Have you ever wondered how similar or different two states are? The State Similarity Index attempts to quantify how similar states are to each other relative to other states. The index is a statistically-based way to measure this. The index weights equally five major aspects of states: their demographics, culture, politics, infrastructure, and geography. The research combines 1,000 different data points. Each aspect was roughly balanced evenly between quantity/percentage and quality/type. See this post for a full explanation: State Similarity Index
Similar to North Central landlocked states
The top five states most similar to Montana are all sparsely populated and landlocked. They all have relatively cold climates as well. These states are some of the least diverse in the nation, with a vast majority of their people being White. The people in these states also tend to own more guns and have more hunting licenses than the rest of the country. With the exception of Colorado, the five most similar states favor Republicans.
Top 5 States Most Similar to Montana
- Wyoming is located to the south of Montana, but their climates are quite similar. Both states get little rainfall, but do get a significant amount of snow. Despite being so far west, most of their water flows east, towards the Mississippi River and the Gulf of Mexico. Both states have the Rocky Mountains in their western portions, but are relatively flat in their eastern portions. Montana’s demographics are also similar to Wyoming, however it has a lower percentage of Latinos. The economies of both states also rely on mineral extraction.
- Idaho borders Montana to its west. Their demographics are quite similar Montana. Both states are predominately White with mostly German, Irish, and English ancestry. They also have some of the highest suicide rates in the country. Their infrastructure is extremely similar as well. Both states create a lot of their electricity through hydropower, although Montana uses more coal. They also tend to have slow internet speeds. The agriculture in Idaho and Montana is also similar. Both states predominately grow wheat and hay. However, Idaho has more conservative laws.
- Colorado also has the Rocky Mountains running through the western portion of the state, so their geography is similar although Colorado does not border Montana and is further south. Both states predominately grow wheat and hay. They also have a similar percentage of farmland. While these states have similar laws, Colorado tends to vote for Democratic presidential candidates, unlike Montana. The people in both states do not watch a lot of television and spend a lot of time in the outdoors.
- South Dakota is yet another state that borders Montana on this list. In fact a large portion of Montana was once part of Dakota Territory. Both states have several reservations for Native Americans. They also have many people with hunting licenses and high rates of gun ownership. They have few restrictions on either guns or abortion as well. Marijuana is also legal in both states. However, South Dakota is less mountainous and a significantly higher percentage of its area is farmland.
- North Dakota is another state that shares a long border with Canada. However, North Dakota tends to use much more electricity per capita, due to the fracking industry in the state. Coal power plants also provide a majority of the electricity for both states. However, like South Dakota, North Dakota is significantly less mountainous than Montana and has a higher percentage of farmland. Both states have many people with German ancestry, but North Dakota has far more people with Norwegian ancestry.
The five least similar states to Montana are located in BOWASH, a swathe of densely populated, high urbanized land between Boston and Washington DC. These states also have more liberal laws and a major of the people in their governments are Democrats, unlike Montana. Furthermore, these states are more densely forested than Montana, in part due to the fact that Montana’s climate is drier.
Top 5 States Least Similar to Montana
- New Jersey is the most densely populated state, while Montana is one of the least. New Jersey’s population is also very diverse, while Montana is predominately White, with German ancestry being most common. Furthermore, most of the people in the state live relatively close to the beach, in contrast to landlocked Montana. The state relies on natural gas and nuclear power to create electricity, while Montana relies on coal and hydropower.
- Massachusetts is more diverse than Montana. It has a higher percentage of Asians and African Americans. In addition, it has many Chinese, French, and Portuguese speakers. It also has a significantly lower percentage of married people. It is also far more densely populated than Montana and most of its people live in urban areas. Unlike Montana, Massachusetts relies on natural gas to create electricity.
- Rhode Island is another state in New England that is far different than Montana. While Montana is the fourth largest state, Rhode Island is the smallest state by area. Most people in the state live close to the coast, unlike Montana. It also has one of the highest percentages of Catholics in the country, in part due to numerous people with Irish and Italian ancestry in the state.
- Maryland has a lot of coastline and is more densely populated than Montana. Its people also tend to be significantly wealthier, since many people in the state are located in the suburbs of Washington, DC. It has a far lower suicide rate, but a higher rate homicide rate. The state has much faster internet speeds and nearly the entire state has cell phone coverage.
- New York has some of the most restrictive gun laws in the country. Very few people have guns or hunting licenses, in contrast to Montana. A large percentage of its people use regularly use mass transportation, so far fewer people have cars there. The national origins of its people is much different than Montana, since New York is much more diverse and its White population has many people with Italian ancestry and a lower percentage of people with German ancestry.
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