West Virginia Is America's Least Psychopathic State

Douglas A. McIntyre

A researcher has come up with a test that shows which states are most and least “psychopathic.” For some reason, West Virginia falls at the bottom of the list, while the District of Columbia, home to the nation’s capital is at the top.

Ryan Murphy, a professor and economist at Southern Methodist University, listed the traits he used to make his measurements in a paper titled, appropriately, “Psychopathy by U.S. State.” The “Big Five” traits commonly used by psychologists are openness, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness and neuroticism.

After that, the methodology gets more complicated:

The paper builds off Rentfrow et al. (2013), who estimate the regional differences of the Big Five personality traits across the 48 contiguous states and Washington, D.C. The authors use five separate samples to develop a single estimate of each of the five traits for each region, and examine the traits’ relationship with various socioeconomic outcomes. They then use cluster analysis to identify three clusters of personalities – “Friendly and Conventional,” which roughly corresponds to the Midwest and the South, “Relaxed & Creative,” which is primarily found in the Southwest and Pacific Northwest, and “Temperamental & Uninhibited,” corresponding to the Northeast plus Texas.


Areas of the United States that are measured to be most psychopathic are those in the Northeast and other similarly populated regions. The least psychopathic are predominantly rural areas.

The fact that West Virginia is mostly rural could account for its place on the list. That would make sense because Montana (43), New Mexico (45), North Carolina (46), Tennessee (47) Vermont (48) and Oklahoma (44) were also low on the psychopathic scale.

The other end of the list would be easy to guess. Other than the District of Columbia (1), Connecticut (2), California (3), New Jersey (4) and New York (5) sit at the far end from West Virginia. Oddly, tied for fifth with New York is Wyoming, clearly an outlier.

Whether Murphy’s paper is correct in its conclusions, it certainly makes fun reading.

State Rank
Alabama 27
Arizona 16
Arkansas 23
California 3
Colorado 19
Connecticut 2
Delaware 14
District of Colombia 1
Florida 17
Georgia 32
Idaho 24
Illinois 10
Indiana 41
Iowa 18
Kansas 31
Kentucky 36
Louisiana 30
Maine 7
Maryland 12
Massachusetts 15
Michigan 26
Minnesota 33
Mississippi 42
Missouri 34
Montana 43
Nebraska 37
Nevada 9
New Hampshire 39
New Jersey 4
New Mexico 45
New York 5T
North Carolina 46
North Dakota 25
Ohio 21
Oklahoma 44
Oregon 40
Pennsylvania 28
Rhode Island 29
South Carolina 38
South Dakota 13
Tennessee 47
Texas 20
Utah 22
Vermont 48
Virginia 11
Washington 35
West Virginia 49
Wisconsin 8
Wyoming 5T