Stereotypes About The American South That Are Actually True

Movies and TV shows often portray stereotypes about the South, from heavy accents to redneck farmers to poor education. While many of these stereotypes are false–for instance, some of the country’s best universities are in the South–others are true. Southerners eat more fried food than the rest of the country, and many live on or near farms. These stereotypes about the South are at least slightly true.

The Southern Accent Is Distinct And Noticeable

Although the accent isn’t “funny” per say, Southerners do have a distinct accent compared to the rest of the U.S. One of the accent’s most obvious features is the “Confederate A.”

Two women talk while working on a laptop.
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According to linguists interviewed by PBS, the “Confederate A” is pronouncing most A’s as “Ma.” There is also the “Southern twang,” which removes many “r” sounds from words.

Southerners Have A Drawl

The “Southern drawl” isn’t just a stereotype; it’s a term that linguists use. The Southern accent includes drawn-out vowel sounds, especially in combination words such as “gonna” (going to) and “lemme” (let me).

Two women talk and laugh with each other.
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This drawl says nothing about a person’s intelligence. With this accent, people have to move their mouths slower, which drawls out speech.

Southerners Love Country Music

While a variety of music exists in all 50 states, country music originated in the South. Virginia and Tennessee saw the debut of this genre, and Nashville is the current country music hub.

Alan Jackson and Lee Ann Womack perform during the 14th Annual Academy Of Country Music Honors.
Erika Goldring/Getty Images for ACM
Erika Goldring/Getty Images for ACM

That being said, country music is popular across the nation. A survey from Engineer Boards found that people in Idaho, Utah, Alaska, and Wisconsin also favor country music.

Southerners Eat A Lot Of Fried Food

Although not everything in the South is fried, Southerners do adore fried. In fact, a 2018 study found that Southern cuisine is largely responsible for the high rates of hypertension in African Americans.

Fried fish is served in a Florida restaurant.
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Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Some fried foods are only found in the American South: fried green tomatoes, fried catfish, and po’boy sandwiches among others.

Most Southerners Are Conservative

The American South is generally conservative–because all of America is. In 2019, a survey examined 29,000 interviews with U.S. adults. Researchers concluded that most of America is center-right, politically.

That being said, you’ll find more diversity in some Southern states. In states like Georgia and Texas, the general population is split, even if their governments aren’t.

Most Southerners Love The Bible

There’s a reason why the southeastern U.S. is called “the Bible Belt.” In this part of America, evangelical Protestantism is especially strong and plays a greater role in politics than the rest of the country.

A woman clasps her hands in prayer on top of a Bible.
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The Pew Research center found that 71% of Southerners are “absolutely certain” that God exists. Perhaps there is some merit to the term “Bible thumpers.”

Southerners Do Say “Ya’ll”

In 2013, the North Carolina State University released a map that showed where Americans said “y’all.” As one might expect, most of the American South said “y’all.”

A map shows where people say
Anna-Marie McNiel Carter/Pinterest
Anna-Marie McNiel Carter/Pinterest

The term first appeared in the Southern U.S. That being said, “y’all” is becoming more commonplace throughout the rest of the United States.

Southerners Live On Or Near Farms

The United States contains over two million farms. Much of that farmland spreads across Central and Southern America.

A lone windmill stands on a farm in Kansas.
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K. Vreeland/ClassicStock/Getty Images

According to the Major Land Uses survey, from U.S. Department of Agriculture, Texas holds the most farmland of any U.S. state. Oklahoma, Arkansas, Tennessee, and Kentucky also have a lot. Not everyone lives near a farm, but many people do.

College Football Is A Big Deal

If you love college football, you’ll find more fans in the South than in the North or West. According to All American Healthcare, college football is especially popular in the South due to cultural celebrations and tradition.

The Oklahoma Sooners play against the Missouri Tigers.
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Each college has its own traditions, but you’ll often find people tailgating and wearing the university colors on game day.

The South Has A High Poverty Rate

The more accurate statement is: certain Southern states have a high poverty rate. In 2019, the U.S. Census Bureau reported that some of the poorest American states are in the South.

In a poor area of Mississippi, a woman sleeps on a couch outside.
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John van Hasselt/Corbis via Getty Images

By far, the poorest state is Mississippi with a poverty percentage of 19.6%. It is followed closely by Louisiana (19%), Kentucky (16.3%), Arkansas (16.2%), Alabama (15.5%), and Oklahoma (15.2%).

