Kansas Vs. Missouri: The Ultimate Showdown

If you are not from Kansas or Missouri, you may not know how much they hate each other. People from Kansas often call all Missourians idiots. Same thing vice-versa, but it's a different story when the opposing residents are face-to-face. The hate usually does not percolate to the surface in casual friendships. Missourians and Kansans don't seem to hate each other. They hate the other state. Many work together, get along very well, cross borders to have parties with their friends, but as soon as they begin to argue over which state is superior, arguments are heated and sincere. It is state bigotry, hating someone for where they live. They seem to think it is somehow "competitive" and healthy, but it's every bit as petty as racism.

The rivalry stems from the Civil War when Kansas Jayhawkers and Missouri Bushwhackers would cross the border and slaughter each other and each other's families. Neither side can claim innocence. The violence has been tamed considerably, only occasionally manifesting itself in barroom brawls over a college sporting events between the University of Missouri and the University of Kansas.

Both states claim superiority over the other in everything: education, sports, fame, talent, righteousness. I've decided to analyze the two states and determine which is better in the categories the two states fight over most.

College Sports:

The University of Kansas is traditionally superior in basketball than the University of Missouri. KU leads the all-time contest at 172-95, according to Wikipedia. Missouri has a very good basketball program. It is routinely ranked in the top 25, with some exceptional teams (1996-1997, 2011-2012), but KU arguably has the best basketball program in the nation. Athletes from all over the country fight for KU basketball scholarships.  The state of Kansas also has the lesser-known, but also excellent, K-State basketball team. K-State frequently ranks in the top 25. Southeast Missouri State University has had a Division I NCAA basketball program, but the team struggles. Kansas has the better end of basketball, hands down.

With football, Kansas has very little to offer. K-State has improved in recent years, but still holds one of the worst NCAA Div I football records of all time. KU lost ten straight games in 2011 and didn't win a single conference game. They sometimes manage a halfway decent team, and indeed, their overall record is just barely over 50%, but not for much longer. KU's football glory days appear long behind them. Missouri has won more conference and division titles and has gone to more than twice as many bowl games. No contest here: Missouri wins.

K-State ranked in baseball for the first time ever in 2010. KU has made a grand total of four NCAA tournament appearances in its 132 year history, while Missouri has been to twenty-one, including seven since 2003, they've been conference champs fifteen times. Missouri dominates this category.

Other than the "big three" sports, Missouri is often a top ranking school in most programs. Missouri wrestlers took the Big 12 Championship in 2012 and sent all of its squad to the NCAA championship, and are ranked tenth in the nation. KU nor K-State don't even have Div I wrestling programs. K-State does have one of the winningest women's volley-ball programs in the NCAA. It's not enough to make up for the lack of Kansas sport diversity. Missouri has good cross-country, gymnastics, softball, golf, tennis, track, and women's soccer programs. Other than Div I sports, Missouri has a surprising number of smaller schools with good sports programs such as University of Central Missouri's baseball program, Columbia College's girls' softball, UMKC's men's basketball and many others.

Missouri has the complete package in college athletics while Kansas cheer is mostly sequestered to the three months out of the year in which they play basketball.

Winner: Missouri.

College Education

According to US News, the University of Missouri is ranked 90th on the list of top 400 national universities. Kansas is ranked #101 and K-State is #143. In all honesty, MU and KU are in a dead heat for academia despite the rankings. They are strong in different areas and basically tie in several categories. Missouri edges them out, but not by much.  All three are excellent academic schools.

Beyond the two state universities, Kansas doesn't have much to brag about. Their other colleges are mostly fine institutions. They just don't have well-renowned schools for any specific area of study like the colleges in Missouri. The University of Missouri System is comprised of three schools other than MU itself and they are all nationally respected for their specialized programs: UMSL for its Criminal Justice program, UMKC for law, and the Missouri University of Science & Technology is the best engineering school in the nation. The Kansas City Art Institute is internationally recognized for its excellence in art education. Kansas has some good community colleges, but so does Missouri. Missouri has nine colleges with over 10,000 students and Kansas only has four.

Missouri wins this one.

