The Atlantic recently conducted a fascinating breakdown of data surrounding US passport holders and the states they live in. While the country as a whole has seen a huge surge in passport ownership over the last decade or so, it turns out that the surge has not been uniform. People in certain states are significantly more likely to have passports than people in others. And the breakdown falls along lines that you might expect.
Before we get into the details, let’s all remember that correlation does not equate to causation, and while these figures are interesting and worth studying, they don’t necessarily “mean” anything on their own.
As it turns out, the states with the highest passport ownership are New Jersey at the top of the list, followed by Delaware, Alaska, Massachusetts, New York, and California. At the other end, the states with the lowest level of passport ownership are concentrated in the south – Mississippi, West Virginia, Kentucky, Alabama, and Arkansas.
When The Atlantic compared median income by state to passport ownership by state, the correlation was quite strong — .81. The state with the second highest median income, New Jersey, has the highest passport ownership rate at an astonishing 68%. And the state with the lowest median income, Mississippi, has the lowest passport ownership rate at less than 20%.
A strong correlation also exists between the percentage of people with higher degrees, creative or knowledge-based jobs (v. blue-collar jobs), and overall state diversity. The more educated, creatively employed, and diverse a state, the more likely its residents are to have passports.
Broken down by politics, the correlation gets a bit looser, but it’s still there. Red states tend to have fewer passport holders, and blue states tend to have more. The Atlantic article remarks that liberally-oriented states may have a more global mindset whereas more conservative states may have a national focus. The outlier is, of course, Alaska – a decidedly red state, but also a state that doesn’t fit with the other dark red states in terms of median income, education level, and perhaps most significantly, geography. It makes good sense that a state literally separated from the bulk of the country would see value in a passport.
Perhaps most interestingly, the writers found a significant correlation between states with the highest reported levels of personal well-being and the highest levels of passport ownership.
This article leads to all sorts of interesting questions. Does global travel help lead to happiness? Does travel make your life better? Or does having a good job and education and wealth simply enable you to travel more than others? Does traveling affect political perspective, or does political perspective affect your willingness to travel? How much do people in different states travel in America? How much do we cross state lines? How many people who have passports actually use them?
We’re endlessly fascinated by American travel statistics, but even more so, we’re enamored with travel. Everyone can benefit from travel – it’s the world’s best education. That’s how we feel, and the data seems to agree.
If you’re ready to get out and explore, remember that we’re always here to expedite passports and help you get expedited visas. Contact the Swift team to learn more!
Rob Lee is co-founder and CFO of Swift Passport and Visa Services. Originally from Michigan, Rob is an avid fisherman and SCUBA diver who enjoys adventure travel.