Who Gives, Who Takes? “Real America” and Contributions to the Nation–State

Maria Abascal, Miguel Angel Centeno

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Although service to the nation–state features in academic and lay understandings of patriotism, claims of patriotism are rarely examined alongside contributions to the nation–state. The present study examines four behaviors—military enlistment, voting, monetary contributions, and census response—to evaluate the claim that certain parts of the United States, and specifically the communities of “real America,” contribute more than others to the country overall. Consistent with the words of several electoral candidates, ruralness, religiosity, political conservatism, and gun culture collectively identify a distinctive set of communities where residents are both more likely to report “American” as their ancestry and to vote for Republican presidential candidates, including Donald Trump. However, visual and statistical evidence undermine the claim that these communities contribute more than other parts of the country. Instead, and in several respects, these communities make smaller contributions to the nation–state than one would expect based on other characteristics. The findings undermine divisive claims about a “real” America that gives more than its “fair share.”.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)832-860
Number of pages29
JournalAmerican Behavioral Scientist
Issue number8
StatePublished - Jul 1 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Psychology
  • Cultural Studies
  • Education
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • General Social Sciences


  • Americanness
  • nation state
  • nationalism
  • polarization
  • real America


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