Special Report

America's Most Violent (and Peaceful) States

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40. Iowa
> Violent crime rate: 286.1 per 100,000 (18th lowest)
> Murder rate: 2.3 per 100,000 (8th lowest)
> Median household income: $54,736 (25th highest)
> May unemployment rate: 3.1% (9th lowest)

An area’s economy can be a bellwether for the prevalence of crime. In Iowa, a strong job market may partially explain relatively peaceful conditions. Only 3.1% of the state’s workforce is out of a job, well below the 4.3% unemployment rate nationwide. Similarly, there were only 286 violent crimes for every 100,000 residents in 2015 compared to 373 violent crimes per 100,000 nationwide.

While safer states tend to have fewer firearms, Iowa is an exception. More than 1 in 3 Iowans are part of households that own a gun, a slightly larger share than the 29.1% national gun ownership rate.

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39. North Dakota
> Violent crime rate: 239.4 per 100,000 (10th lowest)
> Murder rate: 2.8 per 100,000 (13th lowest)
> Median household income: $60,557 (16th highest)
> May unemployment rate: 2.5% (2nd lowest)

Over the past decade, an oil boom in North Dakota has led to increased economic activity and population throughout the state. While areas with greater wealth and prosperity tend to have less crime, the income growth in North Dakota has led to a substantial increase in both violent and property-related offenses. Drug use and arrests have risen, and there were 21 homicides reported in 2015 — the most since 1993.

Despite the spike in crime, North Dakota is still among the safest U.S. states. There were 239 violent crimes per 100,000 state residents in total in 2015, far less than the national rate of 373 incidents per 100,000 Americans. The state’s prison population is also relatively small. Roughly 423 in every 100,000 North Dakotans is in a state prison, approximately 70% of the U.S. incarceration rate.

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38. Washington
> Violent crime rate: 284.4 per 100,000 (17th lowest)
> Murder rate: 2.9 per 100,000 (14th lowest)
> Median household income: $64,129 (10th highest)
> May unemployment rate: 4.5% (17th highest)

Washington state is more peaceful than the country as a whole and is one of the most peaceful states in the Western United States. There were only 284 violent crimes for every 100,000 state residents in 2015 compared to 373 incidents per 100,000 people nationwide.

Less violent states tend to have higher levels of educational attainment, and Washington is no exception. Some 34.2% of adults in the state have at least a bachelor’s degree, and 90.8% have at least a high school diploma — each above the corresponding national shares of 30.6% and 87.1% respectively.

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37. Oregon
> Violent crime rate: 259.8 per 100,000 (14th lowest)
> Murder rate: 2.5 per 100,000 (10th lowest)
> Median household income: $54,148 (25th lowest)
> May unemployment rate: 3.6% (15th lowest)

There were 99 homicides in Oregon in 2015 — or 2.5 murders per 100,000 residents, among the lowest of all states.

A number of socioeconomic measures, including educational attainment rates and job availability, are tied to less violence in a given geography. Some 32.2% of adults in Oregon have at least a bachelor’s degree, and 90.0% have at least a high school diploma — each above the respective national shares of 30.6% and 87.1%. Additionally, only 3.6% of Oregon’s workforce are out of a job, a considerably smaller share than the 4.3% U.S. unemployment rate.

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36. New York
> Violent crime rate: 379.7 per 100,000 (23rd highest)
> Murder rate: 3.1 per 100,000 (15th lowest)
> Median household income: $60,850 (15th highest)
> May unemployment rate: 4.4% (20th highest)

Approximately 40% of the New York state population lives in New York City, where 586 violent crimes were reported per 100,000 residents in 2015 — far more than the 373 incidents per 100,000 Americans reported nationwide. Across the state, however, the violent crime rate is roughly in line with the nation as a whole. There were 380 violent crimes reported in the state per 100,000 residents.

Like a number of states, New York’s prison population has declined in recent years as the result of reduced crime and criminal justice reform policies that reclassify some non-violent felonies as misdemeanors. Today, 383 in every 100,000 New Yorkers are in state prison, the second lowest incarceration rate of any state where violent crime per capita exceeds the U.S. as a whole.