Special Report

America's Most Violent (and Peaceful) States

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Although the risk of deadly shootings appears to have escalated, violence in the United States is trending downward. In 1995, there were 685 violent incidents per 100,000 people nationwide. By 2014, the national violent crime rate had fallen to 366 violent crimes per 100,000 people. The United States is far from the most peaceful place on earth, however, and some states remain far more violent than others.

24/7 Wall St. generated an index to rank the peacefulness of each U.S. state. States with high violent crime and homicide rates, as well as high estimated small arms ownership and high incarceration rates were identified as less peaceful, while states with lower incidences of these factors were more peaceful. According to our index, Maine is the most peaceful state, while Louisiana is the least peaceful.

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In an interview with 24/7 Wall St., Dr. Nancy La Vigne, director of the Urban Institute’s Justice Policy Center, made clear that states are not simply violent, or peaceful. Rather, they fall onto a continuum. This is partially due to the fact that the concentration of violence varies so much geographically, even within states.

Click here to see America’s most violent (and peaceful) states.

Click here to read our methodology.

“Even within cities that tend to have higher crime rates and even within neighborhoods that are well known to have lots of violent crime, there are pockets of peaceful streets and pockets of violent ones,” La Vigne said.

A slew of factors contribute to violence in a community. La Vigne noted that many factors are involved and anything from low incomes and the presence of 15 to 25 year old men to a combination of environmental conditions can help explain unrest in an area. “Vacant housing, burned out streetlights, [and] signs of disorder … can predict where crime might be more concentrated,” she said.

In the vast majority of the nation’s more peaceful states, households earn higher incomes, while incomes tended to be much lower in more violent states. Of the 25 states on the top end of the peacefulness ranking, only five have poverty rates higher than the national rate of 15.5%. Of the more violent half of states, poverty rates tend to be higher.

A perfectly peaceful community would have no need for weapons or law enforcement workers. Of course, some number of police officers are needed to keep the peace even in the least violent areas. Past a certain threshold, however, large enforcement operations are features of less peaceful states. The ratio of law enforcement employees to state residents exceeded the national proportion of 282 law enforcement workers per 100,000 Americans in eight of the 10 least peaceful states. On the other hand, all but two of the 10 most peaceful states had proportionately smaller police forces.

The connection between law enforcement and peaceful society is not yet completely understood. Crime continued to drop in the United States during the most recent economic downturn, even as police spending dramatically fell. Also, whether more policing equals greater peace largely depends on what police are doing. La Vigne gave the example of aggressive stop-and-frisk tactics, which frequently alienate law-abiding citizens who might otherwise have aided in crime prevention.

Portland Lighthouse, Maine
Source: Thinkstock

50. Maine
> Violent crime rate: 127.8 per 100,000 (2nd lowest)
> Murder and non-negligent manslaughter rate: 1.6 per 100,000 (4th lowest)
> Median household income: $49,462 (19th lowest)
> June unemployment rate: 3.7% (10th lowest)

Based on a range of social and economic measures, Maine is the most peaceful state in the country. There are 127.8 violent crimes per 100,000 residents in a year, the second lowest rate of all states. With such low crime levels, fewer resources are needed by the state to contain violence. For every 100,000 Mainers, there are 169 prisoners of state correctional facilities, also the second lowest incarceration level of all states.

Maine is part of New England, where lower population densities and relative economic prosperity are likely contributing to less violence. Like most of New England, Maine’s unemployment rate of 3.7% and its poverty rate of 14.1% are each lower than the national rates. However, of the 10 most peaceful states, Maine is the only state where the typical household does not earn more than the national median household income of $53,657.

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Burlington (Chittenden County), Vermont
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49. Vermont
> Violent crime rate: 99.3 per 100,000 (the lowest)
> Murder and non-negligent manslaughter rate: 1.6 per 100,000 (4th lowest)
> Median household income: $54,166 (20th highest)
> June unemployment rate: 3.2% (5th lowest)

The most peaceful states tend to have relatively small populations, especially states in the Northeast. With a population of 626,562, Vermont is no exception. At 99 reported incidents per 100,000 people, Vermont has the lowest violent crime rate in the country. Property crimes such as larceny, and theft are also less common in Vermont than in any other state.

A person who is either employed or actively seeking work is less likely to commit a violent crime than someone who is completely disengaged. In Vermont, 67.2% of the population participates in the labor force, one of the largest shares of any state in the country. A highly educated population also tends to be more peaceful. In Vermont, 34.9% of the population has a bachelor’s degree, a higher share than in all but a handful other states.

New Hampshire
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48. New Hampshire
> Violent crime rate: 196.1 per 100,000 (4th lowest)
> Murder and non-negligent manslaughter rate: 0.9 per 100,000 (the lowest)
> Median household income: $66,532 (7th highest)
> June unemployment rate: 2.8% (2nd lowest)

Nationwide, the incidence of violent crime is trending downwards. New Hampshire’s violent crime rate of just under 200 incidents per 100,000 people is well below the national rate of 366 per 100,000 Americans. However, like just 12 other states, crime in the state has risen since 2010. Still, New Hampshire residents live in one of the most peaceful states in the country. Economic prosperity certainly helps keep the peace. Just 9.2% of people live in poverty, and only 2.8% of the workforce is unemployed — the lowest and second-lowest proportions of all states.

High levels of education in a community are strongly associated with peacefulness — and New Hampshire residents tend to be very well educated. The percentages of adults with at least a high school diploma or a bachelor’s degree — at 92.0% and 35%, respectively — are each among the highest educational attainment rates of all states.

