The United States of America is a nation comprised of fifty states. For the most part, the states in America are contiguous. The continental United States refers to the states that are part of the continent. Believe it or not, almost all the states are part of the continent of North America, which is pretty lucky. Did you notice which state is missing from that list? The one state that is not part of the continental US is the one and only Hawaii. Sometimes, when listing the states that are not included as part of the continental US, people tend to list Alaska as well. Let's clear up the confusion there for a moment. The state of Alaska is part of the continental United States, but it is not part of the contiguous United States.
Continental refers to which states are part of the continent of North America, whereas contiguous refers to which states are part of the major land mass with borders that denote the country as a whole. Contiguous states can be thought of as continuous because they connect and they are directly located near each other.
While not a state itself, Washington, D.C., is also part of the continental and contiguous states.
The Difference Between Continental US States and Hawaii
Most of the time, there is no real difference between the continental US states and the one non-continental US, Hawaii. The separation is noticeable when it comes to certain sweepstakes or giveaways that you may enter.
Many survey companies, such as the Pew Research Center, limit their reach to the continental United States only. Sometimes, this extends to being only contiguous rather than continental, just for the sake of convenience. The major reason why sweepstakes are often not inclusive of Hawaiian citizens is due to the location of Hawaii itself. In order to interview, discuss, or engage with people in Hawaii, the researchers would have to find a way to travel to Hawaii, which just is not the most practical way of handling business, given the distance between Hawaii and the rest of the United States.
This extends into situations where data is collected from certain parts of the world, which tends to be for an anthropological purpose or from a sociological standpoint. The most common example of this in action would be surveys. The spokespeople for the Pew Research Center have said that they account for people in the non-continental United States byadjusting the samples the collect.
In order to do so, the researchers take a look at the information collected by the United States Census Bureau to determine the average gender, age, race, and other defining aspects of people in terms of research surveying. This is incredibly important because it is false advertising to make claims about the United States if the entire population of the country is not taken into consideration.