2015’s Safest States to Live In

by Richie Bernardo

WH-2014-Safest-States-to-live- in 3As much as we’d all like to point at a random spot on a map and decide to live there, relocating is unfortunately never as easy. And it shouldn’t be. We all have different needs to evaluate before packing the dishes. For some of us, cost of living and tax burden are the most important factors. For others, it’s education standards, health care quality or all of the above. But whatever our motivations for moving, safety should always rank among our top priorities when comparing places to live.

By safety, we’re not referring exclusively to protection from violence and crime. This WalletHub study encompasses its various forms, including workplace safety, emergency preparedness, home and community stability, traffic safety and, of course, financial security. With so many elements to consider, it’s no wonder many people find the process of choosing a new place to call home somewhat challenging.

To help ease that process, WalletHub identified which of the 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia offer the safest and most budget-friendly environments. We used 20 key metrics to analyze each state according to different safety standards, taking into account the rates of crime and traffic accidents, for instance, as well as data related to employer insurance coverage, climate disasters, consumer bank accounts and more. Our findings, as well as expert commentary and a detailed methodology, can be found below.

Main Findings

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Overall Rank

State

“Financial Safety” Rank

“Driving Safety” Rank

“Workplace Safety” Rank

“Natural Disasters” Rank

“Home & Community Safety” Rank

1 Vermont 6 12 9 4 4
2 Massachusetts 16 1 6 8 3
3 Minnesota 1 2 4 33 13
4 New Hampshire 7 22 2 6 15
5 Utah 5 8 6 7 26
6 Hawaii 13 23 19 1 2
7 Connecticut 37 4 15 20 1
8 Rhode Island 41 16 1 17 7
9 Maine 21 25 15 3 16
10 Ohio 24 3 13 30 5
11 Washington 27 6 10 14 20
12 Virginia 13 7 11 31 18
13 Iowa 7 9 36 37 6
14 Wisconsin 10 11 29 21 28
15 Nebraska 2 21 30 42 22
16 North Dakota 4 31 51 5 31
17 Pennsylvania 22 29 35 25 8
18 Indiana 26 18 27 39 12
19 Maryland 24 18 21 26 27
20 New York 33 20 27 41 9
21 Illinois 43 10 37 39 10
22 California 40 33 24 12 23
23 New Jersey 45 15 24 43 11
24 Oregon 47 14 20 22 30
25 Michigan 34 26 34 8 39
26 Idaho 19 32 44 19 25
27 North Carolina 29 45 3 35 21
28 Wyoming 11 13 47 23 36
29 Delaware 18 34 17 14 45
30 District of Columbia 44 5 39 10 32
31 Colorado 11 28 6 37 41
32 West Virginia 29 44 45 16 19
33 Georgia 46 34 5 35 29
34 Kansas 9 23 23 50 37
35 South Dakota 3 37 48 29 43
36 Montana 15 51 42 23 24
37 Alaska 31 17 49 2 42
38 Kentucky 35 39 40 43 17
39 Texas 23 41 24 45 33
40 Alabama 41 27 12 48 38
41 New Mexico 48 45 43 13 34
42 Missouri 17 29 22 47 47
43 Florida 48 42 17 18 44
44 Louisiana 31 42 41 33 35
45 Arkansas 28 36 33 31 50
46 Mississippi 50 48 50 46 14
47 Arizona 38 50 14 26 48
48 Nevada 51 40 30 10 46
49 South Carolina 39 49 38 28 49
50 Oklahoma 20 47 46 51 40
51 Tennessee 36 38 32 48 50

Ask the Experts

  1. There are many different potential threats to one’s safety: crime, bad drivers, poor economies, natural disasters, dangerous workplaces. In choosing a place to live, which factors are more or less overrated?
  2. What tips do you have for consumers looking to improve their “financial” safety?
  3. What can state and local policymakers do to reduce crime in their communities?
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  • Richard Rosenfeld Founders Professor of Criminology and Criminal Justice at University of Missouri - St. Louis
  • Michael Rocque Assistant Professor of Sociology at Bates College
  • Robert Fishman Professor of Architecture and Urban Planning at University of Michigan, Taubman College of Architecture and Planning

Richard Rosenfeld

Founders Professor of Criminology and Criminal Justice at University of Missouri - St. Louis
Richard Rosenfeld
There are many different potential threats to one’s safety: crime, bad drivers, poor economies, natural disasters, dangerous workplaces. In choosing a place to live, which factors are more or less overrated?

