Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Study: Most and Least Violent States (Groobiecat Edition)

"Oooh, guns, guns, guns!" (source: Robocop clip)
Okay, so, there's a new study out that listed the most violent and least violent states in the US. The study by the Institute for Economics and Peace assessed factors such as number of homicides and violent crimes, the incarceration rate, the number of police, and the availability of small arms. The study  also concluded the following:
"The 2012 United States Peace Index (USPI) has found that  the U.S. is more peaceful now than at any other time over the last twenty years."
Okay, that's great news! According to its authors, the study "is the only statistical analysis of crime, and the cost of crime, in all 50 states," including the 61 most populous metropolitan areas, and concluded the following:
  • Maine is the most peaceful state for the 11th consecutive year; Louisiana is the least peaceful state.
  • Wyoming has improved the most while Arizona records the biggest fall.
  • The Cambridge metro area is the most peaceful, while Detroit is the least.
  • Further improvements in peacefulness would generate hundreds of billions in extra economic activity.
Although these are interesting data (Cambridge ain't cheap, but Detroit, my old hometown, very much is), I wondered about the states that are the least peaceful (also known as the most violent) and other factors associated with those states (like what else do we know about them?) So, without further ado, I give you Groobiecat's extended analysis on the study's findings:

Most and least violent states? Pretty much an easily predicted geographic conclusion.
With one exception--Utah (which is neither north nor south)--the difference between the most peaceful states and the most violent is a very North/South reality. Note too that of the most violent states, four of them are known for having the most gun-related deaths (based on 2010 data). Also, four of the top ten most peaceful states are in New England. Just sayin'.
Graphic: Groobiecat
Violent States Data Source:
Gun Deaths Statitics Data Source:
So, where are the states with Stand Your Ground Laws? They're pretty much the same as the most violent states.
As you may have heard, stand your ground laws enable those who have guns to use them with deadly force if they feel that their life is endangered by another. This is a pretty broad-brush stroke law that has led to a number of deaths that may have possibly been avoided. Click here for a summary of who and what is behind this legislation, which has become law in many states--not just the most violent. Here are 10 reasons to repeal the laws, which enable the person who does the shooting/remains standing at the end of an altercation, to essentially determine the outcome of the case, especially if there are no other witnesses (i.e., your word against the dead guy's that your life was threatened).

With two exceptions--New Hampshire and North Dakota--none of the top ten most peaceful states have stand your ground laws. On the other hand, all of the most violent states have them: 
Graphic: Groobiecat
Data Source:

The most violent states with the majority of gun-related deaths. Got it. So how did they vote in 2008?
Um. Yeah.
Graphic: Groobiecat
Hmmm. States with lots of guns and violence tend to vote republican. Makes sense.


  1. Great work here. I don't know why people can't see what is in front of them.

  2. States with low population density and a homogeneous ethnic composition have the lowest violence figures. The North-South divide is basically the less-diverse/more-diverse divide. You really should correct your stats to account for ethnicity as a covariate and see how the States stack up. Also, the drug smuggling from the south is, I'm guessing, pretty clearly reflected here as well. If violent cartels started smuggling lots of hard drugs via Canada, well, I bet the violence measures would drastically rise along the border.

    Also, enactment of SYG laws doesn't increase total homicide, which continues to decline in States like FL to lows not seen in decades. What it does is increase the number of justified homicides, which is exactly what one would expect when expanding the definition of what constitutes a justified homicide. Also note that domestic violence has driven some of the SYG and Castle Doctrine legislation, since it is unreasonable to expect retreat in most domestic violence situations.

  3. Anonymous, first, thanks for your comment.

    I will do more research on this subject and update this post to 2.0, but I think your conclusions are wrong--to wit, "it's a black and white thing." Your "more diverse/less diverse divide and references to "ethnic composition" are really just euphemistic code for "the more white, the less violent." A preliminary review of the data conclude that this is simply not true. In Missouri, for example, 4.9 million whites live there compared to 690,000 blacks, yet more blacks are killed by almost three times the number of whites. In the most violent state, Louisiana, whites comprise 2.8 million to 1.4 million blacks--exactly 50% more whites live there--yet 26.5 of every 100,000 whites are killed compared to 13.8 of every 100,000 blacks.

    The real data to address the "why" are listed in the study itself:

    Peace is linked to economic opportunity, health, education, and social capital. The 2011 USPI found a strong correlation between peace and a number of secondary factors, which has been reinforced by the 2012 USPI. More peaceful states tend to have more economic opportunities, better provision of basic services and higher levels of educational attainment. In addition, the 2012 USPI
    has found there is a strong correlation between social capital and peace. More peaceful states tend to have more social capital which represents a better sense of community, and higher rates of volunteerism. (

    Second, as for the violent drug cartels, it's clear that violence has increased. What's not clear is whether the non-border states are experiencing it in any way. Texas and Arizona? Most likely yes. All the other states? Alasska? South Carolina? Missouri? Tennessee? Not likely at all. Again, for the real reasons behind the violence, see above.

