America’s Most Violent (and Peaceful) States

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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.