Special Report

America's Most Violent (and Peaceful) States

Boston, Massachusetts
Source: Thinkstock

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.

Providence, Rhode Island 4
Source: Thinkstock

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
Source: Thinkstock

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
Source: Thinkstock

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
Source: Thinkstock

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.

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