Minneapolis, Minnesota
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47. Minnesota
> Violent crime rate: 229.1 per 100,000 (10th lowest)
> Murder and non-negligent manslaughter rate: 1.6 per 100,000 (4th lowest)
> Median household income: $61,481 (10th highest)
> June unemployment rate: 3.8% (13th lowest)

States bear much of the cost of violence by paying for enforcement and correctional efforts. People living in violent communities are burdened making ends meet without the aid of family members who may be incarcerated or victimized by violence, or by enduring stress from fear of crime. At the same time, peacefulness can arise from economic prosperity.

Minnesota, one of the most peaceful states in the nation, has a relatively strong economy. The percentage of residents working or looking for work in Minnesota, at 70.5%, is the highest of all states and a strong indication that the economy is doing well. By contrast, the national labor force participation rate is 62.7%. Minnesota residents are also relatively well-off financially. The typical household earns $61,481 annually, the 10th highest median household income nationwide.

Provo, Utah
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46. Utah
> Violent crime rate: 215.6 per 100,000 (8th lowest)
> Murder and non-negligent manslaughter rate: 2.3 per 100,000 (11th lowest)
> Median household income: $60,922 (13th highest)
> June unemployment rate: 4.0% (15th lowest)

Utah is the most peaceful state in the Western United States and one of the most peaceful in the country. Economic stability is a major driver of peace, and Utah residents are, by many measures, relatively prosperous. Only 11.7% of Utah’s population lives in poverty, a considerably lower share than the 15.5% national poverty rate. Furthermore, people in Utah are more likely to be actively engaged in the workforce than most Americans. The state’s labor force participation rate of 68.4% is the eighth highest in the country.

With a lower poverty rate than the national rate and greater labor force engagement, violent crime is relatively rare in Utah. There are 216 violent crimes for every 100,000 residents each year in Utah, far fewer than the 366 incidents per 100,000 national violent crime rate.

Boston, Massachusetts
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45. Massachusetts
> Violent crime rate: 391.4 per 100,000 (18th highest)
> Murder and non-negligent manslaughter rate: 2.0 per 100,000 (9th lowest)
> Median household income: $69,160 (6th highest)
> June unemployment rate: 4.2% (20th lowest)

Massachusetts incarcerates a smaller share of its citizens than any other state in the country. There are 159 people in state prisons for every 100,000 Massachusetts residents, only a fraction of the 490 jailed persons per 100,000 people incarceration rate nationwide. While certain violent crimes are slightly more common in the Bay State than they are nationwide, homicide is far less common. There are 2.0 murders per 100,000 people in Massachusetts annually compared to a 4.5 per 100,000 national rate.

In keeping with broader trends, low incarceration and homicide rates accompany higher incomes and higher educational attainment in Massachusetts. The typical household in the state earns $69,160 a year, roughly $15,500 more than the typical American household. Furthermore, 41.2% of adults statewide have at least a bachelor’s degree, the largest share of any state in the country.

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Providence, Rhode Island 4
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44. Rhode Island
> Violent crime rate: 219.2 per 100,000 (9th lowest)
> Murder and non-negligent manslaughter rate: 2.4 per 100,000 (13th lowest)
> Median household income: $54,891 (19th highest)
> June unemployment rate: 5.5% (14th highest)

Rhode Island’s violent crime rate of 219 incidents per 100,000 residents is well below the national violent crime rate of 366 per 100,000 people. One reason for this may be the state’s extremely low rate of gun ownership and gun violence. Just 5.8% of Rhode Island adults have a gun in their home, the second-lowest share in the country. To compare, the national adult gun ownership rate is 29.1%. Lower gun ownership strongly correlates with fewer gun-related deaths. Just 22.4% of Rhode Island suicides are gun suicides compared to more than half of all suicides nationwide.

Beautiful cascade waterfall in Sol Duc falls trail, Washington
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43. Washington
> Violent crime rate: 285.2 per 100,000 (20th lowest)
> Murder and non-negligent manslaughter rate: 2.5 per 100,000 (14th lowest)
> Median household income: $61,366 (11th highest)
> June unemployment rate: 5.8% (9th highest)

Washington’s violent crime rate of 285 incidents per 100,000 residents is below the national rate of 366 for every 100,000 people. However, while the state’s combined rates of murder, rape, and robbery are below average, the state’s larceny, motor vehicle theft, and overall property crime rates are the highest of any state.

The resources Washington devotes to combatting violence are among the lowest in the country. The state has one of the lowest incarceration rates of any state and the fifth-lowest proportion of law enforcement employees per capita.

Honolulu Waikiki Beach, Hawaii
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42. Hawaii
> Violent crime rate: 259.2 per 100,000 (13th lowest)
> Murder and non-negligent manslaughter rate: 1.8 per 100,000 (5th lowest)
> Median household income: $69,592 (5th highest)
> June unemployment rate: 3.3% (6th lowest)

Like the majority of the most peaceful states, poverty and unemployment are relatively rare in Hawaii. Hawaiians are also some of the wealthiest Americans. The typical household earns nearly $70,000 annually, the fifth highest median household income of all states.

States with higher gun ownership rates also tend to have higher rates of firearm suicide, murder, and accidental death. While Hawaii’s gun ownership rate, estimated at 45.1% of adults, is 10th highest, the firearm-related suicide rate and the incidence of murder in Hawaii are each some of the lowest in the nation.