Southerners Get Married Young

If we’re looking at averages, Southerns do get married younger compared to the rest of America. The Population Reference Bureau discovered that Southern states have some of the youngest marriage ages, including Alabama, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas, and Tennessee.

A couple is photographed during their country-themed wedding.
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Jessica Rockowitz/Unsplash

In Southern states, the average marriage ages are between 25 and 28. The national average is between ages 27 and 30.

Many Southerners Live In Mobile Homes

Mobile homes are becoming more and more popular in the United States. But according to the U.S. Census Bureau, they are the most popular in certain Southern states.

A mobile home drives through New Mexico.
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Robert Alexander/Getty Images

South Carolina has the highest amount of mobile homes in use. In second place is West Virginia. Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, Arkansas, North Carolina, and Kentucky are also within the top ten.

Southerners Address People As “Sir” And “Ma’am”

Northerners would rarely hear somebody say “sir” or “ma’am.” But in the South, people are raised to say these terms to be polite.

A man tips his cowboy hat in greeting.

In the North and West, saying “sir” or “ma’am” is sometimes viewed as rude. But these terms are meant to respect adults and prove that younger people have manners.

Fewer Southerners Go To College

While many Southerners attend college, higher education is not as prominent there. According to The Hechinger Report, Southern states have been cutting funding on higher education.

University students celebrate graduating college in Atlanta, Georgia.
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Paras Griffin/Getty Images

Initially, they did this because fewer people were going (likely due to rising prices). But this shrinks higher education, which lowers funding more. It has become a vicious cycle.

Southerners Can’t Drive In The Snow

Northerners often joke that Southerners can’t drive in snow. In truth, they rarely have to. It sparsely snows in the South–an average of 0.1 inches each year–and when it does, it only lasts for a few days.

Cars drive through a snowstorm in Pennsylvania.
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Ben Hasty/MediaNews Group/Reading Eagle via Getty Images

So, yes, Southerners struggle to drive in snow in the same way that Californians do.

Sweet Tea Is A Big Deal

Southerners do take sweet tea seriously. Sweet tea is not iced tea with sweetener, as many Northerners tend to think.

Texas sweet iced tea is in a mason jar with a straw.
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Xiaomei Chen/South China Morning Post via Getty Images

Sweet tea is infused with sugar while it’s still hot; otherwise, the sugar won’t dissolve. It is iced down afterward. Along with the American South, this drink is also popular in Indonesia.

Cowboys Are In The South

Today, most people who live in the South are not cowboys. But cowboys originated in the American South; they were Americanized versions of Mexican vaqueros.

Two cowboys watch their cattle flock on horseback, Texas, 1950.
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Ivan Dmitri/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Cowboys still work in states like Oklahoma, Louisiana, Florida, and Kansas. More commonly, you will find cowboy events in the American South like rodeos and meet-ups.

Many Southerners Drink

Southerners are known for loving beer, but a reporter for The Atlantic noticed that Southern states have far fewer breweries than the rest of the country. How could that happen?

Empty beer bottles are displayed at a brewery.
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Johannes Simon/Getty Images

In short, it has to do with taxes on liquor. Many Southerners can’t buy kegs, but they can get bottles. Louisiana even has the 10th-highest beer consumption per capita.

The Barbecue Is Fantastic

If you love barbecue, visit the American South. Barbecue restaurants there are life-changing.

BBQ pork and beans is served at a restaurant.
Liz Hafalia/The San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images
Liz Hafalia/The San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images

When Business Insider ranked the best barbecue restaurants in the United States, most were in Texas. Others came from Tennessee, Kansas, Arkansas, and Florida. Although good and bad barbecue restaurants dot the entire country, the South is particularly known for its tasty food.

Southern Hospitality Is Known Around The Country

Most people in the South are kind and welcoming. If you travel to the South, you’ll find that many people will hold the door open for you and address you as “sir” or “ma’am.”

New Orleans Saints linebacker Nathan Stupar (R) serves a guest at the Cam Jordan Celebrity Server Event.
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“Southern charm” is palpable in many restaurants and businesses. While rude people are everywhere, many tourists report that Southerners are warm and generous.