High School Education 

High school is something of a convoluted mess, but I'll try to sort it out. Virtually all the scoring data is from 2009 or before, so the recent collapse of Kansas City, MO schools isn't reflected in most data. The only recent data shows information only on low-income students, in which it shows Missouri performing poorly and Kansas performing well in 2011, overall. According to Statemaster, Kansas has more students receive their high school diplomas than Missouri. Both states are above average in that category, with Kansas ahead. As far as the quality of work expected by students, Missouri has higher standards than any other state in the union. Their educational content is ranked number one according to the American Legislative Exchange Council. Kansas has middling-to-low standards and ranks 41st.

The Science and Engineering Readiness Index ranks Missouri as below average and Kansas as average for math and science scores. The United States Department of Education ranks Kansas in the top ten for Black students and Missouri in the top ten for Hispanic students. Both states rank in the top ten math scores for students with disabilities in grade school. From 2007-2009, Missouri was ranked in the top ten for graduation rate.

Until recently, Missouri was known as the slightly superior state in secondary education, but with the collapse of Kansas City schools dragging down their numbers, I'm not sure that will hold.

Based on what data we have, both states are above average, but Missouri has a bit better numbers. However, that doesn't exactly translate to intelligence...


IQ tests aren't too reliable, but every single study from 2002-2006 ranks Kansas with a higher collective IQ. Kansas averaged about 102 (and climbing) and Missouri averaged 101 (and stagnant). I wanted some other gauge, so I looked at ACT scores. Kansas scored higher on everything but English.

Winner: Kansas

Average Income

This one is cut and dry. Kansans make more money. On average Kansans make $47,817 a year and Missourians average $45,229.  It's a good thing too, because...

Cost of Living

It cost more to live in Kansas. Taxes are higher, groceries are more expensive, gas is more expensive, liquor is more expensive, the beer is weaker, and god help you if you are a smoker in Kansas. The price of cigarettes is at least 20% higher in Kansas.

Winner: Missouri

Professional Sports

At the highest level of competitive play, Kansas has the Major League Soccer team, Sporting Kansas City. Most people consider MLS to be on a lower tier of professional play than the "Big 4," football, baseball, basketball and hockey. The most profitable and widely followed are, of course, football and baseball. Missouri has the Kansas City Royals, Kansas City Chiefs, St. Louis Blues, St. Louis Cardinals and St. Louis Rams. Both states have many minor league or lesser-division professional sports teams. There's not much competition here.

Missouri wins.

Famous Entertainers

This is always fun to talk about. There is pride in having famous or talented individuals come from one's home state. So much so, that Missourians and Kansas will argue over who has the best famous people. Both states even have museums dedicated to famous residents. There are different types of famous people, so I've divided them up into different categories. I also dismissed anyone who was born in one of the states, but moved at a very young age or shortly after birth. Also, people frequently moved from Missouri to Kansas and vice versa, so I had to do a bit of research to find out which state they preferred. If I couldn't decide, as in the case of Dennis Hopper, I just left them off both lists. This only happened with people who lived in Kansas and Missouri. If they moved away to Hollywood or New York, I just placed them in whichever state they spent solid time in. The people had to have some sort of attachment to the state, either spending a childhood there or spending several important years of their lives there. Missouri, of course, is at a statistical advantage because it has more people.

Music is more polarizing than anything. For every person I might list here that is a platinum selling musician, someone else might consider it a detriment to the state's reputation, so I won't list all of the famous musicians from the states. Charlie Parker, one of the most influential jazz musicians, grew up in Missouri, and Chuck Berry, the man credited with "creating" rock n' roll, is from Missouri. Kansas has some great and influential musicians, best of the bunch being Melissa Etheridge and Joe Walsh but not as many and they're mostly not the same caliber.

Kansas has some great actors they can officially call Kansans. Chief among them is R. Lee "Gunny" Ermey, the fast-cursing gunnery sergeant made famous in Stanley Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket. They also lay claim to Ed Asner (Up, "Roots"), Paul Rudd (Knocked Up) and Kirstie Allie (Cheers). They also have Don Johnson (Miami Vice) and Billy Drago (Untouchables). Unfortunately for Kansas, Brad Pitt (Seven, Fight Club) is native to Missouri and even went to MU. It's pretty hard to trump the biggest living movie star. Missouri can also lay claim Steve McQueen (The Great Escape), John Goodman (Roseanne), Kevin Kline (A Fish Called Wanda), Jon Hamm (Mad Men), Vincent Price (House on Haunted Hill), Ginger Rogers (Top Hat), William Powell (The Thin Man), Betty Grable (How to Marry a Millionaire), Chris Cooper (Bourne Identity), Scott Bakula (Quantum Leap), Jenna Fischer (The Office) and Sarah Clarke (24).
R. Lee Ermey in Full Metal Jacket
Brad Pitt in Fight Club