Iowa
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41. Iowa
> Violent crime rate: 273.5 per 100,000 (16th lowest)
> Murder and non-negligent manslaughter rate: 1.9 per 100,000 (6th lowest)
> Median household income: $53,712 (21st highest)
> June unemployment rate: 4.0% (15th lowest)

Iowa’s 1.9 homicides per 100,000 people is less than half the nationwide rate of 4.5 murders per 100,000 people. Other violent crimes, including rape and aggravated assault, are also relatively uncommon in Iowa. There are only 274 violent crimes per 100,000 state residents a year, far less than the corresponding national rate of 366 per 100,000 people.

Social disengagement and economic insecurity correlate strongly with a higher incidence of crime. In Iowa, a low violent crime rate is partially due to a high labor force participation rate. Nearly 70% of the state’s population is either employed or actively seeking employment, a far greater share than the 62.7% national labor force participation rate. In addition, only 12.2% of Iowa residents live in poverty compared to a 15.5% national poverty rate.

East Cleveland, Ohio
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40. Ohio
> Violent crime rate: 284.9 per 100,000 (19th lowest)
> Murder and non-negligent manslaughter rate: 4.0 per 100,000 (25th highest)
> Median household income: $49,308 (16th lowest)
> June unemployment rate: 5.0% (19th highest)

In a perfectly peaceful society, there would be no need for law enforcement. While there is no corner of the country that qualifies as perfectly peaceful, Ohio has the smallest share of its population employed in law enforcement of any state in the country. There are only 110 people working as police officers, dispatchers, and other such jobs for every 100,000 state residents, less than half the national rate of 282 law enforcement workers per 100,000 people. Fewer police often indicate a lower than average crime rate. Indeed, murder, aggravated assault, and motor vehicle theft are less common in Ohio than across the country as a whole.

In many of the most violent states, certain major cities drive up violent crime rates. Not including Cleveland, only three of Ohio’s 10 major metropolitan areas have a higher violent crime rate than the nation as a whole.

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Sunrise Over Crown Point at Columbia River Gorge, Oregon
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39. Oregon
> Violent crime rate: 232.3 per 100,000 (11th lowest)
> Murder and non-negligent manslaughter rate: 2.0 per 100,000 (9th lowest)
> Median household income: $51,075 (23rd lowest)
> June unemployment rate: 4.8% (22nd highest)

In October 2015, a 26 year old student opened fire in a Umpqua Community College writing class, killing nine. Despite being the site of one of the deadliest mass shootings that year, Oregon is a relatively peaceful state. There are 232 violent crimes per 100,000 state residents a year in Oregon, far less than the corresponding national rate of 366 violent crimes per 100,000 people. The state also has fewer law enforcement employees per capita that the nationwide share. There are only 380 people employed in law enforcement for every 100,000 state residents, over 100 fewer than the corresponding national rate.

North Dakota, Farm, Tractor
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38. North Dakota
> Violent crime rate: 265.1 per 100,000 (15th lowest)
> Murder and non-negligent manslaughter rate: 3.0 per 100,000 (19th lowest)
> Median household income: $59,029 (15th highest)
> June unemployment rate: 3.2% (5th lowest)

On the whole, North Dakota is one of the less violent states in the country. The state has one of the lowest incarceration rates in the U.S. at just 232 prisoners per 100,000 residents, lower than the national rate of 490 prisoners for every 100,000 residents. The state’s violent crime rate is below average as well.

However, gun violence is a greater problem in the state than in the nation as a whole. Approximately 57% of all suicides are gun related compared to a national proportion of 50.7%. The state’s gun suicide rate per capita of 10.6 is the 11th highest rate in the United States.

City of Bosie Idaho with modern buildings
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37. Idaho
> Violent crime rate: 212.2 per 100,000 (7th lowest)
> Murder and non-negligent manslaughter rate: 2.0 per 100,000 (9th lowest)
> Median household income: $47,861 (14th lowest)
> June unemployment rate: 3.7% (10th lowest)

Violent crime is far less common in Idaho than it is across the country as a whole. There are only about 161 incidents of aggravated assaults for every 100,000 state residents, far less than the 233 such incidents per 100,000 people nationally. Furthermore, there are only 2.0 murders for every 100,000 people annually, less than half the national murder rate.

Skyline of Hartford Connecticut on a beautiful sunny day
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36. Connecticut
> Violent crime rate: 236.9 per 100,000 (12th lowest)
> Murder and non-negligent manslaughter rate: 2.4 per 100,000 (13th lowest)
> Median household income: $70,048 (4th highest)
> June unemployment rate: 5.8% (9th highest)

Though the state was the site of the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary, one of the deadliest and most horrific in U.S. history, Connecticut is a relatively safe state. More peaceful states tend to have higher educational attainment levels, and in Connecticut, a lower than average violent crime rate is partially attributable to the 38% of adults with a bachelor’s degree, the fourth highest share of any state in the country.

Courthouse and Jailhouse Rock, Nebraska
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35. Nebraska
> Violent crime rate: 280.4 per 100,000 (18th lowest)
> Murder and non-negligent manslaughter rate: 2.9 per 100,000 (18th lowest)
> Median household income: $52,686 (24th highest)
> June unemployment rate: 3.0% (3rd lowest)

Participation in the workforce makes an individual less likely to commit crime. Nebraska’s lower than average violent crime rate is likely due in part to a high labor force participation rate and a low unemployment rate. Exactly 70% of Nebraska’s population is either employed or actively looking for a job, the third highest participation rate of any state. Additionally, only 3.0% of the state’s workforce are unemployed, far fewer than the 4.9% national unemployment rate.