Crime has been greatly overrated as a risk in choosing a place to live. The city one lives in, not to mention the state, has little to no bearing on victimization risk. The neighborhood you live in can elevate your risk for crime, but not nearly as much as your age and daily activity patterns. Young people and those who spend a lot of time out at night have an elevated risk for crime.

What can state and local policymakers do to reduce crime in their communities?

The immediate step is to make sure your police department is engaging in "smart" enforcement strategies. The best are place-based strategies that beef up police patrols in the areas where crime is heavily concentrated -- the so called hot spot approach.

Michael Rocque

Assistant Professor of Sociology at Bates College
Michael Rocque
There are many different potential threats to one’s safety: crime, bad drivers, poor economies, natural disasters, dangerous workplaces. In choosing a place to live, which factors are more or less overrated?

I am not sure I would say one or another is overrated, because some of these things are interconnected. In other words, it is likely that poor economies and crime are linked (though criminologists debate this). I would say crime is the one factor that people tend to worry about the most, likely because it is the least predictable. We know a lot about what criminals look like sociologically and even biologically, but that is a far cry from being able to predict who will be a criminal or where crime will occur.

What tips do you have for consumers looking to improve their “financial” safety?

In terms of cyber security, I would encourage consumers to do what they can to protect their identities. Some companies offer protection for online transactions and these can be incredibly useful. Further, if people do use debit cards or credit cards online, it is essential to check statements regularly to detect potentially fraudulent activity. A good bank or credit card company will provide this service as well.

What can state and local policymakers do to reduce crime in their communities?

This is a very complex question that a book could be (and many have been) written about. Crime is not caused by any one factor, either environmental or biological. That said, I am a big proponent of prevention programs that can be targeted toward at risk families, providing basic parenting education, nutrition, physical activity, and ensure the child is not falling behind in terms of development. I also think that education policies can go a long way toward reducing crime, ensuring that our school systems are fully funded, we exclude as few children as possible, and that the education they receive has some bearing on their ability to make a meaningful living upon graduation (from high school or college).

In terms of criminal justice policy, there is a lot of evidence that harsh punishments do not make us safer and can actually make things worse. So reducing mass incarceration should be a priority. This goes particularly for youth, who are being locked up in unprecedented numbers. I can think of few more damaging things to do to a developing individual than locking them up with other antisocial youth.

Robert Fishman

Professor of Architecture and Urban Planning at University of Michigan, Taubman College of Architecture and Planning
Robert Fishman
What tips do you have for consumers looking to improve their “financial” safety?

Don't buy a big house at the edge of a metro region! All the statistics point to a "McMansion glut," as millennials prefer smaller houses or condos close to transit and close to downtown.

What can state and local policymakers do to reduce crime in their communities?

People comparing relatively high crime rates in cities to low ones in suburbs fail to factor in the higher probability of auto accidents due to increased driving and "total auto dependency" in the suburbs. From that perspective, cities may be safer than suburbs. The Amtrak derailment was a shock, but I would say in general that increased investment in transit by state and local policymakers would make our cities and suburbs safer.

Methodology

In order to identify the safest states in which to live, WalletHub analyzed each of the 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia across five key dimensions, including 1) Financial Safety, 2) Driving Safety, 3) Workplace Safety, 4) Natural Disasters, and 5) Home & Community Safety. We then identified 20 metrics that are relevant to those dimensions. Our data set is listed below with the corresponding weight for each metric.

