Racial violence and hatred is on the rise in the U.S. as evidenced by the San Bernardino terror attacks, the racially motivated massacre in South Carolina, as well as the ensuing debate surrounding the use of the Confederate flag. Since the end of 2014, 108 new hate groups have formed in the United States, contributing to a total of 892 hate groups as of the end of last year.
Hate groups promote animosity, hatred, and sometimes violence towards people belonging to a certain race, religion, ethnicity, gender, nation, or sexual orientation. Such groups organize demonstrations, write publications to promote their ideology, and possibly also organize hate crimes. To identify the states with the most hate groups, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed data from the Southern Poverty Law Center’s (SPLC) Spring 2016 report, “The Year in Hate and Extremism.” Though hate groups are found in nearly every state, they are far more common in some parts of the country than in others. Arkansas has the highest concentration of hate groups, with roughly 7.4 hate groups for every 1 million state residents.
Hate groups form due to a variety of factors and conditions. It is impossible to ignore the role of historical influences, as 10 of the 12 states with the highest concentrations of hate groups are located in the South. In an interview with 24/7 Wall St., Mark Potok, senior fellow at SPLC, explained that while Northern states are by no means free of racial hatred, “racism is absolutely more visceral and more widespread in the South.” Potok explained that the relative prevalence of racial hatred and resentment in the South is largely due to a long running reaction to the Civil Rights Movement, which shook a share of the white population’s core values.
States with a high concentration of hate groups also tend to have larger shares of black residents. While conventional wisdom dictates that different races living in close proximity is the path to better understanding, the reality is much more complicated. “While black and white people certainly work together in these states, in most instances they do not live together, they do not worship together, and they don’t socialize together,” Potok said. In eight of 12 of the states with the highest concentrations of hate groups, a larger share of the population identifies as black than the 12.3% of Americans who do. If a proper effort is not made to build bridges between predefined racial groups, trust diminishes, Potok argued.
Apart from race-based hate groups, religious hatred, particularly Islam, has also surfaced recently. There were several high profile terrorist attacks by ISIS in 2015, domestically and abroad, and anti-Muslim sentiment is on the rise in America. While anti-Muslim groups barely existed a decade ago, according to Potok, 34 are operating in the country today. Additionally, older, more common hate groups such as the Ku Klux Klan and the neo-Nazis frequently express hatred towards Muslims. Though data is not yet available, Potok predicts that “almost without a doubt, when the 2015 FBI numbers come in, we’ll see a spike in anti muslim hate crimes.”
Low educational attainment is a common characteristic among the states with high concentrations of hate groups. According to Potok, though there are exceptions, “by and large [these] groups are composed of people who are relatively uneducated.” With the exception of Virginia, every state on this list has a lower share of adults with a bachelor’s degree than the 30.1% of American adults with a college degree.
States with a relatively less educated population also tend to have poorer economic conditions, and this is the case for most of the states with the highest concentrations of hate groups. Potok explained that “particularly in the last few years there’s been a lot of economic pressure on the white working class” due to stagnant wages, high income inequality and a lack of opportunity. While this is certainly true for minority groups as well, it is more shocking for the white working class. “They are losing things that they once used to have, so there’s a lot of anger around that,” he said. The poverty rate is lower than the 15.5% national rate in only in two of the 12 states with the most hate groups per capita.
To identify the states with the most hate groups, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the number of active hate groups in each state from the SPLC. States were ranked on the number of active hate groups per 1 million state residents. Any state with more than three hate groups per 1 million residents made the list. We excluded any state with less than 10 total hate groups. Median household income, poverty rates, educational attainment rates, and the percentage of each state’s population identifying as black or white, came from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ASC) — all for 2014. Violent crime data came from the FBI’s 2015 Uniform Crime Report.
These are the states with the most hate groups.