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
Kentucky is a Southeastern state. The five most similar states all have temperate climates and their forests are generally full of deciduous broadleaf trees. In addition, four of the five are landlocked. These states tend to be quite religious as well. They also have many guns per capita. These states have favored the Republican Party in recent years. Furthermore, the standard of living is not especially high in these states. They generally have high rates of poverty.
Top 5 States Most Similar to Kentucky
- Tennessee is located just to the south of Kentucky. Their geography is extremely similar. They have about the same average temperature and precipitation. Furthermore, both states are landlocked and quite mountainous. Around half of their land is forested. Their demographics are also extremely similar. One big difference is that Tennessee is more reliant on nuclear power and less reliant on coal than Kentucky.
- West Virginia and Kentucky are predominately White and have little racial diversity. Both states have many mobile homes. They also have the highest percentage of smokers in the country and the highest rates of male circumcision. Neither state has banned smoking in public places. Both states have relatively large ports on the Ohio River and export a lot of coal. However, West Virginia has a higher rate of gun ownership.
- Missouri is another state that remained part of the Union, even though it allowed slavery. These states are mostly White, but around 10% of their population is Black. Their climates are similar as well. They have about the same amount of precipitation and average temperature. Both states heavily rely on coal power to create electricity. They both have few restrictions on guns, but have many restrictions on abortion.
- Arkansas is in the Ozark Mountains, not in the Appalachian Mountains, but both states have mountainous terrain. They also both border the Mississippi River. Their demographics are also similar. They have a lower percentage of high school and college graduates than most other states. On average, their people are also not as wealthy. In addition, they are politically similar. They almost always vote for the same presidential primary candidates.
- Alabama is another deeply religious Southern state, where a vast majority of its people are Protestants. Their infrastructure is also similar. Both states have relatively few doctors per capita. Few of their people take public transportation. However, Alabama has a warmer climate and is not landlocked. One big difference is that Kentucky is more interested in basketball than football, since the University of Kentucky and Louisville have very successful college teams.
The five least similar states to Kentucky have a significant amount of coastline and are not landlocked. Three border the Pacific Ocean, while the other two border the Atlantic Ocean. Another difference is that Kentucky has a higher percentage of farmland than these states. Four of the five favor the Democratic Party far more heavily than Kentucky. As a result, their laws tend to be less conservative than in Kentucky.
Top 5 States Least Similar to Kentucky
- Hawaii is one of the most liberal states in contrast to Kentucky. In addition, in recent years few Republicans have been elected there. Furthermore, Hawaii’s demographics are also extremely different, since it has by far the highest percentage of Asian Americans of any state. In addition, a high percentage of its people in the military. Its tropical climate and agriculture is also quite different from Kentucky. While Kentucky is landlocked, Hawaii is a group of islands in the Pacific Ocean.
- California is another extremely liberal state that borders the Pacific Ocean. Unlike Kentucky, it has legalized marijuana but bans smoking in public places. Its Latino population is far higher than Kentucky’s. As a result, it also has a far higher percentage of Catholics. Another difference is that its agriculture land grows more fruits and vegetables.
- Alaska is yet another state that borders the Pacific Ocean. The state has a lot of coastline and many islands, unlike Kentucky. Its climate is also colder than Kentucky, since it is far more north. Because of the harsh temperatures, little of its land is used for agriculture. Alaska’s population density is much more sparse. Furthermore, a higher percentage of its people are Native American.
- Massachusetts is one of the most well educated and wealthiest states. A majority of its people are Catholic. It is also one of the least religious states. Although the Appalachian Mountains run through both states, its climate is much colder and it gets more snowfall. A large percentage of its population lives close to the coast. In addition, natural gas is its biggest source of electricity in Massachusetts, while Kentucky relies on coal power.
- Rhode Island is very similar to Massachusetts. It is one of the most densely populated states. Most of its people live close to the ocean, in contrast to Kentucky. It also has a much higher percentage of Catholics. Although both states are mostly White, Rhode Island has more people with Italian heritage, while many people in Kentucky state that their ancestry is just “American”.
Kentucky is like if Tennessee was more like West Virginia
Kentucky and Tennessee are two of the most similar states in America. However, one state that has some of the characteristics of Kentucky that Tennessee lacks is West Virginia. They have a lower percentage of Blacks than Tennessee. They also have less college graduates. Furthermore, Kentucky and West Virginia are also slightly less religious as well. Both states stayed part of the Union during the Civil War, unlike Tennessee. In addition, marriage to first cousins is banned in these states. Kentucky and West Virginia also rely on coal power to create electricity, while Tennessee generates more energy from nuclear power.
All data accurate as of 2020.
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