Special Report

America's Most Violent (and Peaceful) States

Source: Thinkstock

25. California
> Violent crime rate: 426.3 per 100,000 (13th highest)
> Murder rate: 4.8 per 100,000 (22nd highest)
> Median household income: $64,500 (9th highest)
> May unemployment rate: 4.7% (13th highest)

California has one of the higher violent crime rates in the country, with 427 reported murders, rapes, robberies and aggravated assaults per 100,000 people. However, the state’s violence is far from evenly distributed across its area. In fact, about 98% of the state’s murders and violent crimes occur in the state’s major metropolitan areas — such as Stockton-Lodi, one of the most dangerous metro areas in the country.

While violent crime is high, suicide, a form of violence, is relatively uncommon in the Golden State. About 10.5 suicides occur in the state annually per 100,000 residents, fewer than in all but six other states.

Source: Thinkstock

24. Illinois
> Violent crime rate: 383.8 per 100,000 (21st highest)
> Murder rate: 5.8 per 100,000 (14th highest)
> Median household income: $59,588 (18th highest)
> May unemployment rate: 4.6% (16th highest)

When it comes to violence in the United States, many Americans may immediately think of Chicago, a city plagued by gun violence. Every two and a half hours someone is shot in Chicago — and year-to-date, 336 people have been shot to death in the city. Indeed, about 94% of all homicides in the state occur in major metropolitan areas.

However, as a whole, Illinois closely resembles the nation. The state’s violent crime rate of 384 incidents per 100,000 is only slightly higher than the U.S. violent crime rate. Additionally, only 26.2% of Illinois residents belong to households that own a firearm, one of the lower shares among all states.

Source: Thinkstock

23. North Carolina
> Violent crime rate: 347.0 per 100,000 (25th lowest)
> Murder rate: 5.1 per 100,000 (18th highest)
> Median household income: $47,830 (10th lowest)
> May unemployment rate: 4.5% (17th highest)

A perfectly peaceful state would not have a need for police officers — and North Carolina has a relatively large police force. There are about 341 law enforcement employees for every 100,000 state residents, more than in all but five other states.

Despite the high share of state residents working in law enforcement, violent crime as a whole is slightly less common in the state than it is across the nation as a whole. Homicide, however, is slightly more common in North Carolina. There were 5.1 murders in the state for every 100,000 people in 2015 compared to 4.9 murders per 100,000 nationwide.

Source: Thinkstock

22. Kentucky
> Violent crime rate: 218.7 per 100,000 (7th lowest)
> Murder rate: 4.7 per 100,000 (23rd highest)
> Median household income: $45,215 (5th lowest)
> May unemployment rate: 5.0% (5th highest)

Kentucky’s violent crime rate of 219 incidents per 100,000 residents is one of the lowest in the country. Despite its low violent crime rate, Kentucky is not ranked among the most peaceful states.

This is in part because of the state’s high firearm ownership as well as a high incarceration rates. There are over 760 people imprisoned in the state per 100,000 people, ninth highest among states. Firearms ownership is relatively high in the state, and guns account for about two-thirds of Kentucky suicides. Nationwide, guns are involved in about half of all suicides.

Source: Thinkstock

21. Kansas
> Violent crime rate: 389.9 per 100,000 (19th highest)
> Murder rate: 4.4 per 100,000 (25th lowest)
> Median household income: $53,906 (24th lowest)
> May unemployment rate: 3.7% (17th lowest)

A slightly higher than typical share of Kansas residents, at 32.2%, live in gun-owning households. Perhaps due in part to their increased prevalence, guns are involved in a majority of murders in Kansas. Some 73% of homicides in the state are carried out with a firearm, a larger share than in all but a dozen other states. Still, murder is slightly less common in Kansas than it is across the United States. There were 4.4 homicides in the state for every 100,000 residents in 2015 compared to 4.9 murders per 100,000 people nationwide.

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