Here's how we figured out how 'average' each state is

We recently ranked all 50 US states and Washington, DC based on how average each state was. Here’s how we did it.

We took 38 social, economic, and demographic measures, mostly from the 2015 American Community Survey one-year estimates recently released by the Census Bureau, accessed via the American FactFinder tool. The full list of measures is at the bottom of this post.

For each measure, we took the average value of the measure across all fifty states and the District of Columbia. Then, we found how far away from that average each state was along a normalized scale. (Formally, we found the absolute value of the z-score for each state on each measure.) Finally, to get an overall sense of how far from average a state was, we added together those distances for each state, and ranked them on that combined index.

Here are the measures we used in the ranking. Unless otherwise noted, the data for each came from the above mentioned 2015 American Community Survey:

Basic demographics

  • Population
  • Sex (Per cent male)
  • Median age

Race and ethnicity

The Census Bureau has for the last several years defined Hispanic or Latino as an ethnicity, rather than a separate racial grouping. This is reflected in the categories below:

  • Per cent non-Hispanic white alone
  • Per cent non-Hispanic black or African American alone
  • Per cent non-Hispanic American Indian/Alaska Native alone
  • Per cent non-Hispanic Asian alone
  • Per cent non-Hispanic Hawaiian/Pacific Islander alone
  • Per cent non-Hispanic, some other race alone
  • Per cent non-Hispanic, two or more races
  • Per cent Hispanic, any race

Marriage and children

  • Per cent of households made up of families with their own children under 18
  • Average household size
  • Per cent of males over the age of 15 who are currently married and not separated
  • Per cent of females over the age of 15 who are currently married and not separated
  • Number of births per 1,000 women between the ages of 15 and 50

Education and military experience

  • Per cent with at least a high school diploma
  • Per cent with at least a bachelor’s degree
  • Per cent of population who are civilian veterans


  • Per cent with at least one disability
  • Per cent with health insurance

Mobility and transportation

  • Per cent who moved homes in the last year
  • Mean work commute time
  • Per cent with access to at least one car

Nativity and language

  • Per cent born outside the US
  • Per cent speaking a language other than English at home

Access to technology

  • Per cent with a computer at home
  • Per cent with a broadband internet connection at home

Income and economy


  • Housing unit vacancy rate
  • Per cent of housing units that are single family detached houses
  • Per cent of housing units built since 2000
  • Median home value
  • Median monthly cost for a homeowner with a mortgage
  • Median gross monthly apartment rent

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