Generalizations about large areas and populations must inevitably be somewhat vague, and there are various narratives from the nineteenth century which challenge traditional stereotypes about North and South. Nonetheless, certain differences in regional identity did exist. The prevalence of large plantations which used slave-labor in the South led to an aristocratic agrarian culture, in which the same wealthy families were socially and politically prominent for generations. In the North, smaller estates, together with a culture of self-improvement and a puritan work ethic led to much greater social mobility. This dichotomy was increased by the fact that the majority of recent immigrants lived in the North, and the importance of formal education in Northern culture was greater.
Technological advancement and dynamism were also important for the identity of the North. Most of the factories and railroads were there, and large cities had grown up by the time of the Civil War. Northern universities became centers of scientific research. People in the South had little use for technology, and saw themselves as guardians of a more traditional, leisurely culture. Those who lived in the North were more likely to be Republicans, who identified with the federal government, whereas the South favored the Democratic Party and placed a stronger emphasis on states' rights. Although religion was very important in both North and South, the North was more accepting of non-conforming sects, as well as agnosticism, while the South maintained a more traditional approach, with little variety throughout the region.