top-down so you couldn't see the size of the pet, and the flash would create these red eyes," he recalls. "Sometimes [volunteers] would shoot the photos through the chain-link fences."

That's why Adam and his wife, Mary, have spent much of their free time over the past five years photographing over 1,200 shelter animals to show off their unique personalities to potential adoptive families. The Goldbergs' wonderful work was recently profiled by Chewy in the video above entitled, "A Day in the Life of a Shelter Pet Photographer."