The U.S. violent crime rate — an annual, population-adjusted measure of cases of rаpe, robbery, aggravated assault, and homicide — climbed by 5% in 2020. The increase was driven by a rise in aggravated assault and, most notably, a historic 29% surge in homicides that made 2020 the deadliest year in the United States since the mid-1990s.
Despite the largest single-year increase in homicides on record, the overall violent crime rate in 2020 is relatively low by historical standards. There were 1.3 million violent crimes reported in the U.S. in 2020, or 399 for every 100,000 people. For context, the violent crime rate ranged between 523 and 758 incidents per 100,000 throughout the 1990s.
Of course, crime is a local phenomenon influenced by a wide range of factors at the national, state, community, and even household level. As a result, violent crime rates in the U.S. can vary considerably from place to place — and in some parts of the country, violent crime rates far exceed the national average and are more reminiscent of the nation-level highs recorded in decades past.
Using data from the FBI’s 2020 Uniform Crime Report, 24/7 Wall St. identified America’s most dangerous states. States are ranked by the violent crime rate — specifically, the number of violent crimes reported for every 100,000 residents.
Explanations for the high levels of violence in some parts of the country are varied and complex. Major current events that have impacted the entire country — such as the COVID-19 pandemic and unrest fueled by the murder of George Floyd — have likely played a role in some places. Other factors, such as a lack of economic opportunity, are more endemic.
Low-income communities in the United States are disproportionately burdened by crime. One study found that individuals with family incomes of less than $15,000 annually are three times more likely to be victimized by crime than those with family incomes of $75,000 or more. More times than not, states that have higher than average violent crime rates are also home to higher shares of residents living on poverty-level income than the 12.3% U.S. poverty rate, while lower-crime states typically have smaller low-income populations. Here is a look at the city hit hardest by extreme poverty in every state.
To determine the most dangerous states, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed violent crime figures from the FBI’s 2020 Uniform Crime Report. Violent crime includes murder, non-negligent manslaughter, rаpe, robbery, and aggravated assault. The rate of violent crimes per 100,000 people was calculated using population data from the FBI.
Limited data were available in the 2020 UCR for areas in Alabama, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Illinois, though these states were not excluded from analysis.
Additional information on the number of murders also came from the 2020 FBI UCR. Poverty rates are one-year estimates from the 2019 American Community Survey from the Census Bureau.