Special Report

The Most Dangerous Cities in America

7. Little Rock, Arkansas
> Violent crimes per 100,000:
> 2014 murders: 43
> Population: 198,217
> Poverty rate: 16.6%

Little Rock is the smallest of the most dangerous cities in the country. Though 39 American cities had more murders than Little Rock, after adjusting for population, the Arkansas capital’s murder rate was the 12th highest in the nation.

Unlike nearly all of America’s most dangerous cities, education attainment rates in Little Rock far exceeded the national average rate. A little more than 40% of Little Rock adults had at least a bachelor’s degree, 10 percentage points higher than the corresponding national attainment rate of 30.1%. Similarly, 91.8% of adults in Little Rock had at least a high school diploma, a significantly higher share than the 86.9% of Americans. The higher educational attainment rates alone, however, were not enough to curb crime, and the city reported 1,392 violent crimes per 100,000 residents last year — the seventh highest rate of all major U.S. cities.

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6. Milwaukee, Wisconsin
> Violent crimes per 100,000:
> 2014 murders: 90
> Population: 600,374
> Poverty rate: 29.0%

Milwaukee, which was the ninth most dangerous city in 2013, ranked sixth most dangerous in 2014 as nearly 700 additional incidents of violent crime were reported last year. The city’s violent crime rate, the sixth highest in the nation, included 90 murders and 395 reported rapes.

High crime rates are often associated with socio-economic problems, and Milwaukee, one of the poorest cities in the country, exemplifies this relationship. At $35,049, the median household income in Milwaukee was roughly $19,000 less than the national median last year. Similarly, Milwaukee’s poverty rate of 29% was nearly double the national poverty rate of 15.5%.

5. Birmingham, Alabama
> Violent crimes per 100,000:
> 2014 murders: 52
> Population: 212,115
> Poverty rate: 30.5%

There were 52 murders in Birmingham in 2014. Adjusting for population, Alabama’s largest city had the seventh highest murder rate in the country. Birmingham also ranked among the 10 worst cities in the country for robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, and arson. Overall, with 1,588 violent crimes per 100,000 residents, Birmingham is the fifth most dangerous city in the country.

As is typical in cities with high violent crime rates, the typical household income in Birmingham is low. Only seven of the 286 metropolitan areas examined had a median household income lower than Birmingham’s $30,043. Additionally, the city’s poverty rate of 30.5% was among the worst in the country and nearly double the national poverty rate of 15.5%.

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4. St. Louis, Missouri
> Violent crimes per 100,000:
> 2014 murders: 159
> Population: 318,574
> Poverty rate: 28.5%

St. Louis had the most murder cases per 100,000 residents of any major city in America. With about 50 reported murders per 100,000 residents, the murder rate in St. Louis was nearly 10 times the national figure. Also, with about 1,051 instances of aggravated assault per 100,000 residents reported last year, the only major cities with more assault cases than St. Louis were Detroit and Memphis. While the violent crime rate decreased nationally from 2013 to 2014, the rate in St. Louis increased by about 85 cases per 100,000 residents. Most areas with high crime rates also tend to have high poverty rates, and with 28.5% of its residents living in poverty last year — 13 percentage points higher than the national poverty rate — St. Louis was not only the fourth most dangerous city, but also one of most impoverished urban areas in the nation.

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