    As for stand your ground laws, I just found that to be an interesting coincidence, if not an outright correlation. SYG is the product of an extremist, fear-driven conservative policy agenda, and each of these states tend to be republican, demographically speaking, and they also tend to be the most violent. They also tend to have very poor populations, and that's the main reason they're violent.

    SYG and castle doctrine may have a domestic component, but even in Florida, a woman there has been incarcerated for shooting a weapon into the ceiling to scare away her husband who was under a restraining order and threatening to harm her. I won't include link here, it's easily googled, but SYG is a clearly bad idea (many police are publicly against it), and is obviously not being applied equally.


  4. Thanks for a civil, reasoned response. I wouldn't disagree at all with the contention that peace is linked to economics, health, education, and social capital. I would say that list isn't exhaustive, though.

    To your response, I'm not saying black/white. I'm saying different ethnic groups. Serb/Muslim if you look elsewhere, for example. Also, you don't want to look at the victims' ethnicity, you want to see the ethnicity of whoever is doing the killing.

    Let me give you an example of how this works in a more controlled arena. There is a correlation between ethnicity and average scores on intelligence tests--to be sure, I'm not at all saying this is an innate difference, simply that for whatever reason (opportunity, culture, socioeconomic status) the difference exists. Let's look at Texas (ranked 47th in ACT/SAT scores) and Wisconsin (ranked 2nd in ACT/SAT scores). Clearly, WI rus a better school system, right? Well, no. The National Assessment of Educational Progress is designed specifically for comparisons between States. The NAEP scores are broken down by ethnicity, and when we compare whites to whites, TX beats WI in the NAEP. Comparing blacks to blacks, TX beats WI scores. Comparing Hispanic to Hispanic, TX beats WI scores (except 4th grade Science, but TX is back on top by the 8th grade). The gap between black and white scores is *smaller* in TX than in WI. In every case, blacks, whites, and Hispanics are better off in TX schools than WI schools, at least as far as NAEP scores show. The point? Statistics are tricky, and combined ACT/SAT scores (or NAEP scores, for that matter) are simply proxies for whiteness (it would be Asian-ness if we had a much larger Asian population). I'm suggesting that we may find a similar effect by just comparing heterogenous groups using aggregate 'peacefulness' scores.

    Finally, I don't know anything about the FL female, but I can say that it is usually a bad idea to fire a warning shot. If she wasn't in fear for her life, she wasn't legally justified in firing a warning shot. If she was in fear for her life, she would be justified in shooting her assailant, but she's still legally responsible for every bullet, including the warning shot.

  5. Ah, Marissa Alexander. She had an order of protection against her husband, but went to visit him while the order was in force, they started to fight, she fled from her husband, got a gun, came back, pointed the gun at him and two children, then fired.

    This doesn't sound at all like a SYG defense. You can't run out, go get a gun, come back, and claim SYG. You can't point a gun at children who are uninvolved. You can't go visit someone whom you have a protective order in force against after you've moved out for two months--IANAL, but I think she'd be in violation of the protective order to make contact with the guy. And if she was in violation of the protective order, she can't use SYG, because she isn't somewhere she's legally allowed to be.

  6. There is no correlation between rates of gun ownership or levels of gun control and the "peacefulness" of a state. In addition, of the twenty states on the list of most and least peaceful, Hawaii has strict gun control, and Rhode Island has some, but all the others are shall-issue with regard to concealed carry licenses and have nearly identical gun laws in other respects. Utah even allows concealed carry on college campuses.

    I also don't follow your comment about Republicans, since Florida voted for Obama, and several Democratic wins are in the middle thirty states.

    I think that you've come to an odd set of conclusions about these data.

    1. Gun control and peacefulness. Perhaps not on a state by state basis; Vermont, where I live, has a very high rate of gun ownership, and we're the second least violent state, and one of the most democratic states, obviously. So, gun ownership is probably not a great correlating factor here, I agree. Although, on a country basis, I think it is, considering, what, 30,000-plus people are killed by guns in the US every year--more than W. Europe, Canada, and Japan combined? Somethingn like that. I think the most persuasive evidence here is the political persuasion and violence correlation. The south vs. the north, with some outliers. Other datasets should be introduced, such as wealth and poverty: -- and there you have it. Thanks for coming by and commenting.