Get Social

Defining the American Heartland Key to Future of the Heartland’s Economy

June 25, 2018
New research outlines key perspectives that could help shape the geographic makeup of the Heartland

BENTONVILLE, Ark. – As America’s Heartland becomes more of a concentrated focal point economically, culturally and politically, the Walton Family Foundation released new research today outlining key perspectives that could help shape the geographic makeup of the Heartland for generations to come.

“George Strait sings about it. Kevin Costner built a baseball field in the middle of it. The Pioneer Woman cooks for it,” explained Ross DeVol, the lead researcher and Fellow at the Walton Family Foundation. “America’s Heartland is vital to the resurgence of the United States’ economy and bridging America’s economic divide.”

“Today’s American Heartland is a mash up of what’s been known as the Breadbasket States, the Midwest, Rust Belt, Flyover Country and parts of the South,” DeVol said.

According to DeVol’s research for the Walton Family Foundation, the Heartland is based on the four U.S. Census Bureau regions and includes the East North Central (Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois and Wisconsin); West North Central (Missouri, Kansas, Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, South Dakota and North Dakota); East South Central (Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama and Mississippi); and West South Central (Arkansas, Oklahoma and Louisiana).

DeVol concludes: “It must include parts of the South as many are central. By definition, you cannot be in the Heartland if you were a member of the 13 Colonies. Yes, that rules out Georgia and West Virginia because it was part of Virginia, even though culturally, they share many Heartland values. Florida was not a member of the original 13, the state cannot be in the Heartland as it has an Atlantic Coastline, so it must be part of the coast.”

DeVol’s research is part of a one-year tenure at the foundation, where he will assess opportunities for regional innovation ecosystems that foster job creation, wage gains and economic growth for Middle America residents. Learn more about DeVol here.

About the Walton Family Foundation
The Walton Family Foundation is, at its core, a family-led foundation. The children and grandchildren of our founders, Sam and Helen Walton, lead the foundation and create access to opportunity for people and communities. We work in three areas: improving K-12 education, protecting rivers and oceans and the communities they support, and investing in our home region of Northwest Arkansas and the Arkansas-Mississippi Delta. In 2017, the foundation awarded more than $535 million in grants in support of these initiatives. To learn more, visit and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.