America’s Most Unique States

Have you ever wondered which American states are the most unique?
One way to answer this difficult question is by analyzing the data from the State Similarity Index. The index attempts to quantify how similar American states are to each other relative to other states, using a variety of statistics. It weighs equally five major aspects of states: their demographics, culture, politics, infrastructure, and geography. An analysis of the data gives some suggestions for what states are the most unique. Interestingly enough, four out of the top five are in the Western portion of the United States.

1. HAWAII

According to the data from the State Similarity Index, Hawaii is the most unique state in the country. No other states are especially similar to it. In fact, for the majority of states, Hawaii is their least similar state. This is no surprise, since the distance between Hawaii and the other states is vast.

Hawaii’s demographics greatly deviate from the national average. It has the lowest percentage of White people in the country. It also has by far the highest percentage of Asians and Pacific Islanders. A large portion of the population has Filipino, Japanese, or Native Hawaiian heritage. Not only does Hawaii have the shortest people on average in the country, it also has one of the lowest rates of obesity. In addition, a relatively high percentage of its people are millionaires.

In terms of culture, Hawaii is also quite unique. The Polynesian traditions of its indigenous population are far different from typical American traditions. Its society is far more collectivist than most other states. The state is a melting pot of cultures and its people tend to be extremely tolerant. Like most states, the majority of its people are Protestant Christians, however 8% of its people are Buddhist, the highest percentage in the country. Hawaii also has one of the lowest rates of smoking in the country. The state also has one of the highest rates of military enlistment in the country. It also has the highest rate of union membership in the United States.

Hawaii is one of the most left-leaning states. Over 90% of the representatives in its state legislature are Democrats. The last time a Republican presidential candidate won the state was in 1984, when Ronald Reagan won 49 out of 50 states. Despite a high percentage of people owning a gun in the state, it has some of the most restrictions on guns in the country. Citizens must obtain a license and take a safety course before purchasing a gun. Hawaii’s gambling laws are especially strict as well. It does not even have a state lottery.

Hawaii is made up of several islands, so this affects its infrastructure in several ways. As a result, each island has its own power grid. The state also has the highest number of airplane passengers per capita. Hawaii does not have any operating freight or passenger railroads. Its roads also do not have many semi-trucks since most of its shipping is done by boat. Because land is at a premium, Hawaii has many high-rises and few single family homes. Most buildings do not have a source of heating because it is rarely cold enough to need it. In addition, a much higher percentage of its people use public transportation than the national average. Unlike most states, few of its communities have fluorinated water. Hawaii is also one of the few states with a base for each branch of the military. However, little mining or manufacturing is done there.

Hawaii is more than 3,000 km away from the United States mainland. It is also one of the most mountainous states in the country. It is the only state where the majority of the climate is tropical. It is also the only state located entirely on islands. Hawaii also has unique Polynesian flora and fauna. Unlike most states, most of its agricultural is used to grow fruits. Mauna Loa is the largest active volcano on the planet and one of the most prominent mountains in the world.

2. ALASKA

Like Hawaii, Alaska is another state that does not border any other state. Although it is at least on the same continent as the 48 contiguous states. Even its most similar state, Montana, does not have a huge amount in common with it.

Although the majority of people in Alaska are White, the state has the highest Native American population in the country, with over 15%. The state also has one of the youngest average populations. Furthermore, Alaska has the highest percentage of males of any state, since a disproportionate amount of jobs there are traditionally done by men.

Alaska is the only state where Orthodox Christianity has a significant population, since it was once a territory of Russia. About 5% of the people in the state still practice it. It was also one of the last states to be colonized by the United States. The state has one of the highest drug usage rates and suicide rates in the country. Alaska has one of the highest gun ownership rates as well. Ice hockey is an especially popular sport in this state.

Alaska also has some unique laws as well. It has a single non-partisan blanket primary for its state and federal elections. Like Hawaii, Alaska’s gambling laws are especially strict. It does not even have a state lottery. Another interesting law is that not only does the state ban capital punishment, but it also does not allow sentences of life imprisonment as well. In addition, Alaska has does not have either a state sales tax or an income tax, since much of the government’s revenue comes from the taxation of oil production. It also spends a lot on education per capita.

Due to its enormous oil reserves, the state produces a huge amount of energy. Since the state is so sparsely populated, Alaska has easily the worst cell phone coverage and its internet speeds tend to be quite low as well. The state is reliant on boats to ship goods and does not use many semi-trucks, since the climate can make its roads treacherous. Alaska also has a high number of military personnel per capita.

Since Alaska is the most northern state, it has the coldest average temperature as a result. It is the only state that borders the Arctic Ocean. A large portion of its and is just barren tundra, so it has very little farmland. Alaska is also the least densely populated state in the country. Furthermore, the state has a huge amount of coastline, since it is a peninsula with many islands. The state is quite mountainous and features the tallest mountain in North America.

3. UTAH

The most unique state in the mainland United States is Utah, according to the Index. The state has especially unusual demographics, culture, and geography. Idaho is the only state with a significant amount of similarity to it.

Utah is the only state that has few Catholics and Protestants, since a majority of its people are Mormon. The state has the youngest average age, since Mormons tend to have large families. It also has the highest percentage of married people. Still, like most other states, the majority of the people in Utah are White. However, Utah has the highest percentage of people that identify as having English ancestry.

