The United States of Personality: Cities and States Have Distinct Personalities, Data Reveals

Truity’s Personality Atlas lets you explore the personality traits associated with where you live. 

Regardless of where you live, you’ll find people of all different personality types. But you’ve probably noticed that your city and state, and the places you’ve visited, seem to have their own unique vibe. While some major U.S. cities are busy, loud and competitive, others seem quiet, laidback and more community-oriented. It may be exactly this “vibe” that attracted you to the area to begin with — or the reason you left. 

Research has long suggested that our environment affects our personalities. But does this mean that specific geographic regions have their own unique personality profiles? 

To explore this phenomenon, Truity developed the Personality Atlas — a free tool that lets you explore the personality profile of a location, compare locations and view the top locations by each of the Big Five traits: Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness and Neuroticism

Truity’s lead researcher and creator of the Personality Atlas, Cameron Berg, says the tool allows users to gain a better appreciation of the cultural differences that we associate with certain regions and a better understanding of how personality traits may be one of the key underlying drivers of these differences.

“Understanding the average personality profile of people in a given region can tell us all sorts of things about what it is like to live there, including the dominant values and motivations of the place and its culture,” added Berg. "Consider, for example, that Portland, Oregon ranks as the most introverted major city in the US. This finding seems quite relevant to everyone — from tourists to locals to those thinking of making it their home. The tool enables us to uncover countless other findings like this, both across the US and around the world."

Although an individual's experiences in a given city or region will vary widely, the Personality Atlas attempts to identify the larger clusters of personality traits that may play into a region’s broader identity. Truity used 3.6M anonymized results from its validated Big Five test to populate the study.  

“When coupled with an understanding of your own personality, the Personality Atlas might allow you to better understand the culture of your community or even help you match with the cultural personality of an area if you are considering a move,” said Truity CEO & Founder Molly Owens. “For example, if you score high in Openness and you’d like to find a city that is more open to new ideas and embracing new concepts, you might find your ideal new home with the tool — for instance, Richmond, Virginia or Austin, Texas.” 

Personality Traits in the United States: Key Findings

So, which cities and states in the United States rank highest and lowest in each of the Big Five dimensions of personality? The results paint a telling story of how factors such as climate, culture and diversity impact personality. 

Some regional stereotypes hold up

The stereotype of the “nice Midwesterner” extends to the entire middle of the country. Midwest cities top the lists of the most Extraverted, Agreeable and Conscientious places in the U.S. Southern hospitality is also more than a stereotype: Southern states, such as Alabama and Mississippi, score significantly higher in Agreeableness, on average, especially when compared to coastal states like New York and Massachusetts. 

You can find more Introverts out west 

The most Introverted cities and states are found in the Southwest and on the West Coast; the most Extraverted regions lie on the East Coast and Midwest. For example, Madison, Wisconsin is more Extraverted than 92.93% of the largest 60 cities in the U.S., whereas Albuquerque, New Mexico, is 96.97% less Extraverted. 

Extraversion as a trait reflects an individual's orientation towards social interactions and external rewards. Individuals who score high on Extraversion generally seek out positive emotional experiences and are more enthusiastic and assertive. Those who are low on Extraversion, also known as Introverts, conserve their energy, are more reserved and introspective, and do not work as hard to earn social rewards. 

Top 5 Most Extraverted U.S. Cities 

Top 5 Most Introverted U.S. Cities 

1. Cincinnati, Ohio (more Extraverted than 100% of the largest 100 cities in the US)

2. Madison, Wisconsin

3. San Diego, California

4. Boston, Massachusetts

5. Atlanta, Georgia

1. Portland, Oregon (less Extraverted than 100% of the largest 100 cities in the US)

2. Albuquerque, New Mexico

3. Las Vegas, Nevada

4. El Paso, Texas

5. Sacramento, California

Competition may make you disagreeable

Tech hubs and centers of competitive industries, like Seattle and the San Francisco Bay Area, rank among the least Agreeable places in the U.S.  For example, San Jose, California — the home to Silicon Valley, the center of the world’s tech industry — is the least Agreeable city in the US. In Big Five theory, Agreeableness describes how we think, feel and act in relation to others. Emotionally intelligent and empathetic people who score high in Agreeableness are comfortable putting others’ needs before their own and value getting along well with others. People who score lower in Agreeableness are less concerned with helping and caring for others. They tend to be skeptical, competitive and willing to go against the grain. 

Top 5 Most Agreeable U.S. Cities 

Top 5 Least Agreeable U.S. Cities 

1. Dayton, Ohio (more Agreeable than 100% of largest 100 cities in the US)

2. Detroit, Michigan

3. Milwaukee, Wisconsin

4. Richmond, Virginia

5. Cincinnati, Ohio

1. San Jose, California (less Agreeable than 100% of largest 100 cities in the US)

2. Alexandria, Virginia

3. Oakland, California

4. Seattle, Washington

5. Boston, Massachusetts

Industrial cities are more disciplined, less flexible 

Industrial cities like Detroit, Dayton and Cincinnati rank amongst the most Conscientious in the U.S. Conscientiousness describes the degree to which a person is able to forgo immediate demands or distractions in favor of delayed gratification. More Conscientious people tend to be goal-oriented and self-disciplined but may have trouble unwinding and being spontaneous. People who are less Conscientious tend to be flexible and more comfortable living in the moment, but may struggle with dependability and pursuing long-term goals. 