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Wyoming
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34. Wyoming
> Violent crime rate: 195.5 per 100,000 (3rd lowest)
> Murder and non-negligent manslaughter rate: 2.7 per 100,000 (15th lowest)
> Median household income: $57,055 (18th highest)
> June unemployment rate: 5.7% (12th highest)

In Wyoming, 63.8% of all suicides involve a firearm, one of the highest shares of any state. Handguns are primarily purchased for self defense, and while a disproportionate number of suicides involving a firearm suggests a higher than average handgun ownership rate, Wyoming is a relatively peaceful state overall. Among other crimes, robbery, aggravated assault, and burglary are less common in Wyoming than they are across the country as a whole. Additionally, the state’s incarceration rate of 408 prisoners for every 100,000 state residents is slightly lower than the national rate of 490 prisoners per 100,000 people.

Kentucky Farm
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33. Kentucky
> Violent crime rate: 211.6 per 100,000 (6th lowest)
> Murder and non-negligent manslaughter rate: 3.6 per 100,000 (23rd lowest)
> Median household income: $42,958 (5th lowest)
> June unemployment rate: 5.0% (19th highest)

Most states are less peaceful than Kentucky. The state’s violent crime rate of 212 incidents reported for every 100,000 Kentuckians is the sixth lowest compared with other states. While peaceful states tend to have more economic opportunities, Kentucky residents are not on the whole well-off financially. Nearly one in five people live in poverty in the state, the fifth highest poverty rate of all states.

Jersey City, New Jersey
Source: Thinkstock

32. New Jersey
> Violent crime rate: 261.2 per 100,000 (14th lowest)
> Murder and non-negligent manslaughter rate: 3.9 per 100,000 (24th lowest)
> Median household income: $71,919 (2nd highest)
> June unemployment rate: 5.1% (17th highest)

A prevalence of crime often correlates to lower income, and New Jersey is home to some of the highest earners in the country. The typical New Jersey household earns $71,919 a year, far more than the $53,657 the typical American household earns. With higher incomes, state residents also have a lower crime rate. Rape, aggravated assault, burglary, motor vehicle theft, and murder are all less common in New Jersey than they are across the country as a whole.

Helena, Montana
Source: Thinkstock

31. Montana
> Violent crime rate: 323.7 per 100,000 (25th lowest)
> Murder and non-negligent manslaughter rate: 3.6 per 100,000 (23rd lowest)
> Median household income: $46,328 (10th lowest)
> June unemployment rate: 4.2% (20th lowest)

In a perfectly peaceful state, there would be no need to own firearms for personal protection. In Montana, more than half of all adults own a firearm, a larger share than in all but a handful of other states. Despite the high gun ownership rate, Montana is a relatively peaceful place. Violent crime, robbery, burglary, and motor vehicle theft are all less common in Big Sky Country than they are across the country as a whole.

Denver, Colorado 3
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30. Colorado
> Violent crime rate: 309.1 per 100,000 (23rd lowest)
> Murder and non-negligent manslaughter rate: 2.8 per 100,000 (16th lowest)
> Median household income: $61,303 (12th highest)
> June unemployment rate: 3.7% (10th lowest)

Higher educational attainment and higher incomes among a population typically correlate with a lower crime rate. In Colorado, 38.3% of adults have a bachelor’s degree, the second highest share in the country. The state’s median household income of $61,303 is nearly $8,000 more than the income a typical American household earns a year. Given the high educational attainment and relative prosperity of state residents, it is perhaps not surprising that both violent crime and property crime are less common in Colorado than they are across the country as a whole.

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Richmond, Virginia 2
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29. Virginia
> Violent crime rate: 196.2 per 100,000 (5th lowest)
> Murder and non-negligent manslaughter rate: 4.1 per 100,000 (24th highest)
> Median household income: $64,902 (8th highest)
> June unemployment rate: 3.7% (10th lowest)

There are only 196 violent crimes in Virginia each year for every 100,000 residents, fewer than in all but four other states. The low incidence of violent crime is likely due in part to the high educational attainment and a relatively low poverty rate in the state. The state’s bachelor’s degree attainment rate among adults of 36.7% is the sixth highest in the country, and only 11.8% of state residents live in poverty compared to 15.5% of Americans.

Wisconsin (farm)
Source: Thinkstock

28. Wisconsin
> Violent crime rate: 290.3 per 100,000 (21st lowest)
> Murder and non-negligent manslaughter rate: 2.9 per 100,000 (18th lowest)
> Median household income: $52,622 (25th highest)
> June unemployment rate: 4.2% (20th lowest)

Violent crime rates in many states are driven up by concentrated pockets of relatively high violence in major metropolitan areas. However, Wisconsin cities are especially safe. Of the 12 major metro areas in the state, Milwaukee is the only one with a violent crime rate that exceeds the national rate of 366 incidents per 100,000 people a year.

New York City, Manhattan
Source: Thinkstock

27. New York
> Violent crime rate: 381.8 per 100,000 (19th highest)
> Murder and non-negligent manslaughter rate: 3.1 per 100,000 (21st lowest)
> Median household income: $58,878 (16th highest)
> June unemployment rate: 4.7% (25th highest)

The violent crime rate in New York is slightly higher than the nationwide yearly rate of 366 incidents per 100,000 people. A higher prevalence of such crimes is likely partially due to some below average socioeconomic conditions. A person actively engaged in the workforce is less likely to commit crimes, and the state’s labor force participation rate of 60.8% is slightly below the 62.7% national rate. New York’s poverty rate is also slightly higher than the national rate.

New River Bridge, West Virginia
Source: Thinkstock

26. West Virginia
> Violent crime rate: 302.0 per 100,000 (22nd lowest)
> Murder and non-negligent manslaughter rate: 4.0 per 100,000 (25th highest)
> Median household income: $41,059 (2nd lowest)
> June unemployment rate: 6.0% (6th highest)

Poor socioeconomic conditions often correlate with higher incidence of crime. With the lowest labor force participation rate in the country, West Virginia’s economy is one of the nation’s worst. However, the state is not especially violent, reporting lower than average violent and property crime rates. Perhaps as a result, there are only 243 people employed in law enforcement for every 100,000 West Virginia residents, less than the national share of 282 law enforcement employees per 100,000 people.

