Is Pittsburgh in the Midwest or East Coast? Analysis of Pennsylvania’s Status From a Local

Few things get geography nerds as fired up as defining geographic regions. There’s actually a spirited debate over whether Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania is located in the Midwest or the Northeast / East Coast.

For this author, who was born and raised in Pittsburgh, and has traveled extensively throughout every state in the union, there is no question. But feel free to share dissenting opinions in the comments.

Here’s the opinion of someone who grew up and lived more than three decades in Pittsburgh.

is pittsburgh midwest

Is Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania Midwest or East Coast?

When people think of the Midwestern states, they tend to think of Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Iowa.

Those states are universally regarded as the Midwest. Nebraska and the Dakotas are sometimes included as well.

But what about Pennsylvania? Most Americans tend to think of Pennsylvania as a Northeastern state, along with New York, New Jersey, Delaware, and the New England states.

bridges - is pittsburgh midwest or east coast

But that’s only partially correct, in my view. Pennsylvania is actually very much split down the middle. The eastern portion of the state – Philadelphia and its surbubs – are 100% East Coast.

But the western part of PA – especially the Pittsburgh area – is 100% Midwest.

In Northeast cities (yes, we’re generalizing here), people tend to be a bit more hurried, a bit less friendly, a little more cold and distant, and give off a bit of attitude. Think Boston, Philly, NYC. That ain’t Pittsburgh at all.

bill mazeroski statue pittsburgh midwest

Midwestern cities, by contrast, are friendlier, a little less hectic, slower-paced, a little more folksy. That’s totally Pittsburgh.

Culturally, socially, and politically, Pittsburgh is pretty much the exact same city as Cleveland, Milwaukee, and Indianapolis. Many of the Rust Belt cities have the same characteristics.

I know that may upset some Pittsburghers, because Cleveland is our rival city. But spend any time in Cleveland, and you find it has the same feel that Pittsburgh does.

acrisure stadium steeler game

Here’s a map that recently made the rounds on Facebook. It attempts to divide the U.S. into different regions.

Take a look at the area in orange described as the “Great Lakes” region. That pretty much captures the range of the Midwest.

facebook midwest great lakes map
The orange “Great Lakes” region defines the Midwest accurately. (Facebook.)

You can see that they chose to include western Pennsylvania in the orange, which backs up my argument that Pittsburgh is part of that area.

You can even make a case that Buffalo, New York fits in with the Midwest, in terms of overall vibe, history, and culture.

Other Opinions on the Issue

I know some lifelong Pittsburghers who still consider the city part of the East Coast. You can find numerous Reddit and discussion board threads in which people argue over the various reasons why Pittsburgh could fit into either category.

Some people try to thread the needle and say that Pittsburgh is a combination of Midwest, Northeast, and Appalachia. There’s some truth in that. We have Appalachian influences, for sure.

cathedral of learning

But I keep coming back to the overall cultural feel. Pittsburgh = Cleveland = Milwaukee. And that makes it Midwestern. Case closed.

Bloomberg surveyed 12,000 people on this topic, and less than 50% labeled Pittsburgh as Midwest. So if you disagree with me, you have plenty of company.

Here’s another thread with a lot of varied takes on the matter. Clearly, there is no consensus.

Pittsburgh skyline

So, to summarize: What region is Pittsburgh in? For me, Pittsburgh is undoubtedly a Midwestern city.

As for the entire state, Pennsylvania is partly Midwest and partly East Coast. The divide occurs somewhere in the middle of the state.

Working-class central PA cities like Altoona and Harrisburg still have somewhat of a Midwestern feel, but east of those towns is where the East Coast vibe takes over.

Feel free to share your opinions in the comments! You’ll never persuade me otherwise, though.

I spent decades in Pittsburgh, another decade living in Illinois, I’ve lived in Ohio as well, and I’ve traveled all over the Midwest repeatedly.

There is no doubt in this writer’s mind that Pittsburgh lies at the eastern edge of the Midwest.

Check out my extensive Pittsburgh content, including 66 Reasons I Love Pittsburgh, guide to attending a Steeler game, the National Aviary, the famous Mount Washington inclines, the Nationality Rooms at the University of Pittsburgh, the sports culture of the city, and my former neighborhood, the South Side.

Here’s a list of all the places you can reach from Pittsburgh via the Megabus. Finally, here’s my personal guide to the best way for tourists to spend one day in Pittsburgh.

Do you think Pittsburgh is in the Midwest or East Coast?