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 California
California is part of the Pacific Coast region. Few states are very similar to it. The top two, Washington and Oregon, are the only other states on the US mainland to border the Pacific Ocean. Four of the top five states are generally more liberal and tend to favor Democrats. Each state has legalized marijuana as well. In addition, these states have gold and silver mines. They all also have mountains taller than 10,000 feet.
- Washington is another mountainous state on the Pacific Coast. The states both strongly favor the Democratic Party. Neither state has voted for a Republican president since 1988 or a Republican senator since 2000. They have the two highest minimum wages in the country. California and Washington also have favorable laws to immigrants since they are both sanctuary states and allow undocumented people to get driver’s licenses. One big difference is that Washington has a far lower percentage of Latinos. However both states have a significant number of Chinese, Vietnamese, and Filipino immigrants. Still, Washington is significantly colder than California and has far more rainfall.
- Oregon is very similar to Washington. It is another liberal state that strongly favors the Democratic Party. California and Oregon both gained statehood in the 1850s and were part of the Union during the Civil War. Oregon borders California to the north, so the states have similar geography. Both have large areas of temperate coniferous forests, but also have desert areas. They also have about the same percentage of agricultural land, although Oregon grows more wheat. However, like Washington, it has far fewer Latinos.
- Nevada borders California to the west. While California is famous for its beautiful beaches, Nevada is landlocked. Still, the states have many similarities. Both were originally part Mexico before they were ceded to the United States. Nevada also has many immigrants from Mexico. Both states have fewer high school graduates than average and a high percentage of unionized workers. However, Nevada’s laws are less favorable to unions. There are also several differences in their gambling and smoking laws, as California’s are more restrictive.
- Arizona is on California’s eastern border. Both states were once colonized by Spain before becoming part of the United States. They have many immigrants from Mexico and transplants from other areas of the country. These states also have nearly the same percentage of married people. Most of their people are concentrated in large, sprawling cities. However, one big difference is that Arizona’s government is much more conservative and has less friendly laws towards immigrants. Arizona also has a lower rate of union membership.
- New Mexico does not border California, but these states still have a lot in common. They both have a large Latino population and most have their origins in Mexico. In general, their people are known to be relaxed and creative. Still, New Mexico has a higher percentage of Native Americans and far fewer Asians than California. Both states tend to vote for Democrats in state-wide elections. However, New Mexico is not nearly as wealthy as California. Both states are mountainous and have a variety of biomes but New Mexico does not have any coastline.
Top 5 States Least Similar to California
Four of five least similar states to California are in the Southeastern portion of the United States. These states tend to be far more conservative than California and heavily favor Republicans. They are also not as wealthy. Unlike California, they have relatively few union members. Furthermore, these states have a much lower percentage of Latinos. Another difference is that these states are not only more religious, they also have a lower percentage of Catholics and a higher percentage of Protestants.
- Alabama is an extremely conservative state that borders the Gulf of Mexico. Its capital, Montgomery, was once the capital of the Confederacy. It is one of the most religious states and has a far higher percentage of Baptists and lower percentage of Catholics. The state also has a higher percentage of Whites and Blacks than California. Its climate gets more rainfall and a higher percentage of its land is forested.
- West Virginia is one of the least diverse states in the nation, in contrast to California. Country music and football are much more popular there. One similarity is that both states were part of the Union during the Civil War, after West Virginia separated from Virginia. While California relies on natural gas and a range of other sources for electricity, West Virginia is almost entirely powered by coal. However, while the state favors Republicans, it does tend to elect more Democrats than other states on this list.
- Mississippi has the highest percentage of African Americans and very few Latinos. In addition, it is a very conservative state that rarely votes for Democrats. Furthermore, its geography is quite different from California since it gets a lot of rainfall and has few mountains. It is also one of the poorest states and has far fewer people with college degrees. Unlike California few people use public transportation there as well.
- North Dakota is the second coldest state, after Alaska. It is landlocked, quite flat, and mostly farmland. Like other states on this list, it rarely votes for Democrats. It also does not allow any alcohol to be sold in grocery stores. Furthermore, its people are more interested in ice hockey and less interested in soccer than California. Unlike other states on this list, it was not part of the Confederacy. A much higher percentage of its people have hunting licenses.
- Arkansas is similar to Alabama and Mississippi. It has a far higher percentage of gun owners than California. Its laws are also much more conservative than California. It requires its voters to have photo IDs, unlike California. It also has more far laws restricting abortion. Since it is more rural, a higher percentage of its homes have septic systems. Arkansas is landlocked and also has a higher percentage of forested land than California.
California is like if Washington was more like Nevada
While Washington ended up being the most similar state to California, according to the Index, California is quite unique. The data shows that Nevada that has many characteristics of California that Washington lacks. These states have far more immigrants from Mexico and native speakers of Spanish than Washington. They also have a lower percentage of high school graduates. Another difference is geography. These states have a drier climate and are at lower latitudes than Washington.
All data accurate as of 2020.