Similar States with Extremely Different Geography

There are some unique pairs of states that are similar, except that their geography is quite different. A list of these states was developed by analyzing the data from the State Similarity Index, which weighs equally five major aspects of states: their demographics, culture, politics, infrastructure, and geography. The following three pairs of states were found to have a biggest difference between their geography and their other aspects, including demographics, culture, politics, and infrastructure.


New Jersey is the most densely populated state in the country. It is located on the Atlantic Coast. In contrast, Illinois is landlocked and located in the Midwest region. A much higher percentage of the land in Illinois is used for agriculture. Its terrain is also flatter than New Jersey’s. Another difference is their natural habitats. New Jersey has more wetlands and the Pine Barrens have many coniferous trees. Illinois, on the other hand, was once mostly grassland before its farmlands were created.

However, Illinois has many traits that are characteristic of states in the Northeast region. The racial demographics of New Jersey and Illinois are especially similar. They have about the same percentage of Whites, Blacks, and Latinos. These states also have a higher than average portion of Catholics. However, neither state is particularly religious. Furthermore, their median age and percentage of married people are also about the same. A relatively high percentage of their people are union members too.

They are also similar politically. Both Illinois and New Jersey are generally considered to be Democratic-leaning states. In presidential elections, they tend to vote for Democratic candidates more often than Republican candidates. In addition, in the past few decades, they nearly always vote for the same presidential candidates in primaries. Their laws are similar as well. Both states have many laws that protect the discrimination of minorities and the LGBTQ community. They also have few restrictions on abortion. Both states have legalized the recreational use of marijuana as well.


Washington is located further to the north than Colorado. It borders the Pacific Ocean and has a lot of coastline, while Colorado is doubly landlocked. Another difference is that Colorado gets significantly less rainfall. As a result, a higher percentage of Washington is forested, while Colorado has more pastureland. Washington is also more densely populated than Colorado. These states are in different time zones as well.

Despite not bordering each other, Colorado and Washington have many traits in common. Their demographics and culture are extremely similar. They have about the same percentage of Catholics and Protestants, although their people do not tend to be very religious. The ancestries of their residents are alike as well. Both states have many people with Irish, English, German, and Mexican heritage. Their people have relatively high incomes and about the same percentage of married people.

Another similarity is their politics. These states have consistently voted for Democratic candidates in recent presidential elections and also gubernatorial races. Their policies are extremely friendly towards immigrants. Both allow undocumented immigrants to have driver’s licenses and in-state college tuition. Both states have legalized the recreational use of marijuana as well. In addition, Colorado and Washington have banned corporal punishment in schools and also the death penalty.


Despite the fact that California and Nevada border each other, their geography is actually quite different. California has a lot of coastline on the Pacific Ocean, while Nevada is landlocked. Furthermore, Nevada is the driest state in the country. As a result, a much larger portion of Nevada is desert. California has more forested land and also more farmland than Nevada. The state has many orchards and vineyards. Furthermore, California is much more densely populated.

Still, their demographics and culture are quite similar. One of the reasons is that many people that moved from California to Nevada recently. Both states have a high percentage of Latinos. In fact, both states were once part of Mexico before being acquired by the United States. Their people are known to be relaxed and creative. These states also have a relatively low percentage of married people. Their median ages are about the same.

These states also have similar infrastructure. They are both part of the Western Interconnection Power Grid. In addition, most of the railroads in these states are run by either Union Pacific or BNSF. Since most of their population lives in urban areas, most of their homes are connected to the public water supply and very few have septic tanks. Furthermore, the cell phone coverage can be spotty in these states, since they have a few areas that are sparsely populated.


State 1State 2Demo.Cult.Poli.Infra.Geog.TotalGeog. – Total Ave.
IllinoisNew Jersey16.515.215.714.211.272.8-3.4
New YorkNew Jersey17.317.216.315.813.880.4-2.3

(Minimum 72% Similarity)

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