South Dakota, Road Sign
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25. South Dakota
> Violent crime rate: 326.5 per 100,000 (25th highest)
> Murder and non-negligent manslaughter rate: 2.3 per 100,000 (11th lowest)
> Median household income: $50,979 (22nd lowest)
> June unemployment rate: 2.7% (the lowest)

There are roughly 341 people employed in law enforcement in South Dakota for every 100,000 state residents, one of the highest law enforcement employment ratios of any state in the country. While a higher than average ratio of police, corrections officers, and dispatchers is often indicative of a more dangerous state, South Dakota’s violent crime rate is slightly lower than the corresponding national rate.

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Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 2
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24. Pennsylvania
> Violent crime rate: 314.1 per 100,000 (24th lowest)
> Murder and non-negligent manslaughter rate: 4.8 per 100,000 (18th highest)
> Median household income: $53,234 (22nd highest)
> June unemployment rate: 5.6% (13th highest)

By some measures, Pennsylvania does not rank as particularly peaceful or particularly violent compared to all states. However, if the number of mass shootings is any indication of a state’s overall tendency, then Pennsylvania is somewhat peaceful — at least relative to its size. The state recorded only three mass shootings — shootings with four or more victims — so far in 2016. Pennsylvania is the sixth most populous in the country, yet 21 states have had at least four mass shootings so far this year.

Kansas
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23. Kansas
> Violent crime rate: 348.6 per 100,000 (23rd highest)
> Murder and non-negligent manslaughter rate: 3.1 per 100,000 (21st lowest)
> Median household income: $52,504 (25th lowest)
> June unemployment rate: 3.8% (13th lowest)

The share of a given population employed in law enforcement can serve as a barometer for how violent a society is, as many of those jobs are only there to fight violent crime and are themselves inherently violent. In Kansas, there are 353 people working in law enforcement for every 100,000 state residents, far more than the national ratio of 282 such employees per 100,000 people. A higher than average rate of rape, aggravated assault, and burglary Kansas is slightly more violent than the country as a whole.

Indianapolis, Indiana capital building
Source: Thinkstock

22. Indiana
> Violent crime rate: 365.3 per 100,000 (22nd highest)
> Murder and non-negligent manslaughter rate: 5.0 per 100,000 (17th highest)
> Median household income: $49,446 (18th lowest)
> June unemployment rate: 4.8% (22nd highest)

While the incidence of violent crime has declined across the country since 2010, it has actually increased in Indiana over the same time period. A relatively high crime rate in the state is driven largely by the frequency of violent crimes in Indianapolis, the largest metro area in the state. Indianapolis’s violent crime rate of 646 incidents per 100,000 people is far higher than the national violent crime rate of 366 incidents per 100,000 people.

Los Angeles, California 2
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21. California
> Violent crime rate: 396.1 per 100,000 (17th highest)
> Murder and non-negligent manslaughter rate: 4.4 per 100,000 (22nd highest)
> Median household income: $61,933 (9th highest)
> June unemployment rate: 5.4% (15th highest)

Violent crime in California is slightly more common than it is across the country as a whole. Violence is particularly problematic in California cities. Well over half of the state’s 26 major metropolitan areas have a higher violent crime rate than the national rate, with Stockton, a city with 750 reported violent crimes each year for every 100,000 residents, in the lead. Violence put San Bernardino, California in the national spotlight in December 2015 when a self radicalized state employee opened fire at an office party, perpetrating the nation’s deadliest mass shooting of that year.

Chicago, Illinois
Source: Thinkstock

20. Illinois
> Violent crime rate: 370.0 per 100,000 (21st highest)
> Murder and non-negligent manslaughter rate: 5.3 per 100,000 (15th highest)
> Median household income: $57,444 (17th highest)
> June unemployment rate: 6.2% (3rd highest)

The level of violence in Illinois is similar to that of the nation. The state has a violent crime rate of 370 incidents annually per 100,000 residents, which is in line with the national rate of 366 incidents per 100,000 residents. More than 48,000 people are incarcerated in Illinois, the eighth most in the country. However, Illinois is also a large state, and relative to its population, the state’s incarceration rate is the 30th highest in the United States.

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Biloxi Beach at Sunset, Mississippi
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19. Mississippi
> Violent crime rate: 278.5 per 100,000 (17th lowest)
> Murder and non-negligent manslaughter rate: 8.6 per 100,000 (2nd highest)
> Median household income: $39,680 (the lowest)
> June unemployment rate: 5.9% (8th highest)

Slightly less than 30% of adults nationwide own a firearm, while 42.8% of adults in Mississippi do. The greater prevalence of firearms in a state can often lead to higher rates of gun violence, both self-inflicted and otherwise. While roughly 50% of suicides nationwide are firearm-related, guns are involved in 69.1% of Mississippi’s suicides, the highest proportion in the country. The state also has the third-highest rate of firearm deaths, at 18.3 for every 100,000 residents.

