America’s Most (and Least) Peaceful States

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5. Arizona
> Violent crimes (excl. murder) per 100,000: 401.7 (18th most)
> Murders per 100,000: 6.4 (6th most)
> Incarceration rate per 100,000: 572 (6th most)
> Police per 100,000: 351.0 (16th most)
> Basic access: 80.8 (16th lowest)
> Total cost of violence: $10.77 billion

Arizona, is the fifth-most violent state in the country. It has not always been this way. According to the Peace Index, the state dropped nine places from last year’s rank. The cause of this was a substantial increase in the murder rate, which, at 6.4 murders per 100,000 residents, was the sixth-worst in 2010. The state’s incarceration rate is also sixth worst. When it comes to correlating factors, Arizona actually has the ninth-highest life expectancy in the country, at 79.9 years. However, the state also has the 17th-highest teen death rate, at 69 per 100,000.

4. Florida
> Violent crimes (excl. murder) per 100,000: 537.2 (9th most)
> Murders per 100,000: 5.2 (17th most)
> Incarceration rate per 100,000: 556 (7th most)
> Police per 100,000: 404.7 (7th most)
> Basic access: 79.5 (7th lowest)
> Total cost of violence: $34.28 billion

Despite making significant improvements in becoming more peaceful since 1991, Florida is still the fourth-least peaceful state. The state has among the highest incarcerations, violent crimes, and rates of police employees. Florida has a number of other problems that correlate with high crime. More than 21% of residents do not have health insurance, which is the country’s third-highest rate. The state also has the fifth-highest rate of income inequality. It has one of the worst rates of labor force participation, as well as one of the largest rates of children living in single-parent households. Among metropolitan areas, Miami-Miami Beach-Kendal is among the worst for peace.

3. Nevada
> Violent crimes (excl. murder) per 100,000: 654.7 (the most)
> Murders per 100,000: 5.9 (8th most)
> Incarceration rate per 100,000: 472 (13th most)
> Police per 100,000: 365.6 (13th most)
> Basic access: 78.0 (2nd lowest)
> Total cost of violence: $5.47 billion

Many of the factors that normally correspond with a high rate of violence are not present in Nevada. The state is actually in the top 50% for poverty rate, income equality, and labor force participation. On the other hand, the state has a high teen birth rate and the second-highest percentage of its population without health insurance. Its citizens also have, according to Gallup, the second-worst access to basic necessities in the country. The state has the highest violent crime rate in the country, with 654.7 per every 100,000 residents recorded in 2010.

2. Tennessee
> Violent crimes (excl. murder) per 100,000: 607.7 (4th most)
> Murders per 100,000: 5.6 (12th most)
> Incarceration rate per 100,000: 432 (22nd most)
> Police per 100,000: 404.8 (6th most)
> Basic access: 81.0 (17th lowest)
> Total cost of violence: $11.67 billion

Tennessee is the second-least peaceful state in the country, and has in fact gotten worse since 1991. Additionally, the Nashville-Davidson-Murfreesboro-Franklin metropolitan area is among the worst metro areas for peace. The state is one of the most violent, with nearly 608 violent crimes committed per 100,000 residents in 2010. The state also has among the largest relative number of police employees — nearly 405 per 100,000 people. Tennessee also has one of the largest rates of children living in single parent households, one of the highest poverty rates, one of the lowest rates of income inequality and one of the highest rates of births among teenagers.

1. Louisiana
> Violent crimes (excl. murder) per 100,000: 537.8 (8th most)
> Murders per 100,000: 11.2 (the most)
> Incarceration rate per 100,000: 867 (the most)
> Police per 100,000: 542.8 (the most)
> Basic access: 79.2 (5th lowest)
> Total cost of violence: $9.82 billion

Of the five metrics used to generate the Peace Index, Louisiana received the absolute worst score in all but two of them. The state has the eighth-worst violent crime rate and the fourth-worst rate of gun suicides. The state has the highest levels of both police per capita incarceration. The state’s 867 prisoners per 100,000 people is well more than the next-worst state, Mississippi, which has 686 prisoners per 100,000. The state’s murder rate is what truly sets it apart as the least peaceful in the country. Louisiana’s homicide rate in 2010 was 11.2 per 100,000 residents. The next-worst state, Maryland, had 7.4 murders per 100,000 people. Louisiana was also among the worst 10 states for each of the 10 categories shown to have a high level of correlation with violence.

Charles B. Stockdale and Michael B. Sauter

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