I should point out that I'm not arguing much of anything in this post but instead have created a list that does just what it is purported to do--show by what amount each state deviates from the national mean when it comes to the racial composition of its population. And yes, I'm aware that Hispanic is technically a linguistic and/or cultural label, not a racial classification, but for all intensive purposes, Hispanics are treated as a distinct racial group in the US as much as Asians are.
Andrea Mitchell's highly publicized assertion that Iowa is 'too' white, rural, and evangelical made me wonder which state is the most racially representative of the country as a whole.
The proceeding table is constructed from 2010 census data. I took the absolute differences between each state's (non-Hispanic) white, black, Hispanic, Asian, and other (primarily Native American) population percentages and that of the US as a whole in each of the respective racial categories and then added those values together to come up with a racial variance score for each state. The higher the score, the more divergent a state's racial demographics are from the national mean, the lower the score, the more racially representative the state is of the country it is part of:
|2. New Jersey||12.0|
|3. New York||14.2|
|8. North Carolina||21.0|
|10. Rhode Island||25.4|
|18. South Carolina||31.4|
|41. New Hampshire||57.2|
|42. South Dakota||57.6|
|43. North Dakota||59.0|
|43. West Virginia||59.0|
|49. New Mexico||74.2|
|50. District of Columbia||76.2|
Here is a visualization of the table, the lighter the shading, the more racially representative the state is.
My presumption was that the Upper Midwest would be the country's most representative region. It has a small but significant and historically established black population, and while it's not nearly as Hispanic as the Southwest, the brown wave has begun lapping up on its shores. With Illinois at the top of the list with a racial composition that nearly mirrors that of the entire country, that presumption might look pretty impressive. However, excepting Illinois, a big chunk of the other most representative states come from the Northeast (excluding the Northeast's lily white northeastern section!) and Mid-Atlantic.
It comes as little surprise that the seat of our federal government rests in one of the most demographically unrepresentative places in the country.
Iowa (and New Hampshire) are both near the bottom of the list on account of being substantially whiter than the country on the whole. Florida, which holds primary #4 at the end of January, is the first in the nominating process that isn't too something, although it's highly doubtful that we'll hear any major media types suggest that South Carolina, which comes before Florida, is "too black".
Parenthetically, the putative "too evangelical" rap is off the mark, setting aside contentious reactions to the supercilious use of the word "too". The Pew Religious Landscape Survey finds that 24% of Iowans are evangelical, compared to 26% of the US population on the whole. The state is, from a religious perspective, one of the country's most representative.
As for rurality, Iowa comes in as the country's 36th most densely populated. Missouri, at 28th, most closely reflects the US as a whole.