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
Illinois is like other states that border the Great Lakes. It is located in the Rust Belt, an area of the United States that was once dominated by the manufacturing industry, before its recent decline due to outsourcing. The five most similar states all have temperate climates and tend to get a lot of snow in the winter. Illinois also has some similarity to states on the East Coast, since they also have large multicultural cities with many immigrants, like Chicago.
Top 5 States Most Similar to Illinois
- Minnesota is another liberal Midwestern state that borders both the Mississippi River and Lake Michigan. Both states almost always vote for Democrats and have many laws to protect civil rights. Their average incomes are nearly the same. In addition, their geography is similar since Minnesota and Illinois are both quite flat and have much of their land includes tall grass prairies. Still, Minnesota is colder and its population is less diverse than Illinois.
- Wisconsin is just to the north of Illinois. In fact, all of Wisconsin was once part of Illinois Territory. Both states have many singles and few households with children. The states have similar percentages of Protestants and Catholics. The vast majority of the homes in these states are heated using natural gas. Although, both states often vote for the Democratic Party, Wisconsin requires a photo ID to vote and it has not legalized marijuana, unlike Illinois. Furthermore, it has more laws restricting abortion.
- Ohio is another Midwestern state with several large cities, including Columbus, Cincinnati, and Cleveland, although they are smaller than Chicago. Both states border the Ohio River and the Great Lakes. The states have a similar climate, so their agriculture is similar as well. They both grow a mix of corn and soybeans. However, Ohio is more conservative politically than Illinois, even though it has also had some Democratic senators and governors in its recent past.
- Michigan and Illinois both border Lake Michigan. People from Chicago and Detroit tend to have a similar accent. Their laws are similar too. Both states have legalized recreational marijuana and have banned the death penalty. They also do not allow first-cousin marriage. However, Michigan has a much higher percentage of forested land than Illinois. Still, these states both grow similar crops, mostly corn and soybean.
- Indiana located just to the east of Illinois and both states border Lake Michigan. There is little difference in their geography, except that Indiana has more forested land. These states also have a high density of railroads. The people in both states especially like basketball as well. However, these states are quite different politically. While Illinois heavily favors Democrats, Indiana favors Republicans.
The five least similar states to Illinois are all located in the Western portion of the United States. They all have more mountainous land and a lower percentage of cropland than Illinois. With the exception of Hawaii, these states tend to favor Republicans. The economy of these states also tends to depend far less on manufacturing than Illinois.
Top 5 States Least Similar to Illinois
- Wyoming‘s infrastructure is quite different from Illinois. The state uses far more water and electricity per capita. It also has a much lower density of roads and railroads. Furthermore, few democrats are elected in Wyoming, although it did have a Democratic governor from 2003 to 2011. Wyoming also has no income tax, while Illinois generates a lot of money through it. In addition, Wyoming is more mountainous and has a drier climate.
- Alaska is colder, far more mountainous, and has much more coastline. Illinois is also far more densely populated and developed. In addition, Alaska favors the Republican Party, unlike Illinois, although it is not the most conservative state. Alaska also has a high percentage of people in the military in contrast to Illinois. While Illinois has a lot of farming, Alaska is too cold to be farmed commercially.
- Utah‘s culture and geography are extremely different from Illinois. Utah’s population has a majority of Mormons. In addition, it is the youngest state on average. Furthermore, it has a high percentage of married people and few singles. In addition, much of Utah is a desert. It is also far more mountainous than Illinois. Like the other states on this list, it nearly always votes for Republicans in state-wide elections.
- Idaho‘s government is much more conservative than Illinois’. It has less protections for civil rights. It has not yet legalized marijuana. In addition, Idaho still has the death penalty. The state is also more mountainous. It also has a colder and drier climate. Furthermore, the state is not nearly as densely populated as Illinois. It has a predominately White population, so its demographics are not as diverse either.
- Hawaii‘s population has a much higher percentage of Asians than Illinois, but a much lower percentage of Blacks. Its geography is also far different. It has a tropical climate. It is also more mountainous and has more coastline as well. While Illinois has a dense train network, Hawaii has no operating passenger or freight railroads. Still, both states do favor Democrats and have liberal laws.
Illinois is like if Minnesota was more like New Jersey
According to the Index, Minnesota is the most similar state to Illinois. However, these states also have some big differences. One state that has aspects of Illinois that Minnesota lacks is New Jersey. The demographics of Illinois and New Jersey are much more diverse than Minnesota. They have a higher percentage of Blacks and Latinos. These states also have more restrictions on guns and less restrictions on abortions than Minnesota. In addition, they are more densely populated and have skyscrapers. Furthermore, more people use mass transit in these states than in Minnesota.
All data accurate as of 2020.
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