2014’s Safest States to Live In

by John S Kiernan

WH-2014-Safest-States-to-live- in 3Relocating to a new city is never as simple as pointing one’s finger at a map and deciding to live where it lands. And it shouldn’t be. Before packing up, there are numerous factors to evaluate such as cost of living, education standards, health care quality or tax burden. But whatever one’s motivations are for moving, safety should rank among the top priorities when comparing places to live.

By safety, we’re not referring exclusively to protection from violence and crime. The term encompasses various categories, among them workplace safety, natural disasters, home and community stability, traffic safety and, of course, financial security. Choosing a new place to call home can be challenging. But knowing which states offer the safest environments and the biggest bang for the buck will be useful.

With that in mind, and in observance of National Safety Month, WalletHub has identified the Safest States to Live In. Using 26 key metrics, we’ve sorted the states according to different safety standards that take into account data related to crime, traffic accidents, employer insurance coverage, climate disasters, consumer bank accounts and more. Check out the Methodology section below for more detailed information on how we ranked each state.

Main Findings

 

Overall Rank

State Name

Financial Safety Rank

Driving Safety Rank

Workplace Safety Rank

Natural Disasters Rank

Home and Community Safety Rank

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

Note: in the case of District of Columbia, the Federal Bureau of Investigation does not provide data regarding the number of arrests for Murder and Non-negligent Manslaughter, Forcible Rape, Assault, Theft, Drug Abuse.

Safest_States_To_Live_In_061614

Ask the Experts

  1. What would you say are the principle components of financial safety?
  2. What is the most underrated aspect of financial safety?
  3. What is the biggest change that consumers need to make in order to improve their financial safety?
  4. What is the biggest change legislators need to make in order to improve the financial safety of Americans?

What would you say are the principle components of financial safety?

Financial safety will look different for people in different stages of life.  Financial safety for someone graduating college will entail 1) generating income, 2) having an emergency fund, 3) paying down – and off – debts, etc.  This probably looks different from a recent retiree who defines financial safety as 'do I have enough to last through retirement?'.

- Dave Ragan, University of North Texas


In an increasingly financialized world, financial safety requires that people have basic understanding of the financial system and how to evaluate and use financial products and services. Simultaneously, it is important that all people, including those with few resources, have access to beneficial financial benefits, products, and services, and a place to seek financial help when they need it.

- Margaret S. Sherraden, University of Missouri - St. Louis


  • "Deposit insurance: level and timely access to insured deposit
  • Lender of the last resort functions (role of the central or federal bank)
  • Prudential regulatory and supervisory framework
  • Failure resolution mechanism for financial institutions"

- Tahira K. Hira, Iowa State University


All aspects of financial planning are interlinked, but in my opinion, the central piece is saving and investing. In order to save, people need to watch their spending and debt. To better invest, people shall take advantages of tax benefits provided by various retirement accounts.

- Yilan Xu, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign


What is the most underrated aspect of financial safety?

In speaking about the general American, the most underrated aspect of financial safety is your earnings potential.  Think about how much money you make in a year.  Extrapolate that out over a lifetime and you arrive at some very large figures.  Additionally, advanced training or additional certifications can enable one to increase their own earnings potential.

- Dave Ragan, University of North Texas


  • "Consumer relation with financial products
  • Complete, simple and comprehensible information about the products
  • Ability to use the product effectively
  • Products (loans, mortgages, pensions) with predefined duration (maturity, liquidity)
  • Standardization"

- Tahira K. Hira, Iowa State University


Planning! Many people do not consciously manage their finance—they don’t budget their spending, establish a saving target, or plan for taxes. Implementing these planning strategies will make a huge difference in wealth accumulation.

- Yilan Xu, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign


What is the biggest change that consumers need to make in order to improve their financial safety?

Live within their means. Not only that, but live below their means.  Many times expenses will increase to match a rising income negating any opportunity for additional long-term savings.  This topic never gets old because there are still people living month to month and from credit card to credit card.

