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 to arrive at the conclusions.
Top 5 States Most Similar to Arkansas
Arkansas is a Southeastern state. Many states are similar to it in the region. The five most similar states are all part of the Bible Belt, the most religious area of the United States. Because of this, they tend to be very conservative politically and heavily favor Republicans. The five most similar states allowed slavery before the end of the Civil War and they all practiced racial segregation. These states also have little coastline as well, although they all have navigable rivers that lead to inland ports. Their landscapes feature a mix of farmland and forests.
- Alabama does not border Arkansas, but it has many of the same characteristics. Both states are relatively poor and are quite conservative. Although it is not in the Ozark Mountains, Alabama’s terrain is comparable since it has the Appalachian Mountains. Both states also use a mix of coal, natural gas, and nuclear power to create electricity. These states are also politically similar. They almost always vote for the same presidential candidates in the primaries. However, Alabama has more restrictions on gambling.
- Mississippi borders Arkansas to its east. Its agriculture is extremely similar to Arkansas. They both predominately grow soybeans. However, Arkansas is more mountainous, since it has the Ozark and Ouchita Mountains. Arkansas and Mississippi have the two lowest percentage of college graduates in the country and also low have lower incomes than average as a result. Both states have non-partisan elections to select judges for their courts. One big difference is that Mississippi has a far higher percentage of African Americans.
- Tennessee is a landlocked state to the east of Arkansas. Its racial demographics are extremely similar, with nearly the same percentage of African Americans and Latinos as Arkansas. It is another deeply religious state, where a vast majority of its people are Protestants. The states have a similar percentage of forested land and farmland as well. They also have a similar percentage of single family homes and mobile homes. Both states have an army and an air force base.
- Kentucky is another relatively poor, landlocked Southern state the borders the Mississippi River. The states are especially similar politically. Both states tax and spend in a similar manner. However, Kentucky’s climate is colder and it gets more snowfall. In addition, it was not part of the Confederacy during the Civil War, although both states historically allowed slavery. A higher percentage of its people are in the military in Kentucky as well and it is does not have an air force base.
- Oklahoma is directly to the west of Arkansas. It is another state with both the Ozark and Ouchita Mountains, although Oklahoma becomes much flatter in its western portion. They also have about the same population density. One difference is that Oklahoma has a far higher percentage of farmland or grassland. Furthermore, it grows more wheat and hay. Its climate is also drier. Another difference is that it gained statehood much later than Arkansas, since it was once Indian Territory.
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Top 5 States Least Similar to Arkansas
The five least similar states to Arkansas are located on the East and West Coasts of the country. Democrats tend to be more popular in these states and their governments have liberal policies. These states are also less religious and have a lower percentage of Evangelical Christians than Arkansas. The five states are wealthier and have a higher percentage of college graduates as well. Furthermore, there is a much higher percentage of union members in these states.
- Hawaii is one of the most liberal states. Few republicans are elected there. Furthermore, its demographics are extremely different, since it has by far the highest percentage of Asian Americans of any state and few African Americans. In addition, it has a high percentage of military personnel. Its tropical climate and agriculture is also quite different from Arkansas. While Arkansas is landlocked, Hawaii is a group of islands.
- Massachusetts is another extremely liberal state, like Hawaii. It is also one of the most well educated and affluent states. A majority of its people are Catholic, while in Arkansas, less than 10% are. Massachusetts is also one of the least religious states. Its climate is also much colder and it gets a lot more snow than Arkansas. Another difference is that Massachusetts has little farmland. However, both states have fairly hilly terrain.
- New York‘s culture and politics are extremely different from Arkansas. It has many restrictions on guns and few restrictions on abortion, unlike Arkansas. New Yorkers are also more interested in hip-hop music than country music. A much larger percentage of its people use regularly use mass transportation as well. Furthermore, the origins of its people are much more diverse than Arkansas. Even its White population is quite different, since a majority are Italian in origin and few people identify as just being “American”.
- Rhode Island has one of the highest population densities in the country. In contrast to landlocked Arkansas, most people in Rhode Island live relatively close to the ocean. In addition, it has a significantly higher percentage of Catholics than Arkansas. Furthermore, people in Rhode Island take Amtrak and mass transportation much more often. Another difference is that Rhode Island allows marriage to first cousins, but Arkansas does not.
- California is a very diverse state, located on the Pacific Coast. Its Latino population is far higher than Arkansas and as a result it also has a much greater percentage of Catholics as well. Another difference is that its agriculture land grows more fruits and vegetables. It also has a drier climate. California also has much more favorable policies towards immigrants than Arkansas, since it allows undocumented immigrants to get a driver’s license and also in-state college tuition.
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Arkansas is like if Alabama was more like Oklahoma
According to the Index, Alabama is the most similar state to Arkansas. However, an analysis of the data shows that Oklahoma is one state that has many of the characteristics of Arkansas that Alabama lacks. Oklahoma and Arkansas were both part of the Louisiana Purchase. They are further to the west than Alabama and are landlocked. Furthermore, these states have a lower percentage of Black people. In addition, most of Alabama’s railroads are run by different companies than railroads in Oklahoma and Arkansas.
Full Ranking of States Most Similar to Arkansas
All data accurate as of 2020.
Most Similar Demographics: Kentucky
Most Similar Culture: Tennessee
Most Similar Government: Kentucky
Most Similar Infrastructure: Oklahoma
Most Similar Geography: Mississippi
Least Similar Demographics: Hawaii
Least Similar Culture: Massachusetts
Least Similar Government: New York
Least Similar Infrastructure: Hawaii
Least Similar Geography: Alaska