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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."

Pop Culture

Artist uses AI to create ultra realistic portraits of celebrities who left us too soon

What would certain icons look like if nothing had happened to them?

Mercury would be 76 today.

Some icons have truly left this world too early. It’s a tragedy when anyone doesn’t make it to see old age, but when it happens to a well-known public figure, it’s like a bit of their art and legacy dies with them. What might Freddie Mercury have created if he were granted the gift of long life? Bruce Lee? Princess Diana?

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All images provided by Adewole Adamson

It begins with more inclusive conversations at a patient level

True

Adewole Adamson, MD, of the University of Texas, Austin, aims to create more equity in health care by gathering data from more diverse populations by using artificial intelligence (AI), a type of machine learning. Dr. Adamson’s work is funded by the American Cancer Society (ACS), an organization committed to advancing health equity through research priorities, programs and services for groups who have been marginalized.

Melanoma became a particular focus for Dr. Adamson after meeting Avery Smith, who lost his wife—a Black woman—to the deadly disease.

melanoma,  melanoma for dark skin Avery Smith (left) and Adamson (sidenote)

This personal encounter, coupled with multiple conversations with Black dermatology patients, drove Dr. Adamson to a concerning discovery: as advanced as AI is at detecting possible skin cancers, it is heavily biased.

To understand this bias, it helps to first know how AI works in the early detection of skin cancer, which Dr. Adamson explains in his paper for the New England Journal of Medicine (paywall). The process uses computers that rely on sets of accumulated data to learn what healthy or unhealthy skin looks like and then create an algorithm to predict diagnoses based on those data sets.

This process, known as supervised learning, could lead to huge benefits in preventive care.

After all, early detection is key to better outcomes. The problem is that the data sets don’t include enough information about darker skin tones. As Adamson put it, “everything is viewed through a ‘white lens.’”

“If you don’t teach the algorithm with a diverse set of images, then that algorithm won’t work out in the public that is diverse,” writes Adamson in a study he co-wrote with Smith (according to a story in The Atlantic). “So there’s risk, then, for people with skin of color to fall through the cracks.”

Tragically, Smith’s wife was diagnosed with melanoma too late and paid the ultimate price for it. And she was not an anomaly—though the disease is more common for White patients, Black cancer patients are far more likely to be diagnosed at later stages, causing a notable disparity in survival rates between non-Hispanics whites (90%) and non-Hispanic blacks (66%).

As a computer scientist, Smith suspected this racial bias and reached out to Adamson, hoping a Black dermatologist would have more diverse data sets. Though Adamson didn’t have what Smith was initially looking for, this realization ignited a personal mission to investigate and reduce disparities.

Now, Adamson uses the knowledge gained through his years of research to help advance the fight for health equity. To him, that means not only gaining a wider array of data sets, but also having more conversations with patients to understand how socioeconomic status impacts the level and efficiency of care.

“At the end of the day, what matters most is how we help patients at the patient level,” Adamson told Upworthy. “And how can you do that without knowing exactly what barriers they face?”

american cancer society, skin cacner treatment"What matters most is how we help patients at the patient level."https://www.kellydavidsonstudio.com/

The American Cancer Society believes everyone deserves a fair and just opportunity to prevent, find, treat, and survive cancer—regardless of how much money they make, the color of their skin, their sexual orientation, gender identity, their disability status, or where they live. Inclusive tools and resources on the Health Equity section of their website can be found here. For more information about skin cancer, visit cancer.org/skincancer.

via Dion Merrick / Facebook

This article originally appeared on 02.09.21


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