The Demographics of America’s Governors: Place of Birth

This post will look at the demographics of America’s governors by place of birth, as of March 2012. All in all, this series on the demographics of America’s governors examines:

  • Place of Birth

The following map indicates the birth place of each of America’s governors. I honestly had no idea what to expect when making this map. On the one hand, the result is quite interesting in several ways. On the other hand, it’s somewhat difficult to interpret what appears in the following map. Is this a result of randomness, or is there a pattern?

Let’s take a look:

There are actually a lot of states whose current governor was born in said state. 31 states fit this category.

This is an interesting result. America is commonly thought of a very mobile society; there are very few regional differences, with the exception of the South, between one part of America and another. You can’t tell a Pennsylvanian from a Californian, for instance. Yet the majority of American states are still governed by native-born members of those states.

Another element is missing here: foreigners. Not a single American state is governed by a person born outside of the United States. Arnold Schwarzeneggers are very rare.

There seems to be a degree of regional difference. Most obviously, a band of states stretching from the Pacific Northwest to the Southwest are governed by individuals born outside said state. It’s hard to draw conclusions about the other parts of the country, however.

The map above does bear some resemblance to the electoral college. States with governors born elsewhere in the United States tend to be states which Barack Obama could possibly win in 2012. There are, of course, plenty of exceptions to this statement (such as Oklahoma and New York).

Finally, there a lot of Pennsylvanians governing states elsewhere. On the other hand, only one New Yorker (Neil Abercrombie) is governing a state outside of New York. Nor does anybody born in heavily populated Florida govern a state. You can make a lot of jokes about this result, although it’s most probably just randomness.

Are there any revealing partisan differences in this demographic? Let’s look at states governed by Democrats:

Now states governed by Republicans:

If such differences exist, they escape me.

Perhaps the most relevant conclusion to be drawn from this result is that America is still a pretty introverted place. Chances are pretty good that the your state is governed by somebody born there. And chances are very good that your state is governed by somebody born in the United States.

(Edit: Apparently about six in ten American live in the same state that they were born, which is a lot higher than I thought. Consider that 12.9% of Americans are foreign-born. Anyways, the number of governors born in the same state that they govern happens to match pretty well the number of Americans born in the same state that they live – although not-so-well the number of Americans born in a different country.)

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3 Responses to The Demographics of America’s Governors: Place of Birth

  1. Henry says:

    Here is an article about people living in their state of residence.

    According to the article, about 60% of people were born in the states they live in – statistically identical to the proportion of native Governors.

    The West has lots of out-of-state residents as well as lots of out-of-state Governors. Most other states are fairly sensisble. The clump around Ohio is a little odd and possibly meaningful though, given the low out-of-state residents in those states and the large number of PA-born Governors.

    • inoljt says:

      Thanks for the link! I didn’t know that 60% of Americans live in the same state that they were born in. I personally thought that the number was much lower, which accounts for why I thought the number of people governing the same state they were born in seemed relatively low. Good to know though.

      Also I doubt that the clump around Ohio is meaningful. Sometimes you just have to account for randomness in your results. Not everything shows a pattern.

  2. Ed says:

    I draw exactly the opposite conclusion from you about this data. The fact that 38% of states have chief executives governed from outside the state is pretty significant and high by international standards. If you look through one of the political almanacs, you also come across alot of federal representatives born outside the area they represent. Keep in mind that the U.S. has a political tradition of localism, in other words there is no tradition of the party machinery recruiting promising candidates and then parachuting them into distant seats like you have in Canada and the U.K.

    If you want to look at a pattern, its better to ignore the states that elect governors from out of state, and look at the states that export politicians. I think we are seeing cases of states where the political systems to some extent block local political talent, either because of a low office to population ratio (California), or machine politics (Pennsylvania), or both (New York), so you see natives of that state moving elsewhere and winning offices that they would be unlikely to win in their native states.

    Its something of a weird coincidence that three of the four surviving Republican presidential candidates come from Pennsylvania, all three were elected to Congress, but only one of them was elected in Pennsylvania.

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