Which U.S. state is San Francisco most like? Here is an overview of the demographics
Which U.S. state is San Francisco most like?
Could it be Massachusetts, the state with the most Democrats? Maybe it’s Hawaii, with its large share of Asian residents. Or maybe Vermont, the state with the smallest proportion of children?
The Chronicle has identified the state (other than California) that best matches San Francisco in terms of demographics, including race and ethnicity, age and income, and voting behavior and results. elections. It’s not the only way to think about the similarity between the locations, but it’s illuminating.
Based on these characteristics, San Francisco most closely resembles Massachusetts. Both areas have similar shares of black residents (5% in SF and 6.5% in Massachusetts), Hispanic residents (16% in SF and 13% in Massachusetts), and low-income households (15-16% in each region earn less than $25,000 per year).
Our analysis used data on 14 attributes related to residents’ race and ethnicity, age, household income, voter turnout and Biden’s vote share in the 2020 general election. For each county in California, we compared its data with each US state (except California) and identified which is closest to the county across these 14 metrics.
To calculate the difference between each county and state statistic, we calculated a metric called a z-score. This metric measures the difference between a county statistic and the state number, with lower scores indicating greater similarity between the two values. The z-score allows each metric to have equal relative importance to our final metric.
We summed the z-scores for each state to create a “gap score”. States with low scores are more similar to county, while those with high sums are less similar. We interpret the state with the lowest gap score as the most similar to the county and the one with the highest score as the least similar.
Hawaii is the second most similar state to San Francisco, with a gap score 8% higher than Massachusetts’ value, meaning SF has less in common with Hawaii by these measures than it does with Massachusetts. New York completes the top three.
Despite low gap scores, these states do not match San Francisco’s demographics perfectly. The proportion of children, for example, is much lower in San Francisco (13%) than in Massachusetts (20%), Hawaii (21%) or New York (21%). Other characteristics, like the share of high-income households, Asian population and Biden’s vote share in 2020, also differ significantly from Massachusetts.
Of the nine counties in the Bay Area, all but two correspond to states in the northeast region of the country. Four counties — Contra Costa, Napa, Marin, and San Mateo counties — most closely resemble New Jersey. Other northeastern states include Massachusetts (closest to Alameda and San Francisco) and Connecticut (Sonoma). The two counties corresponding to states outside the northeast are Santa Clara (much like Hawaii) and Solano (Maryland).
The region most represented in California’s 58 counties is the Northeast, with 22 matches with states in the region. Southern states come in second with 19 matches – half of those with Texas – followed by Western states, at 16. The Midwest appears only once in our analysis – Illinois, which most closely resembles Sacramento.
Texas is the most represented state, with nine pairs, followed by New Jersey with seven. What most distinguishes the counties in Texas from those closest to New Jersey is household income – the corresponding counties in Texas have less than 15% of households earning more than $150,000 a year, compared to more than 25% in the corresponding counties in New Jersey.
We also looked at which states are most different from each county. West Virginia has the most counties (21 of 58) that differ from it. Many of these counties, including SF, are located near major metropolitan areas, such as the Bay Area, Sacramento, and Los Angeles. They tend to have younger, more diverse populations and vote Democratic, which sets them apart from West Virginia.
Hawaii has 17 of the most diverse counties, with its differences largely explained by the state’s large Asian population (37%) and relatively few white residents (22%). These 17 counties are primarily located in Northern California.
Eight counties are very different from New Hampshire, many of which are located in Southern California and with large Hispanic populations. Mississippi also differs the most of the eight counties, primarily due to its high percentage of black residents and low-income households.
We did not include the District of Columbia in our analysis because, although it is often treated as a state, it only includes the city and does not include rural or suburban areas like most other states. Therefore, DC characteristics often emerge as outliers in the data, which would have had a disproportionate impact on the results.
DC would have been vastly different from 34 predominantly rural counties, claiming almost all of the most different counties in Hawaii and New Hampshire.
Also, DC would have been the most similar “state” to San Francisco. This is perhaps unsurprising considering that San Francisco County only consists of the city of San Francisco, like the district.