Violent crime in the United States declined significantly over the past two decades. The violent crime rate fell from 685 incidents per 100,000 people in 1995 to 366 incidents per 100,000 people in 2014. While generally violence in the United States is trending downward, some states remain far more dangerous than others.
24/7 Wall St. generated an index to rank the peacefulness or violence of each U.S. state. Less peaceful states tend to have high violent crime and homicide rates as well as high small arms ownership and incarceration rates. In more peaceful states, these rates are lower. Based on our analysis, Louisiana is the most violent state.
Louisiana is the only state in the country with a murder rate of more than 10 homicides per 100,000 residents. Mass shootings — classified as incidents with at least four shooting victims — are also relatively common in Louisiana. So far this year alone, there have been eight documented mass shootings, which left 31 injured and nine dead. Only six other states have reported greater numbers of injuries from mass shootings in 2016.
Louisiana also has some of highest shares of gun owners and prisoners in the country. There are 818 prisoners per 100,000 Louisiana residents, the highest incarceration rate of any state and nearly double the national figure. Additionally, Louisiana has one of the highest gun ownership rates in the country. Guns are a factor in 67% of suicides in Louisiana, a larger share than in all but two other states.
In an interview with 24/7 Wall St., Dr. Nancy La Vigne, director of the Justice Policy Center of the policy think tank the Urban Institute, explained that a slew of factors contribute to violence in a community. She noted that many factors are involved, and anything from low incomes to the presence of 15- to 25-year old men to a combination of environmental conditions can help explain unrest in an area. “Vacant housing, burned out streetlights, [and] signs of disorder,” La Vigne said, “can predict where crime might be more concentrated.”
Many of the factors La Vigne mentioned are associated with high unemployment and poverty. In Louisiana, 6.2% of the workforce is unemployed, the third highest unemployment rate of any states. The 20% poverty rate is also the third highest.
In the vast majority of the nation’s least peaceful states, households earn lower incomes. Of the 25 violent states at the bottom of the peacefulness index, 20 have median household incomes below the national figure of $53,657 annually. In Louisiana, the typical household earns $44,555 annually, the seventh lowest median household income of any state.