America’s Most Violent (and Most Peaceful) States

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5. Nevada
> Violent crime rate:
603.0 per 100,000 (3rd highest)
> Murder and non negligent manslaughter rate: 5.8 per 100,000 (9th highest)
> Median household income: $51,230 (25th lowest)
> 2014 unemployment rate: 7.8% (the highest)
Nevada’s violent crime rate dropped by nearly 100 over the five years from 2009, the seventh largest decline in the country. Still, the state had the third highest violent crime rate, with 603 violent incidents reported per 100,000 people, much higher than the national rate of 367.9 per 100,000. The state also had the ninth highest murder rate, at 5.8 homicides per 100,000 people, versus the national rate of 4.5 per 100,000. Unemployment has been shown to correlate with higher rates of violent crime, and Nevada had the highest annual unemployment in the country, at 7.8%. High levels of income inequality frequently contribute to higher crime levels. In Nevada, however, income was distributed relatively evenly — the state’s Gini coefficient was better than the nation’s.

4. Tennessee
> Violent crime rate:
590.6 per 100,000 (4th highest)
> Murder and non negligent manslaughter rate: 5.0 per 100,000 (16th highest)
> Median household income: $44,297 (9th lowest)
> 2014 unemployment rate: 6.7% (12th highest)
Tennessee was the fourth least peaceful state in the country. The incidence of violent crime in Tennessee — one of the five measures used to measure peacefulness — was also the fourth highest nationwide, at 590.6 reported incidents per 100,000 residents. Tennessee also had an especially large police force. With 408.9 law enforcement employees per 100,000 residents, Tennessee had the largest ratio of police workers to residents in the country. Tennessee residents had low income and low educational attainment — two economic indicators that tend to correlate with violent crime. The typical household in Tennessee made just over $44,000 annually, about $8,000 less than the $52,250 the typical American household earned. Furthermore, only 24.8% of adults in the state had a bachelor’s degree or higher, nearly 5 percentage points less than the national figure of 29.6%.

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3. Alaska
> Violent crime rate:
640.4 per 100,000 (the highest)
> Murder and non negligent manslaughter rate: 4.6 per 100,000 (20th highest)
> Median household income: $72,237 (2nd highest)
> 2014 unemployment rate: 6.8% (10th highest)
While the homicide rate in Alaska was closely aligned with the national rate of 4.5 per 100,000 residents, the state’s violent crime rate was higher than any other state in the country. There were over 640 violent crimes, including burglary and assaults, per 100,000 residents in Alaska. Despite the relative prevalence of violence in the state, Alaska had the third smallest law enforcement workforce in the country. Alaska’s law enforcement workforce ranked 29th with 263.5 law enforcement workers per 100,000 residents — still lower than the national average of 285.5 police workers to 100,000 Americans. Violence often occurs more frequently in dense clusters of people. There are only about 1.2 people per square mile in Alaska, however, the lowest density nationwide and exceptionally low compared to other states identified as the least peaceful.

2. Alabama
> Violent crime rate:
430.8 per 100,000 (14th highest)
> Murder and non negligent manslaughter rate: 7.2 per 100,000 (2nd highest)
> Median household income: $42,849 (4th lowest)
> 2014 unemployment rate: 6.8% (10th highest)
Alabama, the second least peaceful state in the country, had the second highest homicide rate in the nation. It is more than likely that Alabama had a high gun ownership rate, as firearms were used in more than two-thirds of suicides in the state, the second highest rate in the country after only Mississippi. Along with widespread firearm ownership, Alabama suffered from relatively poor economic conditions. In 2014, 6.8% of the labor force in Alabama were looking for work, the 10th highest unemployment rate in the country. According to Roman, high levels of unemployment, like other poor socioeconomic factors, are associated with higher numbers of unskilled, young men, who are among the most likely individuals to commit violent crimes.

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1. Louisiana
> Violent crime rate:
518.5 per 100,000 (5th highest)
> Murder and non negligent manslaughter rate: 10.8 per 100,000 (the highest)
> Median household income: $44,164 (8th lowest)
> 2014 unemployment rate: 6.4% (18th highest)
Based on five measures of violence, Louisiana is the least peaceful state in the country. At 10.8 per 100,000 residents, Louisiana’s homicide rate was the only one to reach double digits, and the highest murder rate in the country. Louisiana also had an exceptionally high incarceration rate. At 849.6 per 100,000 residents, no state imprisoned or jailed more of its citizens than Louisiana. Louisiana had the third highest poverty rate as well as the second-highest percentage of households earning less than $10,000 annually, at 19.8% and 10.7%, respectively. High levels of income inequality are strongly associated with high levels of violent crime, and Louisiana had greater income inequality than all but two other states in the nation.

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