The United States is often split into different regions. However, the lines between these regions can sometimes be blurry. Some states exhibit traits of two different regions.
Determining the Southern state most similar to the Western region of the United States requires considering a variety of different factors. One way to answer this complex question is by analyzing the data from the State Similarity Index. The index attempts to quantify how similar American states are to each other relative to other states, using a variety of statistics from five broad categories: demographics, culture, politics, infrastructure, and geography.
An analysis of the data shows that Oklahoma and Texas are the Southern states most similar to the Western region. On the other end of the spectrum, the data shows that Louisiana and Mississippi are the least similar.
(Western states defined as Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington)
Oklahoma was settled during the westward expansion of the United States, with influences from pioneers, ranchers, and Native American tribes—similar to many states in the Western region. It became one of the last states admitted to the Union, officially achieving statehood in 1907. Oklahoma’s geography and infrastructure have a lot in common with states in the Western region as well.
The state’s significant presence in the energy sector, particularly oil and natural gas, aligns with the Western region’s mining and energy infrastructure. Given Oklahoma’s semi-arid climate, water management infrastructure is crucial. Reservoirs, irrigation systems, and water distribution networks are essential elements in both Oklahoma and the West. Furthermore, unlike most Southern states, its railroads are operated by Union Pacific and BNSF.
Much of Oklahoma experiences a semi-arid climate with hot summers and limited precipitation, a characteristic more in line with the arid climates found in the West rather than the humid subtropical climate typical of many Southern states. This climate contributes to the prevalence of pasture land in Oklahoma. Furthermore, Oklahoma is the most sparsely populated state in the South. Southern states tend to be more densely populated than Western states. Like most Western states, it is landlocked as well.