Special Report

10 States With the Most Hate Groups

Detailed Findings

In an interview with 24/7 Wall St., Mark Potok, senior fellow at the Southern Poverty Law Center, said, “Trump’s election has been absolutely electrifying to the radical right.” Over 1,000 hate crimes were counted in the month after Trump’s election, and Trump’s slogan “Make America Great Again” was named by perpetrators in well over a third of those crimes.

According to Potok, Trump and his administration’s rise to power reflects the rise of right wing populism, a movement pitted against government elites and defined by the belief that the United States is a country created by and for white people. However, he added, these sentiments, and the consistent rise in active hate groups, can be traced to longer-term trends — namely, globalization and its consequences for the U.S. economy (the decline in the manufacturing industry in particular) and to population makeup (immigration patterns).

The rise in immigration in the 1910s preceded the unprecedented growth of the Ku Klux Klan in the United States. In 1910, foreign-born Americans comprised 14.7% of the population, and by 1920 that figure has remained relatively high, at 13.2%. By 1925, the Ku Klux Klan had grown to some 4 million members, the largest in U.S. history, and following a number of quota-based and other racist immigration policies, the flow of immigrants to the U.S. declined.

Source: 24/7 Wall St.

The surge in hate group activity in recent years also coincides with the growth of the U.S. foreign-born population, which at 13.2% of the population as of 2015 is approaching 1910 levels.

Because the flow of new immigrants tends to be greater in areas with already large foreign-born populations, and because individuals seeking residency in the United States tend to avoid areas where they are not welcome, many states with relatively high numbers of hate groups do not have large foreign-born populations. Foreign-born individuals make up 5% or less of the populations in eight of the 10 states with the most hate groups, and on this list, no state’s immigrant population exceeds the national average share of 13.2%.

Potok explained that the ongoing process of globalization brings a range of other economic consequences, including “forty years of falling manufacturing wages, historic levels of income inequality,” and unlike in the past, “the absolute necessity of having a college degree if you expect to be supporting a family on your wages.”

Few states have been spared from the decline in manufacturing jobs in recent years, and plenty of states with struggling manufacturing sectors are not home to high — and often rising — numbers of active hate groups. Still, for states with the highest concentrations of organized hatred, economic decline is likely tied to hate sentiments. In five states on this list — Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, and Tennessee — the manufacturing sector is relatively large, with shares of employment in the sector in the top 10 compared with other states. But these are also states where manufacturing employment has fallen dramatically in the past decade. In Arkansas, manufacturing employment dropped by 22% between 2006 and 2015.

These are the states with the most hate groups.


To identify the states with the most hate groups, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the number of hate groups in each state for every 1 million state residents according to data provided by non-profit civil rights advocacy group Southern Poverty Law Center. To be considered for our ranking, a state needed to have at least 10 active hate groups. Rather than reviewing such factors as history of violence, SPLC identifies hate groups by ideology. These organizations claim that entire groups of human beings are evil by virtue of their class characteristics (e.g., race, religion, origin, gender and so on). For SPLC, to be considered, groups also needed to be active in the year they are listed. Activity needs to be on-the-ground activity, such as holding rallies or simply accepting memberships and selling literature. SPLC provided the names of all hate groups tracked in each state for every year between 1999 and 2016.

We also reviewed the number of green cards issued in 2015 to residents of each state from the report, Yearbook of Immigration Statistics: 2015, published in 2016 by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Office of Immigration Statistics. The foreign-born population in each state (the immigrant population), the most common country of birth, the number of immigrants in each state from the most common country of birth, as well as a range of social and economic data, including the percentage of adults 25 and over with at least a bachelor’s degree, the percentage of each state’s population that is white, poverty rates, and median household income, came from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2015 American Community Survey.

December unemployment rates, and the percentage of each state’s nonfarm workforce employed in the manufacturing sector in each year between 2006 and 2015 came from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The incidence of hate crimes came from the FBI’s 2015 Uniform Crime Report.

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