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 South Dakota
South Dakota is a Midwestern state located in the Great Plains region. The top five most similar states are all located along the Missouri River and are predominately grasslands. These states are landlocked, sparsely populated, and have most of their land devoted to agriculture. With the exception of Montana, their terrain is relatively flat. In addition, these states have a high percentage of White people. As a result, they tend to favor the Republican Party.
- North Dakota and South Dakota both became states in 1889. Both populations have primarily German ancestry but they also have a lot of Norwegian ancestry. As a result, there are many Lutherans in these states. In addition, the states have high gun ownership rates and many people with hunting licenses. However, North Dakota and South Dakota rarely vote for the same candidates in presidential primaries. In addition, North Dakota has more mining activity. It uses far more energy per capita due to fracking there. Furthermore, their people tend to have different accents.
- Nebraska is directly to the south of South Dakota. Their infrastructure and geography are extremely similar. Both states are relatively flat and have a lot of farmland. In addition, the both grow a lot of corn and soybeans. Their people have many vehicles, but few roads since they are not densely populated. However, there are still some political differences. Nebraska is the only state with a unicameral legislature. It also has more restrictions on abortion. Furthermore, no ID is needed to vote in Nebraska.
- Iowa borders South Dakota to its southeast. It is another landlocked state that has a lot of farmland and a similar climate. Their people tend to have a similar accent. They also incredibly safe states, since they have low homicide rates. One big difference is that the Democratic Party tends to do better in Iowa. It voted for Obama twice. Another difference is that Iowa also has more gun restrictions, although they both have few restrictions on abortion.
- Kansas has a warmer climate than South Dakota and it gets less snow. Still, the states are fairly similar. They are both not mountainous and have lots of agricultural land. The average incomes of people in these states are similar. These states also strongly favor Republicans. Both states require a photo ID to vote. However, wine and spirits cannot be bought in grocery stores in Kansas. Another difference is that Kansas has a higher percentage of Latinos.
- Montana is to the west of South Dakota. Most of its land was once part of Dakota Territory. The states receive about the same about of snow and rainfall. Both are primarily White and have little racial diversity. Many people in these states have German ancestry. One big difference is Montana is much more mountainous. It is also in the Mountain Time Zone, not the Central Time Zone, like other states on this list. Furthermore, it is not on the same electrical grid.
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Top 5 States Least Similar to South Dakota
Four of the five least similar states to South Dakota are located in New England and border the Atlantic Ocean. These states are all more densely populated than South Dakota. They also are more mountainous and have a higher percentage of forested land. Another big difference is that these states favor the Democratic Party. These states also have a much more diverse population than South Dakota.
- Hawaii is the opposite of South Dakota in a number of different geographic ways, since 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 South Dakota. Very few Republicans get elected there. In addition, its population of Native Hawaiian and East Asian ancestry is much higher.
- New Jersey is the most densely populated state in contrast to South Dakota. A low percentage of its land is used for farming. They also create electricity differently. New Jersey relies on nuclear power and natural gas, while South Dakota primarily uses hydropower. Furthermore, most of the state is near the beach, in contrast to landlocked South Dakota. In addition, far fewer Republicans are elected there.
- Massachusetts is far more diverse than South Dakota as well. It has a higher percentage of Asians and African Americans. It also has less people with German and Norwegian ancestry and more Irish and Italians. In addition, it has many immigrants. The state is also wealthier and more educated than South Dakota. Not only do most people live close to the ocean, but it is also much more densely populated. However, both states get significant snowfall.
- Rhode Island is the smallest state by land area. Most of their people live close to the coast, in contrast to South Dakota. The state as relatively little forested land. Rhode Island uses natural gas to create electricity, while South Dakota relies on hydropower. Furthermore, Rhode Island has a higher percentage of Catholics than South Dakota.
- New York has some of the most restrictive gun laws in the country, while South Dakota has many gun owners and people with hunting licenses. A large percentage of its people use regularly use mass transportation, so far fewer people have cars. New York is also more mountainous than South Dakota and has a much higher percentage of forested land.
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South Dakota is like if North Dakota was more like Nebraska
It comes at no surprise that South Dakota has a combination of traits of both Nebraska and North Dakota, two states it borders to the south and the north respectively. Unlike North Dakota, people in South Dakota are less interested in ice hockey. They also tend to have different accents as well. Furthermore, South Dakota and Nebraska have slightly warmer climates than North Dakota’s, since they are further south. Another difference is that there is far more oil drilling being done in North Dakota.
Full Ranking of States Most Similar to South Dakota
All data accurate as of 2020.
Most Similar Demographics: North Dakota
Most Similar Culture: Iowa
Most Similar Government: Nebraska
Most Similar Infrastructure: Nebraska
Most Similar Geography: North Dakota
Least Similar Demographics: California
Least Similar Culture: Massachusetts
Least Similar Government: New York
Least Similar Infrastructure: New Jersey
Least Similar Geography: Hawaii