Charlotte, North Carolina
Source: Thinkstock

18. North Carolina
> Violent crime rate: 329.5 per 100,000 (24th highest)
> Murder and non-negligent manslaughter rate: 5.1 per 100,000 (16th highest)
> Median household income: $46,556 (11th lowest)
> June unemployment rate: 4.9% (21st highest)

By several measures, North Carolina is less peaceful than the country as a whole. Law enforcement is an inherently violent job, and there are 373 people employed in law enforcement for every 100,000 North Carolinians, far more than the 282 per 100,000 national ratio. Additionally, while the overall violent crime rate in North Carolina is slightly lower than the national rate, homicides are more common. There are 5.1 murders a year in North Carolina for every 100,000 residents, slightly more than the corresponding national rate.

Detroit, Michigan
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17. Michigan
> Violent crime rate: 427.3 per 100,000 (13th highest)
> Murder and non-negligent manslaughter rate: 5.4 per 100,000 (14th highest)
> Median household income: $49,847 (20th lowest)
> June unemployment rate: 4.6% (24th lowest)

Michigan has one of the higher violent crime rates in the country, at 427 incidents for every 100,000 residents. Metropolitan areas such as Detroit, which has a violent crime rate of 529 incidents per 100,000 residents, drive up the state’s rate. So far in 2016, the state has had eight mass shootings, which left 13 dead and 27 wounded. Only six states have had more than eight mass shootings this year.

Albuquerque, New Mexico 2
Source: Thinkstock

16. New Mexico
> Violent crime rate: 597.4 per 100,000 (4th highest)
> Murder and non-negligent manslaughter rate: 4.8 per 100,000 (18th highest)
> Median household income: $44,803 (8th lowest)
> June unemployment rate: 6.2% (3rd highest)

Many of the most violent states, including New Mexico, are located in the Western United States. The state is one of only a dozen to report an uptick in violent crime since 2010. Today, there are 597 violent crimes in New Mexico for every 100,000 state residents, more than in all but three other states. Those who are members of the work force are less likely to commit crimes than their disengaged counterparts, and New Mexico’s labor force participation rate is one of the lowest in the country. Only 57.4% of the state’s population is either employed or actively seeking a job, a considerably smaller share than the 62.7% comparable national rate.

Country road, Texas
Source: Thinkstock

15. Texas
> Violent crime rate: 405.9 per 100,000 (15th highest)
> Murder and non-negligent manslaughter rate: 4.4 per 100,000 (22nd highest)
> Median household income: $53,035 (23rd highest)
> June unemployment rate: 4.5% (23rd lowest)

Formerly a contested territory between U.S. and Mexico, violence has a uniquely substantial role in Texas history — even by American standards. Today, the state is still among the most violent in the country. There are 406 violent crimes a year in Texas for every 100,000 residents, considerably more than the national rate of 366 incidents per 100,000 people. Texas’s incarceration rate of 616 prisoners for every 100,000 people is one of the highest in the country.

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Atlanta, Georgia 2
Source: Thinkstock

14. Georgia
> Violent crime rate: 377.3 per 100,000 (20th highest)
> Murder and non-negligent manslaughter rate: 5.7 per 100,000 (9th highest)
> Median household income: $49,321 (17th lowest)
> June unemployment rate: 5.1% (17th highest)

Incarceration rates are one way to approximate the level of violence of a given society. Though the U.S. locks up more of its citizens than any other country in the world, the incarceration rate in Georgia is even higher than the country’s as a whole. For every 100,000 state residents, 524 are serving sentences of at least a year in state prisons compared to a national incarceration rate of 490 per 100,000 people.

Baltimore, Maryland - Inner Harbor
Source: Thinkstock

13. Maryland
> Violent crime rate: 446.1 per 100,000 (10th highest)
> Murder and non-negligent manslaughter rate: 6.1 per 100,000 (5th highest)
> Median household income: $73,971 (the highest)
> June unemployment rate: 4.3% (21st lowest)

Maryland is one of the most violent states in the country, with a violent crime rate of 446 for every 100,000 residents. The incidence of violence, however, appears to be concentrated in some parts of the state. The Baltimore metropolitan area, for example, has a violent crime rate of 588.5 incidents for every 100,000 residents. Maryland spends more of its resources dealing with violence than most states. The state spends $230 per capita on its correctional institutions, the fourth highest expenditure of all states. Maryland has nearly 350 law enforcement officials per 100,000 residents, the sixth largest proportion in the country.

Sun rise over Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
Source: Thinkstock

12. Oklahoma
> Violent crime rate: 406.0 per 100,000 (14th highest)
> Murder and non-negligent manslaughter rate: 4.5 per 100,000 (21st highest)
> Median household income: $47,529 (13th lowest)
> June unemployment rate: 4.8% (22nd highest)

Oklahoma has one of the higher violent crime rates in the country, at 406 incidents for every 100,000 residents. Cases rape and aggravated assault, which fall under the umbrella of violent crime, are more common in the state than in the nation as a whole.

Even for a place where crime is relatively common, Oklahoma incarcerates a disproportionately large share of its residents. For every 100,000 residents, there are 713 inmates of state correctional facilities in Oklahoma, a higher share than in all but two states.

Birmingham, Alabama cloudy
Source: Thinkstock

11. Alabama
> Violent crime rate: 427.4 per 100,000 (12th highest)
> Murder and non-negligent manslaughter rate: 5.7 per 100,000 (9th highest)
> Median household income: $42,830 (4th lowest)
> June unemployment rate: 6.0% (6th highest)

Many of the most violent states, including Alabama, are in the South. In a perfectly peaceful society, no one would own a gun. Handguns are primarily purchased for self defense, and a disproportionate number of suicides involving a firearm suggests a higher than average handgun ownership rate. In Alabama, 68.4% of all suicides involved a firearm, the second highest rate of any state in the country.

Yet another indication that Alabama is an especially violent state is the high incarceration rate. For every 100,000 state residents, 655 are serving a sentence of at least a year in a state prison, the fifth highest incarceration rate in the country.

