Special Report

America's Most Violent (and Most Peaceful) States

The Most Peaceful States

10. Washington
> Violent crime rate:
289.1 per 100,000 (22nd lowest)
> Murder and non negligent manslaughter rate: 2.3 per 100,000 (13th lowest)
> Median household income: $58,405 (14th highest)
> 2014 unemployment rate: 6.2% (22nd highest)
Just 258 people out of every 100,000 Washington residents were incarcerated versus close to 500 of every 100,000 Americans. The state’s incarceration rate, which was the eighth lowest in the country, was also down from 273.6 in 2009. The state’s violent crime rate of 289.1 per 100,000 residents was slightly higher than most of the most peaceful states, but still well below the national violent crime rate of 367.9 per 100,000 people. Also like most of the most peaceful states, Washington’s homicide rate was well below average. Low unemployment is often a strong indicator of less violence in an area. However, Washington is the only peaceful state with an unemployment rate in excess of 6%.

9. North Dakota
> Violent crime rate:
270.1 per 100,000 (16th lowest)
> Murder and non negligent manslaughter rate: 2.2 per 100,000 (12th lowest)
> Median household income: $55,759 (19th highest)
> 2014 unemployment rate: 2.8% (the lowest)
Though violent crime increased considerably from 2009 through 2013 in North Dakota, the state still had one of the lowest violent crime rates in the country, at 270 incidents per 100,000 residents. Several of North Dakota’s positive economic measures are indicative of a region with low violent crime. At 2.8%, North Dakota had the lowest unemployment rate in the country, less than half the nationwide rate of 6.2%. Similarly, 72.8% of North Dakota residents participated in the labor force in 2014, the highest rate in the country. High employment rates in the state were coupled with low poverty and relative prosperity. Only 7.6% of residents received food stamp benefits, significantly less than the 13.5% of individuals across the country and the second lowest proportion nationwide. Furthermore, at $55,759, the typical North Dakota household made nearly more than the typical American household.

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8. Massachusetts
> Violent crime rate:
413.4 per 100,000 (16th highest)
> Murder and non negligent manslaughter rate: 2.0 per 100,000 (9th lowest)
> Median household income: $66,768 (6th highest)
> 2014 unemployment rate: 5.8% (24th lowest)
With only two murders per 100,000 residents in 2013, Massachusetts is one of the most peaceful states in the country. Accordingly, the state’s incarceration rate of 163.6 per 100,000 residents was tied with Maine for the lowest in the nation. Massachusetts’ low violent crime rate accompanied the highest educational attainment rate in the country. Just over 40% of adult state residents earned a bachelor’s degree or higher, a stark contrast from the 10 least peaceful states, where the corresponding rate was below 30% across the board. Highly skilled and well-educated individuals are among the least likely to commit crimes. Massachusetts residents were also relatively well-off financially. The state’s typical household earned $66,768 annually, about $14,500 more than the typical American household.

7. Iowa
> Violent crime rate:
271.4 per 100,000 (17th lowest)
> Murder and non negligent manslaughter rate: 1.4 per 100,000 (the lowest)
> Median household income: $52,229 (21st highest)
> 2014 unemployment rate: 4.4% (10th lowest)
Iowa had the lowest homicide rate in the country, with just 1.4 homicides per every 100,000 people, less than a third of the national rate. The state’s violent crime and incarceration rates were also below average. Gainfully employed residents have been shown to be less likely to commit crimes, which may be part of the explanation for Iowa’s peaceful status. The state’s unemployment rate of 4.4% was tied for 10th lowest in the country. More than 70% of Iowa’s civilian population either had a job or were actively seeking a job, which was true of only two other states. Another factor closely tied with crime levels among young adults is the high school graduation rate. It is not surprising, therefore, that Iowa had the sixth highest proportion of adults with at least a high school diploma, at 91.6%.

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6. Hawaii
> Violent crime rate:
251.6 per 100,000 (10th lowest)
> Murder and non negligent manslaughter rate: 1.5 per 100,000 (2nd lowest)
> Median household income: $68,020 (4th highest)
> 2014 unemployment rate: 4.4% (10th lowest)
Hawaii had the second lowest homicide rate in the country, at 1.5 murders per 100,000 residents. In addition to a low homicide rate, Hawaii trails the rest of the nation in estimated small arms ownership. Individuals with economic security are far less likely to commit crimes than unskilled, unemployed people. And low statewide unemployment was also a likely reason for the state’s peacefulness. The state’s annual unemployment rate of 4.4% was the eighth lowest in the country, and significantly lower than the 6.2% national rate.