NPR Deems Illinois the ‘Perfect State’ to Illustrate America’s Racial Makeup

By Sameer Rao Feb 02, 2016

In recognition of criticism that New Hampshire and Iowa are too White for their presidential primaries and caucuses to be considered representative of the nation, NPR analyzed census data to determine the "perfect state" across five demographic categories. Its pick? Illinois.


The Midwestern state was deemed the most-representative racially, as indicated by the graphic above. The article explains the news organization’s methodology for analyzing race demographics:

We analyzed 2014 U.S. Census data to compare the racial make-up of each state to the country as a whole. We included all the categories the Census uses: Black or African-American; American Indian or Alaska Native; Asian/Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander; Two or More Races; Hispanic or Latino; and White Alone Not Hispanic or Latino.

And, the reason we used the Census subcategories is that it gives us a more accurate racial portrait of each state. If we had only looked at "minorities" compared to "whites," we would have gotten a skewed picture. For example, had we ranked solely based on "minority" population, combining all the racial subgroups, Alaska would have ranked near the top. But it has a disproportionately large Native American population, a group which has a relatively minor voting effect on American politics at a national level.

We wanted to find a state that more closely mirrors the country’s racial portrait—and Illinois does that, almost perfectly. If you look at every group: Latinos, Asians, blacks—Illinois’ respective populations are nearly identical to the country’s at large.

It’s part of what they call the "Perfect State Index," which drew conclusions on most-representative states on the basis of race (Illinois, which was also deemed the most-representative overall), income (Pennsylvania), education (Delaware), age (Virginia) and religion (tied between North Dakota, Iowa, Indiana and Florida). 

Check out the full index and breakdown here and see where your state fits.