Arizona 2
Source: Thinkstock

10. Arizona
> Violent crime rate: 399.9 per 100,000 (16th highest)
> Murder and non-negligent manslaughter rate: 4.7 per 100,000 (20th highest)
> Median household income: $50,068 (21st lowest)
> June unemployment rate: 5.8% (9th highest)

Arizona is the 10th least peaceful state in the nation. In addition to an above-average violent crime rate, the incidences of property crime, larceny, and motor vehicle theft in Arizona are each among the 10 highest compared with other states. So far this year, data collection and research group Gun Violence Archive has tracked four mass shootings in the state in which a total of 12 people were killed. Just seven other states have had a higher number of deaths from mass shootings.

To contain such high levels of violence, Arizona needs to retain large law enforcement operations. For every 100,000 Arizona residents there are 339 law enforcement workers employed in the state. Also, 628 prisoners are held under state jurisdiction — the ninth and sixth highest numbers of all states.

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Charleston Sunset, South Carolina
Source: Thinkstock

9. South Carolina
> Violent crime rate: 497.7 per 100,000 (7th highest)
> Murder and non-negligent manslaughter rate: 6.4 per 100,000 (4th highest)
> Median household income: $45,238 (9th lowest)
> June unemployment rate: 5.4% (15th highest)

Over the last five years, crime dropped by 100 incidents per 100,000 South Carolina residents, one of the best improvements of any state. Still, in a given year, nearly 500 violent crimes are reported per 100,000 people in the state, the seventh highest violent crime rate. The violent crime rates in all six South Carolina metro areas tracked by the FBI are well above the national violent crime rate. In the Sumter area, there are 666 violent crimes per 100,000 metro residents, one of the highest rates in the country.

The presence of firearms not only tends to increase the likelihood of violence, but also may reflect the fear of those who possess firearms for self defense. South Carolina’s gun ownership rate of 44.4% is well above the 29.1% of adults nationwide who say they live in a household with at least one firearm.

Miami, Florida dark palm trees
Source: Thinkstock

8. Florida
> Violent crime rate: 540.5 per 100,000 (5th highest)
> Murder and non-negligent manslaughter rate: 5.8 per 100,000 (7th highest)
> Median household income: $47,463 (12th lowest)
> June unemployment rate: 4.7% (25th highest)

So far this year, 16 mass shootings have been documented in Florida. While this is less than in California and Illinois, the 131 people injured and 67 killed in these incidents are by far the highest of any state. The 50 people killed in Orlando in June dwarfs the death toll from mass shootings in any state in recent memory.

Florida was not an especially safe state even before the shootings. The latest violent crime rate pegs Florida in fifth place, with 541 violent crimes reported per 100,000 people. The incidences of robbery, aggravated assault, and property crime are also each fifth highest compared with other states.

St. Louis, Missouri
Source: Thinkstock

7. Missouri
> Violent crime rate: 442.9 per 100,000 (11th highest)
> Murder and non-negligent manslaughter rate: 6.6 per 100,000 (3rd highest)
> Median household income: $48,363 (15th lowest)
> June unemployment rate: 4.5% (23rd lowest)

Missouri has one of the highest violent crime rates in the country and the third highest murder rate. The state’s two largest metropolitan areas — Kansas City and St. Louis — appear to be driving these figures up, with rates of 482 and 430 incidents per 100,000 people, respectively. Ferguson, Missouri was also recently at the center of the debate about police violence against black Americans after an officer shot unarmed 18 year old Michael Brown. In March 2015, in light of the shooting and protests, the Federal Department of Justice sued the city, citing serious flaws in its policing practices. The lawsuit was resolved in March, with Ferguson agreeing to reform its criminal justice system. There are 335 law enforcement officials in Missouri for every 100,000 residents, the 10th highest share in the country.

Evening in Little Rock, Arkansas.
Source: Thinkstock

6. Arkansas
> Violent crime rate: 480.1 per 100,000 (9th highest)
> Murder and non-negligent manslaughter rate: 5.6 per 100,000 (12th highest)
> Median household income: $41,262 (3rd lowest)
> June unemployment rate: 3.8% (13th lowest)

A person who is either employed or actively seeking work is less likely to commit violent crimes than someone who is completely disengaged. In Arkansas, only 58.7% of the population participates in the labor force, one of the smallest shares of any U.S. state. A highly educated population also tends to be more peaceful. However, only 21.4% of Arkansas adults have a bachelor’s degree, a smaller share than in all but two other states.

With relatively weak workforce engagement as well as low educational attainment rates, Arkansas has one of the highest violent crime rates in the country. There are 480 violent crimes for every 100,000 state residents a year in Arkansas, far more than the national rate of 366 incidents per 100,000 people.

Casinos on the strip at night in Las Vegas, Nevada, USA
Source: Thinkstock

5. Nevada
> Violent crime rate: 635.6 per 100,000 (2nd highest)
> Murder and non-negligent manslaughter rate: 6.0 per 100,000 (6th highest)
> Median household income: $51,450 (24th lowest)
> June unemployment rate: 6.4% (2nd highest)

Nevada’s violent crime rate of 636 incidents per 100,000 state residents is higher than in every other state except for Alaska. In a given year, there are 6.0 murders per 100,000 Nevadans, the sixth highest murder rate. The state also leads nation with 210 robberies reported per 100,000 people, more than double the national robbery rate.

Because high levels of unemployment are associated with suicide, higher incidence of domestic abuse, and crime, a weak economy can exacerbate violence. Like a number of other violent states, Nevada’s unemployment rate of 6.4% is one of the highest compared with other states.

