Upper Midwest
Map of the USA with the Upper Midwest highlighted (as defined by the National Weather Service)
Map of the USA with the Upper Midwest highlighted (as defined by the National Weather Service)
DemonymUpper Midwesterner

The Upper Midwest is a northern subregion of the U.S. Census Bureau's Midwestern United States. Although the exact boundaries are not uniformly agreed upon, the region is usually defined to include the states of Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin; some definitions include North Dakota, South Dakota, and parts of Nebraska and Illinois.


The National Centers for Environmental Information considers the Upper Midwest climate region to include Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin.[1]

The United States Geological Survey uses two different Upper Midwest regions:

The Association for Institutional Research in the Upper Midwest includes the states of Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wisconsin and the upper peninsula of Michigan in the region.[3] According to the Library of Congress, the Upper Midwest includes the states of Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan.[4]


The region has dramatic variations between summer and winter temperatures; summers are hot; and winters are very cold. For example, Sioux Falls averages 25 days each year with temperatures above 90 °F (32 °C) and 45 days each year with temperatures below 5 °F (−15 °C).[5] Mitchell, South Dakota has a record high of 116 °F (47 °C) and a record low of −39 °F (−39 °C).[6]

The growing season is shorter, cooler and drier in areas farther north and west. The region's western boundary is sometimes considered to be determined by where the climate becomes too dry to support growing non-irrigated crops other than small grains or hay grass.[citation needed]


Main articles: Inland Northern American English and North-Central American English

The Inland North dialect, most prominently characterized by the Northern Cities Vowel Shift, is centered in the eastern part of the Upper Midwest, including Wisconsin, Michigan and the northern parts of Illinois and Ohio; it extends beyond the Midwest into Upstate New York. North Central American English (also known as "Upper Midwestern"[7]), an accent of American English defined more by the absence of certain features than their presence, is spoken in Minnesota, parts of Wisconsin and Iowa, the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, portions of Montana and the Dakotas.[8]


The upper Midwest, practically Wisconsin, was the birth place of the Republican Party. (An old photo of the Little White Schoolhouse)

The Upper Midwest in the 20th-century was dominated by the Republican Party and was the heartland of the early Progressive movement, the region supporting Theodore Roosevelt's Bull Moose party and Robert La Follette's Progressive party. The region continues to be favorable to the Democratic Party and moderate Republicans, with Minnesota favoring each Democratic presidential candidate since 1976 and Wisconsin from 1988 to 2012 (and again in 2020). Minnesota narrowly supported native Walter Mondale in 1984 in an election where Ronald Reagan won every other state. Michigan and Illinois also often favor Democratic candidates. However, beginning with the 2010 midterm elections, Republicans experienced substantial gains in state legislative and executive offices in Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan.[9][10][11] This trend continued through 2016.[12][10][11] From 2018, Democrats regained some control of the region. With Upper Midwest states closest to the Great Lakes favoring Democrats, and Democratic state trifecta governments forming in Minnesota and Michigan in 2022. Great Plains states in the region continue to favor Republicans, with GOP state trifecta governments in the Dakota's and Iowa.[13] In 2023, the region had three Democratic governors (in Minnesota, Michigan, and Wisconsin) and three Republican governors (in North Dakota, South Dakota, and Iowa).

In the 2020 presidential election, Democrat Joe Biden won the electoral votes of the Blue Wall states of Wisconsin, Michigan, and Minnesota. Republican Donald Trump won the electoral votes of Iowa, North Dakota, and South Dakota.[14]

Each state elects two U.S. senators to a six-year term. After the November 2020 election, Minnesota and Michigan had two Democratic senators, while North Dakota, South Dakota and Iowa had two Republican senators. Wisconsin is the only state in the Upper Midwest that has elected one Republican and one Democratic senator.

Industry and tourism

See also: Rust Belt

The economy of the region was largely based upon the mining of iron and copper, as well as a very large timber industry. Mechanization has sharply reduced employment in those areas, and the economy is increasingly based on tourism. Popular interest in the environment and environmentalism, added to traditional interests in hunting and fishing, has attracted a large urban audience who live within driving range.[15]


The USDA reported that corn, soybean, sunflower and sugar beet crops saw harvest gains in 2018, but were still below the five-year averages. In North Dakota, for example, 49% of corn was harvested by November 4 compared with the five-year average of 97%. This was in part due to weather conditions in October that affected the harvest.[16]

See also


  1. ^ "Geographical Reference Maps | National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI)". www.ncei.noaa.gov. Retrieved 13 March 2024.
  2. ^ "U.S. Geological Survey's Mineral Resources Program activities in the Upper Midwest | U.S. Geological Survey". www.usgs.gov. Retrieved 13 March 2024.
  3. ^ "About AIRUM". www.airum.org. Retrieved 13 March 2024.
  4. ^ LOC (2019). Pioneering the Upper Midwest: Books from Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin, ca. 1820-1910. Library of Congress (LOC), 2019. Retrieved from https://www.loc.gov/teachers/classroommaterials/connections/upper-midwest/.
  5. ^ "Sioux Falls, South Dakota Travel Weather Averages". Weatherbase.
  6. ^ "Mitchell, South Dakota Travel Weather Averages". Weatherbase.
  7. ^ Allen, Harold B. (1973). The Linguistic Atlas of the Upper Midwest. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. ISBN 0-8166-0686-2.
  8. ^ Labov, William; Ash, Sharon; Boberg, Charles (2006). The Atlas of North American English. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter. ISBN 3-11-016746-8.
  9. ^ "GOP Makes Historic State Legislative Gains in 2010". Rasmussen Reports. Retrieved 31 July 2018.
  10. ^ a b Lai, K.K. Rebecca. "In a Further Blow to Democrats, Republicans Increase Their Hold on State Governments". The New York Times. Retrieved 31 July 2018.
  11. ^ a b Anderson, Tim (1 December 2016). "GOP continues to gain more legislative seats, control in Midwest states". CSG Knowledge Center. Retrieved 31 July 2018.
  12. ^ Enten, Harry (9 December 2016). "It's Not All About Clinton – The Midwest Was Getting Redder Before 2016". FiveThirtyEight. Retrieved 31 July 2018.
  13. ^ "State government trifectas". Ballotpedia. Retrieved 15 May 2023.
  14. ^ Alberta, Tim. "Three Reasons Biden Flipped the Midwest". POLITICO. Retrieved 13 January 2021.
  15. ^ Shapiro, Aaron (2015). The Lure of the North Woods: Cultivating Tourism in the Upper Midwest. University of Minnesota Press.
  16. ^ Knutson, Jonathan Staff (7 November 2018). "Making progress on crop harvest, but Upper Midwest pace still..." Agriculture Week. Retrieved 8 November 2018.