Kansas has some exceptional native directors. I'm especially fond of Chris Buck, who directed Surf's Up and Tarzan (1999) and Richard Thorpe (Above Suspician, Ivanhoe), an underrated golden age Hollywood director who worked with every star of the day including Elvis in Jailhouse Rock. Their biggest celeb director is  Darren Lynn Bousman, who directed Saw II, III, and IV. They also have Gordon Parks (Shaft), Alex Grave (Fringe), and Eric Darnell (Antz, Madagascar).

Missouri may actually trump every state in this category because it can claim demigods John Huston (Maltese Falcon, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, African Queen, The Man Who Would Be Queen) and Walt Disney. Also from Missouri is Disney's Warner Brothers counterpart Friz Freleng who helped create Bugs Bunny and the other Looney Toons. If that wasn't enough (and it is), Robert Altman (M.A.S.H., The Player, Short Cuts), John Milius (Wind and the Lion, Conan The Barbarian), and David Guggenheim (An Inconvenient Truth, Waiting for Superman) are all Missourians.
Walt Disney

Kansas has several good lesser-known authors. The only Kansas author of exceptional literary note is the great poet Langston Hughes, who was born in Missouri, but preferred Kansas.  William S. Burroughs split his time between Missouri and Kansas, so he can't be assigned to anyone. Laura Ingalls Wilder did too, and was a very active community leader in Missouri for twenty years, but she wrote Little House on the Prairie about Kansas. That trumps everything else.  Baseball legend Bill James (Baseball Abstract) is from Kansas. That's something.
Langston Hughes
The most famous North American author to ever live is from Missouri: Mark Twain (Huckleberry Finn, Tom Sawyer). The most famous journalist in America was also a Missourian: Joseph Pulitzer (yes, that Pulitzer). The most famous poet in all the world, T.S. Eliot (The Wasteland) is from Missouri. One of the most famous playwrights in the world, Tennessee Williams, is a Missourian. Missouri can also call the world-famous Maya Angelou, Robert Heinlein (Stranger in a Strangeland, Starship Troopers), Kate Chopin (The Awakening),  its own. Ernest Hemingway was also a part time resident of Kansas City, MO, where he had two of his children and worked for the Kansas City Star. The most famous comic book artist of all time, now a writer and DC Comics executive, Jim Lee, is a native Missourian.
Mark Twain
So, to recap on the famous people. Missouri claims, arguably, the most famous movie star currently living, Brad Pitt; one of the most talented actresses, Ginger Rogers; one of the most revered film directors of all time, John Huston; the most famous comic book artist ever, Jim Lee; the most famous American journalist, Joseph Pulitzer; the most famous American novelist of all time, Mark Twain; the most famous poet, T.S. Eliot; and possibly the most famous person in the world, Walt Disney. It's not really fair to put any group up to those guys--not even R. Lee Ermey.

Missouri, hands down.


This is one of the largest debates among Missouri and Kansas. Missourians accuse Kansans of driving like slowpokes. Kansans accuse Missourians of driving like frenzied maniacs. According to a study published by Tom Tom Kansas doesn't drive all that slowly (at least on interstates), but a report has shown that, yes, Missourians drive like frenzied maniacs, getting an incredible amount of speeding tickets. According to the same Tom Tom study, Missouri posts similar speeds on the internet state Missouri ranked second worst among states, only ahead of Louisiana. Also, Kansas was found to have the most prepared drivers, scoring higher on written driving tests than any other state. Part of this is because most people in Kansas live around Kansas City. Travel and Leisure surveys found that Kansas City and its surrounding area have the second best drivers in the country. It's almost a perfect split from best to worst. No contest.

Winner: Kansas


Lake Scott State Park offers the some well-needed scenery, hills and bluffs, in western Kansas, because the rest of western Kansas has lots of wheat--flat, never-ending wheat and sunflowers with virtually no trees. Western Kansas looks as if it were ironed, it's so flat.

They have the Mushroom Rock, which is a cool, rare rock formation in the middle of nowhere.
I don't know the people, I just picked a picture with people for scale.
Kansas has a few other rock formations worth seeing, especially in Kanopolis State Park, and there's a prairie dog town in the northwest. On the eastern side, Kansas has the Flint hills, a group of gentle hills that provide some nice scenery.