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Wilmington, Delaware Memorial Bridge
Source: Thinkstock

4. Delaware
> Violent crime rate: 489.1 per 100,000 (8th highest)
> Murder and non-negligent manslaughter rate: 5.8 per 100,000 (7th highest)
> Median household income: $59,716 (14th highest)
> June unemployment rate: 4.2% (20th lowest)

Among the nation’s least peaceful states, Delaware has an exceptionally low gun ownership rate. At just 5.2% of adults, it is the lowest of all states. The lack of firearms, however, has not lowered the levels of violence in the state. The violent crime rate, at 489 incidents per 100,000 state residents is among the highest in the country. The state also imprisons a relatively large number of its citizens, a further indication of unrest and one of the major costs state governments incur in containing high levels of violence. For every 100,000 Delaware residents, there are 743 prisoners in state correctional facilities, the highest such figure after only Louisiana.

While it is among the most violent states in the country, Delaware has become much more peaceful in recent years. The state’s violent crime rate dropped by 132 incidents per 100,000 people since 2010, the largest drop of any state.

Gaitlinburg, Tennessee night driving
Source: Thinkstock

3. Tennessee
> Violent crime rate: 608.4 per 100,000 (3rd highest)
> Murder and non-negligent manslaughter rate: 5.7 per 100,000 (9th highest)
> Median household income: $44,361 (6th lowest)
> June unemployment rate: 4.1% (16th lowest)

More than half of the 20 least peaceful states are located in the South, and Tennessee stands out as one of the least peaceful states in the region. The state reports 608 violent crimes committed per 100,000 people in a year, the third highest rate compared with other states. The high level of violence in Tennessee is driven by a nation-leading aggravated assault rate of 453 reported incidents per 100,000 state residents. By contrast, there are 233 assaults per 100,000 people nationwide.

Unlike a number of other violent states, the incarceration rate in Tennessee, at 439 per 100,000 people, is lower than the national rate. Still, there is a considerable cost to containing violence in the state. For every 100,000 Tennesseans, there are 408 law enforcement workers, the second highest employment level of any state.

Sitka - Alaska
Source: Thinkstock

2. Alaska
> Violent crime rate: 635.8 per 100,000 (the highest)
> Murder and non-negligent manslaughter rate: 5.6 per 100,000 (12th highest)
> Median household income: $71,583 (3rd highest)
> June unemployment rate: 6.7% (the highest)

It may be hard to believe that Alaska, home to some of the most remote and expansive stretches of wilderness in the world, is the second least peaceful state in the nation. While crime levels have dropped across the nation, Alaska’s violent crime rate has remained roughly unchanged in recent years. Today, at 636 reported incidents per 100,000 state residents, Alaska has the highest violent crime rate in the nation. In a perfectly peaceful state, no one would own a gun for self defense. The presence of firearms not only increases the risk of violent incidents, but also reflects fear among gun owners and can cause fear in others. In Alaska, 61.7% of adults live in households with at least one firearm, the highest gun ownership rate of all states.

Unlike most of the nation’s least peaceful states, Alaska residents are relatively well-off financially. The typical household earns $71,583, the third highest median household income of all states.

Louisiana bayou and cypress trees
Source: Thinkstock

1. Louisiana
> Violent crime rate: 514.7 per 100,000 (6th highest)
> Murder and non-negligent manslaughter rate: 10.3 per 100,000 (the highest)
> Median household income: $44,555 (7th lowest)
> June unemployment rate: 6.2% (3rd highest)

In stark contrast with northeastern states, the southern region of the United States is home to the nation’s least peaceful communities. Chief among them is Louisiana, where crime levels remain among the highest in the country. It is the only state in the country with a murder rate of more than 10 homicides per 100,000 residents. Mass shootings — single incidents with at least four shooting victims — are also relatively common in Louisiana. So far this year alone, there have been eight documented mass shootings, which left 31 injured and nine dead. Only six other states have reported greater numbers of injuries from mass shootings in 2016.

Violence in a community often helps to perpetuate poverty, which in turn can exacerbate conditions that trigger violent acts. Nearly 20% of the population lives in poverty in Louisiana, the third highest rate of all states.

Methodology

To identify the most violent and most peaceful states, 24/7 Wall St. created an index based on five measures. We were inspired by the 2012 United States Peace Index from the Institute for Economics & Peace, and emulated the Institute’s methodology in order to rank states from most peaceful to most violent. We gave full weight in the index to two of the five measures: the number of murders and the number of violent crimes (excluding murder) per 100,000 people, both of which came from the FBI’s 2014 Uniform Crime Report. Law enforcement employment per 100,000 state residents, which includes civilian employees such as dispatchers and administrators, was given a three-quarter weighting and also came from the FBI. Incarceration rates, which capture state prisons only, were given a three-quarter weighting and came from the Bureau of Justice Statistics. Firearm suicides as a percent of total suicides are for 2010 through 2014 to adjust for outliers and are from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This was the fifth component of the index and received a one-quarter weight. In the absence of accurate counts of small arms in U.S. households, this measure is closely correlated to and widely used as an approximation of small arms possession because firearms used in suicides are disproportionately small arms. These data sets are frequently based on disparate and inconsistent population totals, so all rates for the purposes of this index were calculated based on 2013 ACS population counts.

In addition to these indexed measures, we reviewed the gun ownership rate in each state as of 2013 obtained from a study published in 2015 from the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University. The survey asked state residents whether they live in a household with at least one firearm of any kind.

Poverty rates, median household incomes, and the percentages of adults with at least a high school diploma or with at least a college degree in each state came from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2014 American Community Survey.

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