Special Report

America's Most Violent (and Peaceful) States

Source: Thinkstock

30. Wisconsin
> Violent crime rate: 305.8 per 100,000 (21st lowest)
> Murder rate: 4.2 per 100,000 (23rd lowest)
> Median household income: $55,638 (23rd highest)
> May unemployment rate: 3.1% (9th lowest)

There were 306 violent crimes reported in Wisconsin per 100,000 residents, less than the national rate of 373 incidents per 100,000. The state does not have as many dangerous large urban areas, which tend to drive up crime rates across states. While the Milwaukee-Waukesha-West Allis metropolitan area is one of the most dangerous cities in the U.S., the violent crime in the rest of the state’s metro areas is a combined 185 incidents per 100,000 residents, less than half the national rate.

Unlike the United States as a whole, Wisconsin’s prison population has been increasing in recent years and is set to reach a record size by 2019. Today, 606 in every 100,000 Wisconsin residents are incarcerated in a state prison, in line with the national incarceration rate.

Source: Thinkstock

29. Ohio
> Violent crime rate: 291.9 per 100,000 (19th lowest)
> Murder rate: 4.3 per 100,000 (24th lowest)
> Median household income: $51,075 (17th lowest)
> May unemployment rate: 4.9% (7th highest)

As is the case in many states, violent crime and homicides are largely confined to major cities in Ohio. Toledo is the most dangerous city the state and one of the most dangerous in the country, with some 1,129 violent crimes reported for every 100,000 residents. Cities like Dayton and Cincinnati also have violent crime rates that are well more than double the U.S. violent crime rate of 373 incidents per 100,000. Across the state, about 9 in every 10 violent crimes take place in a metropolitan area.

Balanced out by lower incidences outside of major urban centers, the violent crime across Ohio as a whole is not especially high. At 292 incidents per 100,000 people, violent crime is less common in Ohio than in most other states.

Source: Thinkstock

28. Montana
> Violent crime rate: 349.6 per 100,000 (25th highest)
> Murder rate: 3.5 per 100,000 (19th lowest)
> Median household income: $49,509 (14th lowest)
> May unemployment rate: 3.9% (20th lowest)

Higher educational attainment rates typically line up with lower violent crime rates. In Montana, about 94% of adults have graduated from high school, the largest share among states. Still, the state’s violent crime rate of 350 incidents per 100,000 is only slightly below the U.S. rate of 373 per 100,000.

Despite less violent crime per capita, a relatively large share of state residents feels the need to have a gun in the house. Some 52.3% of state residents live in households with a firearm, the sixth highest gun ownership rate of all states.

Source: Thinkstock

27. West Virginia
> Violent crime rate: 337.9 per 100,000 (24th lowest)
> Murder rate: 3.8 per 100,000 (21st lowest)
> Median household income: $42,019 (3rd lowest)
> May unemployment rate: 4.5% (17th highest)

West Virginia is about average compared to the rest of the country when it comes to violent crime and murder rates. The state, however, has an issue with suicide, particularly suicide with a gun. The state has the fifth highest annual firearm suicide rate among all states, at 10.8 self-inflicted gun deaths per 100,000 residents.

Higher gun suicide rates tend to occur in states with higher gun ownership, and in West Virginia, more than half of all individuals live in a household where a firearm is present, the fourth largest share of any state. While West Virginians are more likely to commit suicide with a gun, firearms tend to be less involved in murders in the state. Only about half of all homicides in the state involve a gun, one of the smaller shares nationwide.

Source: Thinkstock

26. South Dakota
> Violent crime rate: 383.1 per 100,000 (22nd highest)
> Murder rate: 3.7 per 100,000 (20th lowest)
> Median household income: $53,017 (23rd lowest)
> May unemployment rate: 2.9% (6th lowest)

South Dakota’s violent crime rate of 383 incidents per 100,000 people is roughly in line with the corresponding national rate. Though the state has a slightly higher gun ownership rate than the nation as a whole, only 44% of all homicides in South Dakota were carried out with a firearm, a smaller share than in all but two other states.

As is the case nationwide, aggravated assault drives South Dakota’s violent crime rate. However, rape contributes more than the typical share to overall violent crime in the state. There were 58 rapes for every 100,000 people in the state in 2015, more than in all but six other states.

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