The Most Similar States to Tennessee

map of states similar to Tennessee

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 reach the conclusions.

diagram of states similar to Tennessee

Top 5 States Most Similar to Tennessee

Tennessee is a state in the Southeastern region. The five most similar states to Tennessee are all part of the Bible Belt, the most religious area of the United States. Because of this, they tend to be very conservative politically and heavily favor Republicans. These states all allowed slavery before the Civil War and continued to segregate races after it. In addition, most of these states are fairly mountainous as well. Four of the five most similar states have little coastline.

  1. Kentucky and Tennessee are two of the most similar states. is located just to the north of Tennessee. 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. One historical difference is that Kentucky was not part of the Confederacy, even though it allowed slavery. Another difference is that Tennessee is more reliant on nuclear power and less reliant on coal.
  2. Alabama is to the south of Tennessee. It is another deeply religious state, where a vast majority of its people are Protestants. Their people tend to have a similar accent. One difference is that Tennessee produces far more top musicians than Alabama, due to the large music industry in Nashville. However, Alabama has a warmer climate and is not landlocked. It also has a higher percentage of forested land and a lower percentage of farmland.
  3. Arkansas and Tennessee are landlocked and both border the Mississippi River. Although Arkansas is not in the Appalachian Mountains, its terrain is comparable since it has the Ozark Mountains. Their demographics are also incredibly similar. Both states are mostly White but are also around 15% Black. Like Alabama, these states also have very few Catholics and have many Protestants. In addition, these states have very few Union members.
  4. South Carolina does not border Tennessee and is located on the Atlantic Coast, the two states still have a lot in common. Most of the drinking water in both states comes from freshwater reservoirs. They also rely on nuclear energy to create much of their electricity. Their people have about the same amount of wealth and level of education. However, South Carolina has a slightly higher percentage of Blacks.
  5. Missouri is to the northwest of Tennessee, just across the Mississippi River. Southern Missouri and Tennessee are quite similar. Both are havens for country music and entertainment. In addition, these states are mostly White, but have around a 15% Black population as well. Their people also have about the same amount of wealth and level of education on average. However, Missouri has a higher percentage of farmland.

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Top 5 States Least Similar to Tennessee

Four of the five least similar states to Tennessee are located to the West of the Mississippi River. In addition, four of the five five have a relatively large amount of coastline, in contrast to landlocked Tennessee. Another difference is that Democrats tend to be more popular in these states. Four of the five voted for a Democratic presidential candidate in the past four election cycles.

  1. Hawaii is one of the most liberal states in contrast to Tennessee. Few republicans are elected there. Furthermore, its 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 are military personnel. Its tropical climate and agriculture is also quite different from Tennessee. While Tennessee is landlocked, Hawaii is a group of islands in the Pacific Ocean. However, both states are quite mountainous.
  2. California is another extremely liberal state that borders the Pacific Ocean. It legalized marijuana but bans smoking from public places. Its Latino population is far higher than Tennessee’s, so a higher percentage of its population speaks Spanish. As a result, it also has a far higher percentage of Catholics. Another difference is that its agriculture land grows more fruits and vegetables. 
  3. Alaska is yet another state that borders the Pacific Ocean. Its climate is also colder than Tennessee, since it is far more north. Its population density is much more sparse. Furthermore, the state has far more coastline and many islands, unlike Tennessee. A higher percentage of its people are Native American. Still, both states do often vote for Republicans in presidential elections.
  4. 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. Natural gas is its biggest source of electricity, while Tennessee creates a lot of nuclear power.
  5. Nevada‘s geography is far different from Tennessee, despite both states being landlocked. Nevada gets the lowest amount of rainfall in the country, so it is not nearly as forested as Tennessee. It is also much more sparsely populated. Another difference is that Nevada has a much higher percentage of Latinos. Furthermore, many of their workers are part of unions, unlike Tennessee’s.

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Tennessee is like if Kentucky was more like South Carolina

By far the most similar state to Kentucky is Tennessee, according to the Index. However, South Carolina has some attributes of Tennessee that Kentucky lacks. Tennessee and South Carolina have a higher percentage of Black people. They also have a higher percentage of college gradutes. Another difference is that during the Civil War Kentucky stayed part of the Union. Furthermore, basketball is less popular in Tennessee and South Carolina. Unlike Kentucky, which primarily uses coal as a fuel source, Tennessee and South Carolina get a large percentage of their energy from nuclear power.

Full Ranking of States Most Similar to Tennessee

All data accurate as of 2020.

graph of states similar to Tennessee

State Superlatives

Most Similar Demographics: North Carolina
Most Similar Culture: Alabama
Most Similar Government: Alabama
Most Similar Infrastructure: South Carolina
Most Similar Geography: Kentucky

Least Similar Demographics: Hawaii
Least Similar Culture: California
Least Similar Government: Vermont
Least Similar Infrastructure: Hawaii
Least Similar Geography: Alaska

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