Special Report

America's Most Violent (and Peaceful) States

Source: Thinkstock

5. Tennessee
> Violent crime rate: 612.1 per 100,000 (4th highest)
> Murder rate: 6.2 per 100,000 (10th highest)
> Median household income: $47,275 (9th lowest)
> May unemployment rate: 4.0% (21st lowest)

Aggravated assault is more common in Tennessee than in nearly every other state. There were 452 instances of aggravated assault for every 100,000 Tennessee residents in 2015, the highest share of any state other than Alaska. Driven by aggravated assault, Tennessee has the fourth highest violent crime rate in the country.

As is the case nationwide, violent crime in Tennessee is largely concentrated in major metropolitan areas. Across the broader Memphis metro area, there were 1,041 violent crimes for every 100,000 residents in 2015 — a higher violent crime rate than in all but two other metro areas nationwide.

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4. Nevada
> Violent crime rate: 695.9 per 100,000 (2nd highest)
> Murder rate: 6.2 per 100,000 (9th highest)
> Median household income: $52,431 (22nd lowest)
> May unemployment rate: 4.7% (13th highest)

Crime rates are often higher in states with less economic opportunity and lower educational attainment. In Nevada, just 23.6% of adults have a bachelor’s degree, far less than the 30.6% national rate and the sixth least of any state. Additionally, 4.7% of the state’s labor force is unemployed, one of the higher jobless rates of any state. There were 696 violent crimes per 100,000 residents in 2015, the most of any state other than Louisiana.

One of the largest drivers of crime in Nevada are the state’s urban areas. There were 814 violent crimes reported per 100,000 residents in the Las Vegas-Henderson-Paradise metro area in 2015, the eighth most of any U.S. metro area. In total, 96.5% of violent crimes documented by the FBI in Nevada were reported in the state’s metro areas, one of the largest shares of any state.

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3. Alabama
> Violent crime rate: 472.4 per 100,000 (10th highest)
> Murder rate: 7.2 per 100,000 (7th highest)
> Median household income: $44,765 (4th lowest)
> May unemployment rate: 4.9% (7th highest)

Alabama is one of many poor Southern states with a high violent crime and incarceration rate. There were 472 violent crimes per 100,000 Alabama residents in 2015, the 10th most of any state. While the state’s prison population has declined slightly in recent years, today 883 in every 100,000 Alabama residents are incarcerated in state prisons, the fourth most nationwide.

Firearms cause more deaths in Alabama than in nearly any other state. While guns are used in 50.7% of all suicides nationwide, in Alabama guns are used in 69.0% of all suicides, the second largest share of any state. Overall, 20 in every 100,000 Alabama residents were mortally wounded by a gun in 2015, the third most firearm victims per capita nationwide.

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2. Alaska
> Violent crime rate: 730.2 per 100,000 (the highest)
> Murder rate: 8.0 per 100,000 (6th highest)
> Median household income: $73,355 (3rd highest)
> May unemployment rate: 6.7% (the highest)

Alaska’s violent crime rate of 730 incidents per 100,000 people is the highest of any state and is nearly double the national rate. The FBI Uniform Crime rate includes rape, robbery, aggravated assault, and murder as violent crimes, and the state ranks worst in the country in both aggravated assault and rape. Particularly egregious, the state’s rape rate of 122 reported incidents per 100,000 people is more than triple the U.S. figure.

Potentially related to the state’s high level of violence is the availability of firearms. An estimated 61.7% of Alaska’s households own a gun, the highest share among states. The state also has the highest rate of firearm deaths, accidental or otherwise, per 100,000 people.

Source: Thinkstock

1. Louisiana
> Violent crime rate: 539.7 per 100,000 (5th highest)
> Murder rate: 10.3 per 100,000 (the highest)
> Median household income: $45,727 (7th lowest)
> May unemployment rate: 5.7% (3rd highest)

Louisiana ranks as the most violent state in the country. This is largely due to the state’s nation-leading homicide rate, which at 10.3 murders and incidents of nonnegligent manslaughter per 100,000 people is more than double the national murder rate. Approximately 80% of homicides in the state are carried out with handguns, one of the larger shares of any state. Firearms also account for about two-thirds of all suicides in the state, the third largest share nationwide..

Louisiana’s incarceration rate is also nation-leading, with 1,049 people imprisoned in the state for every 100,000 residents. Louisiana is one of only two states, along with Oklahoma, to have an incarceration rate in excess of 1,000 per 100,000 people.

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