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
Idaho is located in the Rocky Mountains. The top five states most similar to it are all sparsely populated. They are also some of the least diverse states in the nation, with a vast majority of their people being White. German ancestry is especially common in this region. Four of the five most similar states are mountainous and landlocked. With the exception of Oregon, their people generally favor the Republican Party. As a result, they have few gun restrictions and their minimum wages are low.
Top 5 States Most Similar to Idaho
- Wyoming‘s demographics and culture are extremely similar to Idaho. Both states are predominately White with mostly German and English ancestry. They also both have around 7% Latinos. Wyoming was actually part of Idaho Territory for a short period in its history. Although the states are also alike politically, a photo ID is not required to vote in Wyoming. It also spends much less per capita on education and health care spending. Another difference is that Wyoming relies on coal to create electricity, while Idaho uses mostly hydropower. Idaho and Wyoming are also the states that use the most water per capita. They also have some of the highest home ownership rates in the country.
- Montana is to Idaho’s northeast, across the Rocky Mountains. The states have a similar climate, so both grow mostly wheat and hay. Their infrastructure is also similar. Most of the public water in both states is not fluorinated. These states also have the slowest internet in the country, besides Alaska. However, there are some political differences, although Republicans are strong in both states, Montana has had many Democratic governors and senators. It also has less restrictions on abortion.
- Utah is just to the south of Idaho. The states have the two highest percentages of Mormons in the country, although Idaho only has 19%, so the average age of people in Idaho is significantly higher. In addition, both states have large swathes of desert but also coniferous forests. They also have a similar percentage of farmland and forested land. Still, Utah’s climate is significantly drier.
- Oregon is to the west of Idaho. Eastern Oregon and Idaho are quite similar. In fact many counties in Oregon want to leave Oregon and become part of Idaho. The biggest reason is political. People from Oregon tend to be far more liberal than people from Idaho. Both states are mostly Protestant, but also have a small Mormon population as well. However, people in Oregon tend to be less religious.
- South Dakota does not border Idaho, but they still have many aspects in common. Both states overwhelming prefer country music to rap and rock. They also create most of their electricity through hydropower. They are also similar politically. Republicans dominate the governments of both states. They require a photo ID to vote and have few civil rights protections. One difference is that marijuana is legal in South Dakota. Another difference is that South Dakota has a higher percentage agricultural land.
The four of the five least similar states to Idaho are located in the Northeastern region of the United States. All these states are also significantly more densely populated. In contrast to landlocked Idaho, these states also have a lot of coastline. While Idaho was one of the last states to join the union, the four least similar states were part of the original 13 colonies. These states also have more racially diverse populations than Idaho. As a result, Democrats tend to be much more popular in these states than Idaho.
Top 5 States Least Similar to Idaho
- New Jersey is the most densely populated state and its infrastructure is also far more dense. New Jersey’s population is also very diverse, while Idaho’s is predominately White. Furthermore, most of the state is near the beach, in contrast to landlocked Idaho. In addition, very few Democrats get elected in Idaho, compared to New Jersey. One interesting similarity is the public water in both states is generally not fluorinated.
- Massachusetts is much more diverse than Idaho. It has a higher percentage of Asians and African Americans. In addition, it has many Chinese, French, and Portuguese speakers. Its people are also far less religious. Massachusetts is the most highly educated state, in contrast to Idaho. It is also far more densely populated and most of its people live in urban areas, near the coast.
- Rhode Island is not actually an island, but most of its people live close to the coast, in contrast to landlocked Idaho. Furthermore, the state is not very mountainous and is quite densely populated. The state also has a much higher percentage of Catholics than Idaho. People from Rhode Island also tend to have a distinct accent that is much different from the typical accent in Idaho.
- New York has some of the most restrictive gun laws in the country. Very few people have guns or hunting licenses, in contrast to Idaho. A large percentage of its people use regularly use mass transportation, so far fewer have cars. The national origins of its people are much different than Idaho as well, since New York’s White population is mostly Italian and Irish in origin and has a much lower percentage of people with German ancestry.
- Hawaii‘s demographics are far different from Idaho, since East Asians outnumber the White population. Its geography is also significantly different, since it is located on tropical islands far from the United States mainland. Like other states on this list, its people are also far more liberal than Idahoans. Although a high percentage of people in both states own guns, a much higher percentage have hunting licenses in Idaho.
Idaho is like if Wyoming was more like Oregon
According to the Index, Wyoming is the most similar state to Idaho. However, Oregon has some traits of Idaho that Wyoming lacks. Idaho was actually once part of Oregon territory. These states use significantly less electricity per capita than Wyoming. Their railroads also carry significantly less freight. Furthermore, Oregon and Idaho have a larger percentage of forested land than Wyoming.
All data accurate as of 2020.
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