The Mormon church is by far the largest religious denomination in the state, while Mormonism is quite rare in the rest of the country. The state was only allowed to join the United States, after the church banned the practice of polygamy. Because of their deeply held religious beliefs, Utah has some of the lowest rates of smoking, drinking alcohol, and taking illicit drugs. Its people also tend to not watch a lot of television. In addition, a low percentage are members of unions.

The vast majority of the elected official in Utah are Republicans. Since 1950, only one Democratic presidential candidate won Utah. Like Alaska and Hawaii, gambling is not allowed in Utah. The state also has some of the strictest laws controlling alcohol in the country. All beverages over 4% alcohol are sold in state-run stores. The state also has some of the lowest property taxes in the country.

Because people in Utah have large families and land is plentiful, their homes have the highest average number of bedrooms in the country. Most homes in the state were built after 1980. Since Utah is sparsely populated, it does not have a dense network of roads or railroads. The state also has a relatively low number of practicing physicians per capita, but a high number of police per capita.

Utah is doubly landlocked, meaning that all the states it borders are also landlocked. In fact, it is one of the only states where most of its water does not flow into the Pacific or Atlantic Ocean. Instead much of it flows into the Great Salt Lake. It is the largest saltwater lake on the continent. Furthermore, Utah is one of the driest states in the country. Much of its landscape is barren desert and it has little agricultural land.

4. NEW MEXICO

New Mexico is just to the southeast of Utah, but in many ways it is vastly different. Arizona and Nevada are the only other states that have a lot of similarities. However, among these states, New Mexico is clearly the most unique.

Around 50% of the people in New Mexico are Latinos, the highest percentage in the United States. Almost all of these Latinos have Mexican ancestry. 10% of New Mexico’s population is Native American, the third highest in the country. The state is home to the Navajo reservation. Because of its demographics, its people are some of the shortest on average in the country. It is one of the least wealthy states in the country and has a high rate of poverty. The state has the lowest percentage of married people west of the Mississippi River.

Since the state has a high number of immigrants from Mexico, a large percentage of the people in the state still speak Spanish at home. The state also has a much higher percentage of Catholics than the national average. Unfortunately, the state has one of the highest rates of homicide and suicide in the country. A high percentage of people in the state live in mobile homes. In addition, few people have cable television.

New Mexico has one of the driest climates in the United States. It has few freshwater lakes or wetlands. Still the state has an unusually wide variety of landscapes, such as barren deserts, grasslands, and densely forested wildernesses. New Mexico also has some unique flora and fauna as well. The state shares a long border with Mexico. Since much of the state is uninhabited, it was used by the government to test nuclear weapons.

5. FLORIDA

According to the data, Florida is the most unique state east of the Mississippi River. Although it is part of the Southern region of the United States, it has its own distinct characteristics. Georgia is the only state with a significant amount of similarity to it.

The state has a relatively low percentage of White people and a relatively high number of Blacks and Latinos. Unlike most states with a large Latino population, Florida’s Latinos usually come from either Cuba, Puerto Rico, or the Dominican Republic, not Mexico. Since the state is a popular retirement destination, it has an unusually high percentage of elderly people as well.

Unlike most states in the South, the majority of its people do not have a Southern accent. This is because a high percentage are actually transplants from the Northeast and Midwest. Unlike all the other states on the East Coast, it was not one of the original 13 colonies and was once colonized by Spain, before it was sold to the United States. A high percentage of its people can speak Spanish, especially in South Florida.

Florida also has unique geography as well. Since it is located so far to the south, some areas of the state have a tropical climate. In fact, it has the hottest average temperatures of any state. It is also the flattest state. Most of its land is close to the sea level. The state gets a lot of rainfall. It is dotted with many lakes and large wetlands. Moreover, since Florida is a peninsula the state also has an abundant amount of coastline.

Other Unique States

6. California, 7. Texas, 8. Nevada, 9. West Virginia, 10. Vermont

States Least Clusterable into Regions

  1. Hawaii – 50.5
  2. Alaska – 60.5
  3. Florida – 69.0
  4. Texas – 69.0
  5. West Virginia – 70.5

Lowest Most Similar States

  1. Alaska – 63.9 (to Montana)
  2. Hawaii – 64.1 (to California)
  3. Texas – 74.4 (to Oklahoma)
  4. New Mexico -74.5 (to Arizona)
  5. California – 74.8 (to Washington)

Lowest Overall Average, Unweighted

  1. Hawaii – 51.7
  2. Alaska – 55.9
  3. Utah – 58.1
  4. California – 58.2
  5. Nevada – 59.0

Lowest Overall Average, Weighted by Population

  1. Hawaii – 53.7
  2. Alaska – 54.7
  3. Wyoming – 56.5
  4. Utah – 57.1
  5. North Dakota – 58.0

Lowest Overall Average, Weighted by Land Area

  1. Hawaii – 51.6
  2. Massachusetts – 53.7
  3. Rhode Island – 54.3
  4. New Jersey – 54.9
  5. New York – 55.9

Do you agree with this list? How would you reorder the rankings?
Please leave any thoughts in the comments section.

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