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Pay no attention to the people behind the curtain

Thursday, July 27, 2006

No Wonder I Feel so . . . Average

by folkbum

Chris Bowers at MyDD today points us to a study by CNN that tried, crazy as this sounds, to determine how close any given state was to the average of all states nationwide. Guess who's least abnormal?

Wisconsin!

From the CNN story:
The Badger State comes closer than any other to state-by-state averages on 12 key measures, according to a new analysis by CNN Polling Director Keating Holland that takes a fresh look at U.S. Census data.

"For years, politicians who put the presidential calendar together have wrestled with the question of which states really are the most typical or more representative of the country," Holland said. "Here is one way to determine that."

Holland identified 12 key statistics--four that measure race and ethnicity, four that look at income and education, and four that describe the typical neighborhood in each state--and added up how far each was from the figures for the average state on each measure. Holland said he chose these 12 different categories because "they have a strong impact on the political landscape in every state." [. . ]

So, what makes Wisconsin so special--or, to put it another way, what makes Wisconsin so average? It is about as close to the average state as you can get on most of the 12 measures included in this study.

For example, let's take the number of college graduates who live in each state. Wyoming is dead center among all 50 states, with 30.22% of its population holding a college degree. In Wisconsin, the number is 30.24%.

Or take housing values. On a state-by-state basis the median housing value, in North Carolina, is just over $111,600. The median housing value in Wisconsin is roughly $111,500. The Badger State is also fairly close to the state-by-state average on population growth, home ownership, population density, and the number of blacks and Hispanics who live there. The number of whites and blue-collar workers who live in Wisconsin is much further away from the average state's figures on those measures, but not enough to keep the Badger State from claiming the top spot.
Bowers wonders, upon looking at the full rankings, how they are mathematically possible:
The scale for the study was 0.0 to 50.0, with 50.0 being the most average. However, thirty-one states composing roughly 60% of the national population came in with scores below 25.0, which I suppose would be the "half-average" score. Overall, the median score for the study was around 20, a full 20% below "half average." Also, eight states were more "non-average" than Wisconsin was "average." My question is, how exactly does it work out that over half of the nation is not representative of the nation as a whole?
That is a good question, but perhaps not an unsurprising one coming from a resident of the very non-average state of Pennsylvania, which ranked 19th.

My question is, what do you think Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce will think of this? They love surveys that rank states for stuff.

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