Financial Safety- Total Weight: 5

  • Percentage of the Population Lacking Health Insurance Coverage: Full Weight
  • Unemployment Rate: Double Weight
  • Foreclosure Rate: Full Weight

Driving Safety - Total Weight: 5

  • Number of Fatalities per 100 Million Vehicle Miles of Travel: Double Weight
  • Number of DUIs per 100,000 Residents: Full Weight
  • Pedestrian Fatality Rate per 100,000 Residents (also includes pedacyclists): Double Weight

Workplace Safety - Total Weight: 5

  • Number of Fatal Occupational Injuries per 100,000 Employees: Double Weight
  • Injury & Illness Rate per 10,000 Full-Time Workers: Full Weight
  • Median Days Lost Due to Occupational Injuries & Illnesses: Full Weight

Natural Disasters - Total Weight: 5

  • Number of Climate Disasters (causing more than $1 billion in damage) in the Past Decades: Full Weight
  • Estimated Property Losses from Natural Disasters per 100,000 Residents: Full Weight

Home & Community Safety - Total Weight: 10

  • Total Law Enforcement Employees per 100,000 Residents: Full Weight
  • Murder & Non-Negligent Manslaughter per 100,000 Residents: Full Weight
  • Number of Forcible Rapes per 100,000 Residents: Full Weight
  • Number of Assaults per 100,000 Residents: Full Weight
  • Number of Thefts per 100,000 Residents: Full Weight
  • Number of Sex Offenders per 100,000 Residents: Full Weight
  • Number of Drug Abuses per 100,000 Residents: Full Weight
  • Suicide Rate: Full Weight
  • Bullying Incidents Rate: Full Weight

 

Source: Data used to create these rankings were obtained from the U.S. Census Bureau, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the National Climatic Data Center, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the FINRA Investor Education Foundation, Verisk Analytics, Medicare.gov, stopbullying.gov, PitneyBowes, the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, the Crime Victims Center and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.

Author

User
Richie Bernardo is a personal finance writer at WalletHub. He graduated with a Bachelor of Journalism and a minor in business from the University of Missouri-Columbia. Previously, he was a…
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Discussion

 
By: Teegee
Jun 19, 2014
Just an observation ... of the top ten safest states, all ten were won by President Obama in 2012. Sixteen of the top twenty safest states went to Obama in 2012. Eight of the ten most dangerous state voted for the Republican candidate and when you enlarge that to the twenty most dangerous states you'll see that fifteen of them went to the Republican candidate in 2012. What does this mean? No name calling or read more
 
By: Teegee
Jun 19, 2014
@Teegee: Not so much the natural disaster information as the personal safety categories.
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By: HCT001
Jun 18, 2014
Basing crime stats solely on number of arrests is not a true measure of the amount of crime in a state.
Property values for Natural Disaster losses could also be skewed unless adjustments were made to account for different real estate values in different regions.
Also unless it was a suicide bomber or as part of a murder-suicide, I am not sure how the suicide stat relates to overall community safety.
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By: Gkhawaii
Jun 18, 2014
Lucky we live Hawaii.
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Jun 17, 2014
Oklahoma weathered and is continuing to weather the recession quite well. Our unemployment rate remained in the upper 4. - 5 % throughout the recession.... Anywhere from 2 - 3 points below the national level. Yes weve been hit hard in the tornado and ice storms caregories and we have bible thumping politicians in office right now but I find it shocking that your data ranks OK so low. I agree with the other poster read more
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By: Harmiclir
Jun 17, 2014
I'm sorry but none of this makes a great deal of sense to me unless you tell me the time period you analyzed. That NYS ranks 51st in natural disaster tells me that you only looked at 2013 data....the period during which Hurricane Sandy struck. It makes no sense to me at all that NYS would be ranked lower than Florida or the Hurricane Belt. If you only used one year's data then your analysis read more
 
By: WalletHub
Jun 30, 2014
The estimated property losses from disasters are referring to the period 2010 – 2013 and encompass only estimates of insured property losses resulting from catastrophes.
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