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
Iowa is a Midwestern state in the Great Plains region. The five most similar states tend to have a lot of farmland, producing both soybeans and corn. In addition, these states do not have a particularly diverse population. The plurality of their White people have German heritage. Furthermore, these are all states that did not have slavery. They also have similar climates. They are colder than most states and also get a moderate amount of precipitation. With the exception of Wisconsin, these states have extremely flat terrain as well.
Top 5 States Most Similar to Iowa
- Nebraska is to the directly to west of Iowa. Both states have a lot of farmland and tend to grow a lot of soybeans and corn. For the most part, they have a similar climate as well. They get about the same amount of snowfall. Their people have similar rates of atheism and belief in evolution. They also have low homicide rates. However, Iowa has less restrictions on both gambling and abortion. Nebraskans also favor the Republican Party more than Iowans.
- Kansas does not border Iowa, but it has many similarities. Both states primarily use both coal and wind power to create electricity. Kansas and Iowa also have a low number of doctors per capita. They also have few single people. Both states are landlocked and have a lot of farmland, but the climate in Kansas isn’t as cold. Another difference is that the Democratic Party tends to do better in Iowa. Both states have a low minimum wage, but neither state is especially wealthy or poor.
- Minnesota is located to the north of Iowa. While these states have a lot in common, they also have some significant differences. Minnesota has more people with Scandinavian heritage. As a result, both states have many Lutherans. However, in presidential elections, Minnesota almost always votes for Democrats, unlike Iowa, which is a swing state. It is also more forested than Iowa. Still, they have a similar population density.
- Wisconsin is to the northeast of Iowa. The states have extremely similar demographics. Most of their population is White and has German ancestry. They also have about the same average age and level of education. Both states are moderate politically, but Wisconsin favors Democrats slightly more. These states both have army bases, but have relatively few people enlisted in the military. Like Minnesota, it is more forested than Iowa and has less farmland.
- South Dakota is to the north of Nebraska, but has a small border with Iowa. The geography of these states is quite similar. Both are relatively flat and have a lot of farmland. However, far more people own guns and have hunting licenses in South Dakota. Another difference is that most of South Dakota’s electricity is produced by hydropower, whereas coal is the predominate source in Iowa.
The five least similar states to Iowa are located on both the Atlantic and Pacific Coasts, in contrast to landlocked Iowa. They also have a lower percentage of agricultural land and a higher percentage of forested land. In addition, four of the five states are more mountainous. In addition, the five least similar states are also more racially diverse than Iowa, since they have a lower percentage of White people.
Top 5 States Least Similar to Iowa
- Hawaii is the opposite of Iowa in a number of different geographic ways. It is an island in the Pacific Ocean that gets a lot of rainfall. It is also quite mountainous and a far higher percentage of its land is forested. In addition, Hawaii is far less conservative than Iowa. Very few Republicans get elected there. In addition, its population of people with Native Hawaiian and East Asian ancestry is much higher than Iowa’s.
- California is yet another state that borders the Pacific Ocean on this list. It has a far higher percentage of Latinos and Asian Americans than Iowa. A large percentage of its population can speak Spanish. Like Hawaii, its climate is much warmer than Iowa’s and its terrain is more mountainous. A large part of the state is barren desert. Furthermore, it is one of the most liberal states in the country.
- Massachusetts is far more diverse than Iowa. It has a higher percentage of Asians and African Americans. In addition, it has many immigrants. Its people are also less religious and more educated than Iowa. Not only do most people live close to the ocean, but it is also much more densely populated than Iowa. A low percentage of the state’s land is used for agriculture.
- Hawaii is a group of tropical islands in the Pacific Ocean. It has a hotter and more humid climate. The state has the highest percentage of Asians in the United States. Furthermore, it is one of the most mountainous states. A much lower percentage of its people live in detached single family homes, since many people live in high-rises. The state also has less manufacturing and industry.
- Alaska is much less densely populated than Iowa. It also has very little agricultural land, since its climate is significantly colder. Another difference is that more of its people have Native American ancestry. It is also quite mountainous and has a lot of coastline, in stark contrast to Iowa. The territory was one of the last states to join the country, after it was purchased from Russia.
Iowa is like if Nebraska was more like Wisconsin
Iowa is located in between Nebraska and Wisconsin, so it is no wonder that Iowa has features of both states. While Nebraska is by far the most similar state to Iowa, Wisconsin has a few characteristics of Iowa that Nebraska lacks. People in Iowa and Wisconsin more often vote for Democrats than in Nebraska. These states also have more civil rights protections for their citizens. Interestingly enough, Iowa and Wisconsin also have a significantly higher percentage of gun owners than Nebraska. They are also more densely populated and have a higher percentage of forested land.
All data accurate as of 2020.
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