America’s Most Violent (and Most Peaceful) States

Print Email


To identify the most violent and most peaceful states, 24/7 Wall St. created an index based on five measures that drive peacefulness and calculated it for each of the 50 states. Our selection of these measures was inspired by the 2012 United States Peace Index from the Institute for Economics & Peace. Two of the five measures: the number of murders and the number of violent crimes, excluding murder, per 100,000 people were given full weight in the index and came from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) 2013 Uniform Crime Report (UCR). Police employment per 100,000 state residents, which includes civilian employees such as dispatchers and administrators, was given a three-quarter weighting and also came from the UCR. Incarceration rates, which capture state prisons only, were given a three-quarter weighting and came from the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS). Firearm suicides as a percent of total suicides are for 2009 through 2013 to adjust for outliers, and are from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This was the fifth component of the index and received a one-quarter weight. Due to low data availability, this measure is widely used as proxy for small arms possession because firearms used in suicides are disproportionately small arms. These data sets are frequently based on disparate and inconsistent population totals, so all rates for the purposes of this index were calculated based on 2013 ACS population counts.

Each of these five measures were normalized to a scale ranging from 1 to 5 using the min-max normalization method. Because each measure is not mutually exclusive, we used a geometric mean to combine the 1-5 values into an index score for each state.

A number of correlative factors were also reviewed. The percentage of adults 25 and over with a high school diploma or higher, and the percentage with a bachelor’s degree or higher, as well as the percentage of all people living without health insurance and in poverty came from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2013 American Community Survey (ACS). Poverty rates for families, median household income, and the percentages of households receiving food stamps in the past 12 months, the percentage of households with incomes below $10,000, and above $200,000 also came from the ACS. Annual unemployment rates for 2014, and unemployment rates as of May, as well as labor force participation rates for 2013 and 2014 came from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).