The Ozarks make Missouri a rather sought after sightseeing state. The most well-known natural attraction is most likely the Lakes of the Ozark. It serves as a party spot for Spring Break, but during the other months it's a popular boating, skiing and fishing attraction.
Missouri can boast about having more navigable riverways than any other state, which makes it a draw for canoers, kayakers  and rafters. In fact, the riverways are so beautiful in Missouri that they are federally protected. If so desired, people can even canoe through some Missouri caves.
Jack's Fork River

Missouri has a magnificent, huge cave system.
Bridal Cave

Unique and beautiful rock formations are scattered throughout Missouri. Elephant Rock State Park is dedicated to the preservation of enormous climbable boulders.
photo by localozarkian

Nearby Johnson Shut-Ins provides natural waterslides

It's pretty clear that Missouri wins this category.


Wichita, KS has a few nice districts and buildings surrounding the Arkansas River. It is the only municipality in Kansas that is a bonafide city.

Exploration Place

The state capitol of Kansas, Topeka, is really just a collection of hotels surrounding the capitol building. Kansas City, KS is more of a suburb than a city, but it has landed a NASCAR track and an outdoor mega-mall called Legends. However, not much about it is "city-esque."

Missouri has two major cities, Kansas City and St. Louis which rank in the thirty largest cities in the U.S., so they have much more architectural diversity, including two world-famous landmarks, the St. Louis Arch and the Kauffman Performing Arts Center in Kansas City.

I didn't take any of the following photographs.

Kansas City is known for its fountains, extensive parks and boulevards. It has more trees and grass than most cities. Kansas City always ranks high among the nation's "best cities" surveys. The Travel and Leisure surveys found that Kansas City had the best barbecue and it was the most affordable city in the country. It also ranks high among the friendliest cities.
Union Station in front of Kansas City
Arrowhead and Kauffman Stadiums
Kansas City's Plaza

Kansas City is the City of Fountains
Nelson-Adkins Museum of Art

St. Louis is so famous for the arch that it's difficult to find a picture of St.L without the arch in it, or from it. However, they have many unique and entertaining districts.
View From the Arch
St. Louis Capitol Building

St. Louis Union Station
Busch Stadium

St. Louis Art Museum
With only one city that sometimes drops out of the top fifty most populated cities, with little to no diversity or cultural history, Kansas doesn't hold a candle.

Winner: Missouri.


Kansas won pretty key categories that mean a lot to me personally, "intelligence" being the most important. That makes me think of the quality of people overall. Making more money, on average, than Missourians is also a key category, but with that higher cost of living, it evens out.

Naturally, there's nothing to Kansas. It's mostly flat and barren. Their state parks are rarely beautiful compared to Missouri's, and it doesn't have any professional sports teams to distract from its vast nothingness. Even at the college level, they only have basketball to cheer for. Kansas has almost no nightlife to speak of unless they want to cross the border to Missouri. They try to hold Johnson County up as the epitome of Kansas life, with its solid economy, clean streets, excellent shopping and good dining, but it is clearly the exception. Johnson County is also a collection of suburbs to a Missouri city. Even in trivial superiority arguments about actors and musicians Kansas has lesser talent (who made it big).

One thing I've noticed when I ask people why they like their state, Missourians name all sorts of things, camping, canoeing, boating, sports, clubbing and a slew of others. Kansans never seem to have anything particular in mind. I'm guessing that they like each other. They like Kansans, because they're generally recognized as friendly people. According to polls, so are Missourians, Southerners, and most of the Midwest. It's not unique to have generally decent people in a state. I finally found an article about "good things about Kansas," and the author comes to the conclusion,  

"After crossing the rest of Kansas, I realize that while there may not be mountains or deserts or interesting things to see (like trees), crossing Kansas did offer its gems. The people of Kansas who we interacted with were all very pleasant and made me feel like I was at home. The food was spectacular as well."

Those are fine attributes of the state, but not unique in any way. They're not even rare. I personally like that they have camels roaming around. I'm fascinated by their history, by bleeding Kansas and their famous lawmen. However, every state has its own interesting history. The only thing they seem to know for sure, is that they hate Missouri...except for the Chiefs, Royals, Kansas City BBQ, their nightlife, and bars.


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