Variance in Race, Ancestry, & Religion by US State

Variance in Race, Ancestry, & Religion by US State - State Similarity Index

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. 20% of the index is based on demographics. 25% of a state’s demographic score (5% of the overall State Similarity Index) is allocated for the race. While 12.5% of a state’s demographic score was allocated for ancestry and religious denomination respectively. The following is an explanation on how they were calculated:


Most people in the United States are White. They comprise around 60% of the population. Maine, Vermont, and West Virginia have the highest percentage. The Latino population is about 19%. Nearly 50% of people in New Mexico are Latino, the highest in the country. The Black population makes up approximately 13%, with the highest percentage in Mississippi. The Asian population is just 6% and the Pacific Islander population is even smaller. Hawaii easily has the highest percentage of both groups. Alaska has the highest percentage of Native American people.

For an article and map that is further in depth please see:
The Largest Minority in Each State

Source: US Census Bureau

The following racial groups were considered:
Asian, Black, Latino, Pacific Islander, Native American, White
(Note: the US Census Bureau is somewhat flawed by grouping people from the Indian sub-continent and East Asia together, since their ancestry is quite different)


In the United States, the most common national ancestries among White people are German, Irish, English, and Italian. Midwestern states tend to have the highest percentage of Germans. Italians are concentrated in the Northeast region. Additionally, there is a significant population of people who identify as simply “American,” particularly in the Southeast region of the country. North Dakota has the highest percentage of Norwegians, while Maine has the highest percentage of French.

Among the Latino population, the majority have origins in Mexico, but there are also significant numbers of Puerto Ricans, Cubans, and Dominicans, particularly in the East Coast. Chinese and Indian Americans make up the two largest minority groups from the Asian continent. Unfortunately, due to the effects of slavery, many Black Americans do not have knowledge of their exact country of origin, and therefore African ancestry is listed generically.

Source: US Census Bureau

The following ancestral origins were considered:
African, American, Central American, Chinese, Cuban, Czech, Danish, Dominican, Dutch, English, Filipino, French, German, Hawaiian, Hmong, Indian, Irish, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Mexican, Native American, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Puerto Rican, Russian, Scottish, South American, Spanish, Swedish, Vietnamese


Christianity is the predominant religion in the United States. Despite the country being known as a cultural melting pot, less than 6% of people follow non-Christian faiths. However, there are some significant minority religions as well. Hawaii has the highest percentage of Buddhists at 8%. New York has the highest percentage of Jews in the country, at 7%.

Since all states are mostly Christian, the data was broken down further into specific denominations. Protestants are the biggest Christian denomination in the United States. Mississippi has the highest percentage. Catholics are also quite common. In fact, in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Jersey, and New York, there are more Catholics than Protestants. In Utah, most people are Mormon.

Source: Pew Research

The following religious denominations were considered:
Buddhist, Catholic, Hindu, Jehovah’s Witness, Jewish, Mormon, Muslim, Native American, Orthodox Christian, Pagan, Protestant, Unitarian

Calculation Method

The method for calculating the index is as follows:

Example 1: In California, the population is 37% White, 39% Latino, 15% Asian, 6% Black, and 3% other races. In Texas, the population is 41% White, 39% Latino, 5% Black, 7% Asian, and 8% other races. When the racial demographics of California and Texas are compared, they receive credit for 4.4 points out of 5.0 points, since they both have similar percentages of White and Latino populations.

Example 2: In Utah, the majority of the population is Mormon, while in Mississippi, the majority is Protestant. When the religious demographics of Utah and Mississippi are compared, they receive credit for 0.5 points out of 2.5 points, since their religious demographics are quite different. Only approximately 20% of Utah’s population is either Catholic or Protestant.

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