Top 5 Most Conscientious U.S. Cities 

Top 5 Least Conscientious U.S. Cities 

1. Dayton, Ohio (more Conscientious than 100% of largest 100 cities in the US)

2. Cincinnati, Ohio

3. Detroit, Michigan

4. Madison, Wisconsin

5. San Diego, California 

1. Plano, Texas (less Conscientious than 100% of largest 100 cities in the US)

2. Sacramento, California

3. Las Vegas, Nevada

4. Portland, Oregon

5. San Francisco, California 

State capitals are more creative and intellectual

Some of the most Open cities are state capitals — Austin, Nashville and Richmond. These cities also tend to be home to large college campuses and have younger populations. Notably, the nation’s capital, D.C., is the most Open state. Openness describes a person’s tendency to think in abstract, complex ways. High scorers tend to be creative, adventurous and intellectual. They enjoy playing with ideas and discovering novel experiences. Low scorers tend to be practical, conventional and focused on the concrete. They tend to avoid the unknown and follow tradition. 

Top 5 Most Open U.S. Cities 

Top 5 Least Open U.S. Cities 

1. Richmond, Virginia (more Open than 100% of largest 100 cities in the US) 

2. Austin, Texas

3. Los Angeles, California

4. Nashville, Tennessee

5. Orlando, Florida

1. Charlotte, North Carolina (less Open than 100% of largest 100 cities in the US) 

2. Minneapolis, Minnesota

3. Aurora, Illinois

4. Indianapolis, Indiana

5. El Paso, Texas

Stress is higher on the coasts

Coastal cities scored higher in Neuroticism than Midwestern and Southern U.S. cities. The bustle and competitive nature of large coastal cities, like San Francisco, California, and Portland, Oregon, may contribute to higher rates of stress. Neuroticism as a trait signifies a tendency to experience negative emotions more frequently and intensely, such as anxiety, worry and mood swings. It's also linked to sensitivity and deep emotional experiences. While environmental factors play a role, individual and genetic factors also significantly influence Neuroticism. 

Top 5 Most Neurotic U.S. Cities 

Top 5 Least Neurotic U.S. Cities 

1. Portland, Oregon (more Neurotic than 100% of largest 100 cities in the US)

2. San Antonio, Texas

3. Louisville, Kentucky

4. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

5. San Francisco, California

1. Dayton, Ohio (less Neurotic than 100% of largest 100 cities in the US)

2. San Diego, California

3. Detroit, Michigan

4. Atlanta, Georgia

5. Cincinnati, Ohio

What drives geographic personality clusters?

The Personality Atlas shows that different locations have their own unique personality concentrations. But why do these concentrations exist? 

“Our cultural upbringing and environment influence our personality, and in turn, there is a sort of self-sorting dynamic at play where people may prefer to live in places that suit who they are,” Berg said. “We know that personality has both genetic and environmental determinants. Our environments change us, but we can also change our environments.” 

Although it is not totally clear just what may be driving these above- or below-average clusters of certain personality traits in certain areas, research has shown that factors such as career choice and population density can play a role in personality. 

For example, prior research has shown that those with lower levels of Openness and those with higher Agreeableness tend to be more prevalent in less dense and more rural areas. This supports the study’s own findings, which see the same pattern in more rural states: Iowa and North Dakota top the list of least Open states and have some of the highest percentages of rural residents

In addition, prior research indicates that certain professions, like computer science, may attract individuals who are more analytical and introverted, and that those who thrive in engineering roles also tend to score lower in Agreeableness. These findings may help explain the clusters of Introversion around major tech hubs like Portland, Oregon and the low levels of Agreeableness in the center of the world’s tech economy — with San Jose, California, being ranked as the least Agreeable city in the U.S. 

Truity has opened the Personality Atlas to the public and academic researchers to see if further patterns can be seen in the data. The Personality Atlas is live here, and you can join the discussion on Reddit.

“One of the reasons we made the Personality Atlas open and free to use was to allow for broader analysis by the people who know their cities best! We encourage members of the public to explore the personality data for your home cities and states, and we hope this will yield insightful commentary as to why some of these personality clusters might exist,” added Owens. 

Want to learn more about the personality profile of your own city or read about other Big Five trait clusters? Explore the Personality Atlas page to learn more about your city, state or country’s unique personality profile and to dive deeper into the findings and research. You can also view a full summary report of the personality geolocation research findings.

Megan Malone
Megan holds an MS in organizational psychology and manages content and brand marketing at Truity. She is passionate about helping people improve their relationships, careers, and quality of life using personality psychology. An INFJ and Enneagram 9, Megan lives quietly in Fort Worth, Texas with her husband and two pups. You can chat with her on Twitter @meganmmalone.