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 Northeastern 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.
(Western states defined as Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington)
Pennsylvania has some characteristics of Western states. Their demographics, politics, and infrastructure have many traits in common. In fact, during the colonial and post-revolutionary periods, the region west of the Appalachian Mountains, including Western Pennsylvania, was often referred to as the “Frontier.”
Pennsylvania has lower percentage of college graduates compared to the majority of Northeastern states, so its education levels align more closely with the levels in the Western region. Additionally, the state’s populace tends to have comparatively lower income levels when compared to the majority of Northeastern states. This also makes it closer to the average income per capita in Western states.
Western states tend to have a wide variety of political beliefs. While states along the Pacific Coast tend to be quite liberal, some landlocked states like Wyoming and Idaho are much more conservative. Pennsylvania is relatively moderate politically. In the last few decades, it has elected a mix of Democratic and Republican representatives. It has a history of being a swing state, having voted for both Donald Trump and Joe Biden in previous elections. Since the 1990’s, the state has had many senators from both political parties too.
Both Pennsylvania and many Western states have a history of natural resource extraction. Unlike most states in the Northeast region, Pennsylvania is known for its coal mining and natural gas resources, so it shares similarities with Western states that are rich in minerals, oil, and natural gas. The infrastructure associated with resource extraction, such as pipelines and processing facilities, is found more commonly in these states.