Special Report

America's Most Violent (and Most Peaceful) States

The Most Violent States

10. Missouri
> Violent crime rate:
433.4 per 100,000 (13th highest)
> Murder and non negligent manslaughter rate: 6.1 per 100,000 (7th highest)
> Median household income: $46,931 (14th lowest)
> 2014 unemployment rate: 6.1% (23rd highest)
Based on five measures of violence, Missouri is the 10th least peaceful state in the nation. State enforcement agencies reported 433.4 violent crimes per 100,000 people, the 13th highest rate nationwide. In theory, a perfectly peaceful community would not have any police officers, and larger police forces are generally found in less peaceful areas. In Missouri, there were 332.4 police employees per 100,000 state residents, the ninth highest proportion in the country. Maintenance expenses for larger police forces to keep communities safe are part of the costs of violent areas. As in nearly all of the least peaceful states, the median household income of $46,931 in Missouri was among the lower income figures nationwide. Families and individuals who have been victimized by crime in some way, many of whom were among low-income earners, can expect at least some financial relief in the near future. Missouri Governor Jay Nixon signed a law that will go into effect this August that will increase the funds available to victims of violent crimes and their families.

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9. Delaware
> Violent crime rate:
491.4 per 100,000 (7th highest)
> Murder and non negligent manslaughter rate: 4.2 per 100,000 (24th highest)
> Median household income: $57,846 (15th highest)
> 2014 unemployment rate: 5.7% (21st lowest)
The least peaceful areas tend to have low incomes and high unemployment, but Delaware is a notable exception to that rule. A typical Delaware household earned $57,846, over $5,500 more than the national median household income of $52,250. Furthermore, 5.7% of the state’s workforce were unemployed, slightly less than the 6.2% national unemployment rate. Despite these above average economic indicators, Delaware had the seventh highest violent crime rate in the country. The incarceration rate in Delaware was also the second highest of any state, at 756.6 per 100,000 residents.

8. Arkansas
> Violent crime rate:
460.3 per 100,000 (10th highest)
> Murder and non negligent manslaughter rate: 5.4 per 100,000 (12th highest)
> Median household income: $40,511 (2nd lowest)
> 2014 unemployment rate: 6.1% (23rd highest)
Poor economic conditions create fertile ground for violent crime across the nation, and Arkansas is no different. While the state’s unemployment rate of 6.1% was roughly in line with the national rate of 6.2%, only 56.9% of residents participated in the labor force, the fourth lowest participation rate in the country. Arkansas residents also had lower incomes — a typical household in the state earned $40,511, nearly $12,000 less than the median American household income of $52,250 and the second lowest income of all states. Relatively low educational attainment rates can contribute to high numbers of unskilled, young men, who are the most likely individuals to commit crimes. In Arkansas, only 84.4% of adults had at least a high school diploma compared to 86.6% of Americans. Further, only 20.6% of adults had at least a bachelor’s degree, which was much lower than the 29.6% of adults nationwide.

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7. South Carolina
> Violent crime rate:
508.5 per 100,000 (6th highest)
> Murder and non negligent manslaughter rate: 6.2 per 100,000 (6th highest)
> Median household income: $44,163 (7th lowest)
> 2014 unemployment rate: 6.4% (18th highest)
Violent crime in South Carolina is improving at a very encouraging rate. Over the five years through 2013, the state’s rate fell from 670.8 per 100,000 to 508.5 per 100,000 people. This was the largest decline in the country. Even with the improvement, the level of violent crime was still well above the national rate of 367.9 per 100,000 Americans. Unemployed, unskilled, young men are among the most likely people to commit crimes, and low labor force participation rates are highly associated with high levels of violent crime. South Carolina is no exception. Just 58.4% of South Carolina’s citizens were active participants in the labor force, the sixth lowest participation rate in the country. Financial distress among a state’s population can also contribute to less peacefulness. South Carolina’s poverty rate of 18.6%, like most of the least peaceful states, was among the highest rates nationwide.

6. Oklahoma
> Violent crime rate:
441.2 per 100,000 (12th highest)
> Murder and non negligent manslaughter rate: 5.1 per 100,000 (15th highest)
> Median household income: $45,690 (10th lowest)
> 2014 unemployment rate: 4.5% (12th lowest)
The national incarceration rate of 498.1 per 100,000 Americans fell over the five years from 2009, when the rate was 525.6 per 100,000 people. In Oklahoma, however, the incarceration rate remained roughly unchanged at 715.4 per 100,000 people, the fourth highest rate in the nation. A high crime rate is often just one of many negative outcomes that poor socioeconomic environments foster. Relatively low incomes and educational attainment rates, which are associated with higher crime levels, can also lead to higher teen birth rates. Oklahoma had the second highest teen birth rate nationwide at 47.3 per 1,000 teenage girls. Like all but one other least peaceful state, Oklahoma’s teen birth rate was well above the national rate of 29.4 teen births per 1,000 teenage girls. Roman suggested factors such as these can also lead to higher numbers of unskilled, young men, who are among the most likely individuals to commit crimes On the other hand, Oklahoma’s annual unemployment rate of 4.5% was among the lowest rates nationwide.