Bobo: In the Midwest, I believe, it used to be not O.K. to brag about anything. My impression is that the region was more genuinely egalitarian than the other regions, at least in the small and mid-sized cities. You didn’t want to drive around in a fancy car. You didn’t want to put on airs. I once heard a consultant give a talk on why C.E.O.s should pay their superstars much more than their average employees. Then he added, as an aside, “We’re having some trouble persuading our Midwestern clients to do this.” I thought I heard an entire ethos cracking.
Do you think I’m right that the Midwest was more socially egalitarian? Is it still? Has Midwestern culture become more like the coasts?
Gail: David, I come from the wrong side of the tracks in Cincinnati. I went back a few years ago to talk to my old girls’ high school and met some terrific kids, who were totally confident about making their way in the world as not-wealthy young women, but really worried that it wasn’t possible to get anywhere serious if you were from the west side of town. So, not necessarily.
The mythical downside: 30 or 40 years of muddying the waters have made all those hard-working stoic types as narcissistic as the coastal elites. The mythical upside: at least they’re paying the real superstars more now.