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 West Virginia
West Virginia is a fairly unique state in the Southeast region. Only Kentucky is very similar. The four states most like West Virginia are landlocked and located in either the Appalachian or Ozark Mountains. These states tend to be poorer than average. In addition, they tend to be more conservative and vote for Republicans, however before the Democrats started to lose working class White voters, the top four states all voted for Bill Clinton for president.
- Kentucky is by far the most similar state to West Virginia. Both states are predominately White and have little racial diversity. Both states have many mobile homes. Kentucky and West Virginia also have the highest rates of circumcision and the highest percentage of smokers in the country. Neither state has banned smoking in public places. Both states have relatively large ports on the Ohio River and export a lot of coal. One difference is that Kentucky is more interested in basketball than football.
- Tennessee is another extremely mountainous Appalachian state. Both states have a low percentage of Catholics but many Baptists. Although both states prefer Country music, one difference is that Tennessee produces far more top musicians. Another difference is that Tennessee has far greater percentage of Blacks. In addition, nuclear power is Tennessee’s primary source of electricity, while West Virginia relies on coal.
- Arkansas is located in the Ozark Mountains, not the Appalachian Mountains and has a significantly warmer climate. Still, it is another state with a high rate of poverty and a low percentage of college graduates. In addition, over 50% of people in both states have guns, although they both have relatively few enlisted members of the military. In addition, both states only allow medical marijuana. However, West Virginia has banned the death penalty, while Arkansas still has it.
- Missouri, like Arkansas, has part of the state in the Ozark Mountains. Like West Virginia and Kentucky, it is another state that was not part of the Confederacy, even though it permitted slavery. The states are at roughly the same latitude and have a similar climate. Still, Missouri’s people tend to be wealthier and more educated than West Virginia’s.
- Alabama is more south than other states on this list, but it still has many traits in common with West Virginia. The Appalachian Mountains run through both states. In addition, coal mining is an important industry in these states. However, Alabama’s climate is warmer than West Virginia’s so it gets less snowfall. Both states are mostly Protestants and have extremely few Catholics. However, Alabama has a significantly higher percentage of Black people.
Top 5 States Least Similar to West Virginia
Four of the five least similar states to West Virginia are located to the west of the Mississippi River. With the exception of Nevada, these states also have significantly more coastline. Their cultures are far different. The people in these states tend to do more exercise and watch less television than West Virginians. In addition, country music is much less popular in these states. These states also have a lower percentage of White people than West Virginia.
- Hawaii‘s tropical climate is far different from West Virginia. While both states are mountainous, Hawaii is an a Volcanic archipelago in the Pacific Ocean. Although West Virginia is landlocked, both states have busy ports. Still, its infrastructure is also far different. Most homes in Hawaii have no heating system, while West Virginian homes typically use either gas or electric heating systems. In addition, West Virginia has no military bases, in contrast to Hawaii.
- California is one of the most diverse states in the nation, in contrast to West Virginia. Country music and football are much less popular there. One similarity is that both states were part of the Union during the Civil War, after West Virginia separated from Virginia. While California relies on natural gas and a range of other sources for electricity, West Virginia is almost entirely powered by coal. Californians also tend to be more liberal.
- Alaska is far colder and much more sparsely populated than West Virginia. It has a lot of coastline and is in the extreme northwest corner of the United States. Still, both states prefer to vote for Republicans. In addition, they both have a high percentage of White people, although Alaska is more diverse, with many Native Americans living there. Although a lot of mining is done in both states, Alaska is focused on oil extraction, while West Virginia is famous for mining coal.
- Massachusetts is one of the most well educated and affluent states, in stark contrast to West Virginia. A majority of its people are Catholic. It is also one of the least religious states. Unlike West Virginia, where football is the most popular sport, Massachusetts also has a lot of interest in basketball, baseball, and hockey. Still, both states are heavily forested and located in the Appalachian Mountains.
- Nevada is another landlocked state, but it has far less forested land. Its climate is much drier, although both states can get quite cold during the winter. Furthermore, like California, Nevada has a high percentage of Latinos. Another difference is that Nevada’s infrastructure is much newer than West Virginia’s, since the state’s population has grown a lot in recent decades. Although both states do a lot of mining, Nevada has many gold and silver mines, not coal mines.
West Virginia is like if Kentucky was more like Vermont
According to the Index, Kentucky is clearly the most similar state to West Virginia. However, Vermont has a few characteristics of West Virginia that Kentucky lacks. West Virginia and Vermont are more mountainous and have a higher percentage of forested land. Furthermore, these states lack any large cities like Louisville. In addition, they have a higher percentage of White people. West Virginia and Vermont also have lower incarceration rates and a higher percentage of union members than Kentucky.
All data accurate as of 2020.