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Is Your State 'Tight' or 'Loose'?

States in green are "loose," while those of blue color are "tight."
States in green are "loose," while those of blue color are "tight."Univ. of Maryland

When a recent report says that California is “loose,” it doesn’t mean in morals. Instead, the “Tightness-Looseness” study, conducted by Univ. of Maryland’s Dept. of Psychology, refers to states’ government and population responses to many factors, including social structure and tolerance, and laws that apply to those social issues.

For example, states that apply strict regulations and punishments on their individual societies – such as dry counties, frequent application of the death penalty, strict school discipline, and restriction on gay marriage – are “tight.” There’s greater likelihood of discrimination in tight states. However, “loose” states are more tolerant of social differences, more likely to allow gay marriage, and have lower religious participation.

Many non-social factors are also included in UM’s study, which included a ranking of all 50 states in its recent publication in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal. Take environment, for example; a higher risk of natural disaster is found in tight states, while natural resources are more present in looser ones.

The results greatly resemble an electoral map from the last few presidential elections, too. The Northeast and West regions that Obama easily won fall into the loose category, while the Republican-voting South is clearly tight. Standouts from this comparison, though, include the GOP stronghold state of Alaska, which ranks the 11th loosest state, and Dem-leaning Pennsylvania and Delaware, which are on the tight half of the spectrum.

While the researchers acknowledge that these results are only correlational, and thus can’t definitely indicate contributing causes, they do admit one factor that most liberal Americans already know: the residents of those loose, liberal-leaning states are simply happier!

The 10 “loosest” states, in 10th-to-first order, are: Vermont, New Hampshire, Hawaii, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maine, Nevada, Washington, Oregon, and California.

The 10 “tightest” states, in that same 10th-to-first order, are: North Carolina, South Carolina, Kentucky, Louisiana, Texas, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Alabama, and Mississippi.

For a complete listing of the 50 states, in order from tightest to loosest, click here and see page 2 of the pdf document.