- Dave Ragan, University of North Texas


In general, credit cards should be used as conveniences, not as debt instruments.  If you can't pay off what you owe at the end of the month, you have bought more than you can afford.

Of course there can be times in everyone's lives where you have to borrow money temporarily, and then times when the only way to borrow temporarily is through one of these debt instruments.   But it should be rare.  Once it becomes regular, it means the borrower will be digging herself into a deeper and deeper hole. That said, I realize that the current cost of some basic services such as health care, housing and child care can pose huge barriers, particularly for low-income people.

That's a structural and fairness issue that needs to be fixed in other ways, not by using credit in a way that ultimately destroys it.

The ease of getting credit combined with one-sided terms such as extraordinarily high interest rates and fine-print clauses that limit consumers' rights and options, are the primary cause of our problems.  Since our courts and legislatures have done little to change that, however, the only way people can protect themselves is not to use these cards as debt instruments.  It's not a good solution, and particularly unfair as you go down the economic scale where people may use them for necessities and not optional items.

- Katharine Kravetz, American University


  • "When signing contracts fully understand the risk of the product
  • Understand the total cost of the product (interest, fees, charges)
  • Understand consequences of non or late payment, options for fair and efficient exit"

- Tahira K. Hira, Iowa State University


Start early and plan ahead.

- Yilan Xu, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign


What is the biggest change legislators need to make in order to improve the financial safety of Americans?

First, something needs to be done about the financial literacy of our citizens. Students going through our education system can graduate with a masters or Ph. D without knowing how to balance a checkbook.  The only financial education people receive is through trial and error, and those tuition fees are much more costly than simply taking a personal financial class at your local university.  This may need to come from the state level, but I’d like to see a high school requirement to take a personal finance class. In college, students will be on their own and no one has shown them how to behave financially.

Secondly, legislators need to tackle Social Security.  I’m not sure why there aren’t many more people talking about this, but beginning in 2012, total annual SS costs exceed total SS revenue, causing the SS Administration to dip into their savings.  The “savings account”, while large on paper, is really just a place holder when the SS Admin begins cashing in the “I owe you’s” (in the form of T-bonds/bills) from Congress. The savings account also runs out of money in 2033 and beyond this point SS can only pay 77% of promised benefits.

- Dave Ragan, University of North Texas


Public policy is central to financial safety. Legislators should ensure that financial benefits, products, and services are accessible, affordable, appropriate, and safe for consumers.

- Margaret S. Sherraden, University of Missouri - St. Louis


  • "Availability of third party independent (government employees?) services brokers who can compare features of the products and help consumer select the best product
  • Policies and regulations that assure the safety of financial institutions without undue burden on the institution"

- Tahira K. Hira, Iowa State University


How to improve financial safety is a complex issue. Many financial education programs have been established to improve people’s basic financial knowledge, but changing financial behaviors is much more difficult than improving knowledge. Ample research has suggested that financial products can be designed to incorporate choice architecture, nudging and self-control devices to influence individual financial decisions and behaviors. A successful example is to set 401k saving as the default option for employees, which effectively increases the enrollment rate of 401k.

- Yilan Xu, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign


Methodology

WalletHub took 26 key metrics into account in comparing the overall quality of safety in each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia. In doing so, we considered various standards of safety beyond protection from crime and violence. In this study, we adopt a more inclusive term that covers 1) Financial Safety 2) Driving Safety, 3) Workplace Safety, 4) Natural Disasters, and, finally, 5) Home and Community Safety. One’s financial security, after all, can be the difference between a pleasant place to live and a bad one.

You can check out the metrics as well as the corresponding weights we used to construct our overall rankings below. The five categories under which the metrics are listed were used for organizational purposes only and did not factor in to our overall rankings.

Financial safety

  • Percentage of People Who Spend More Than They Make: 1
  • Percentage of People with a Rainy Day Fund: 1
  • Percentage of Unbanked Households: 1
  • Annual Consumer Savings Account Averages: 1
  • Percentage of Population without Health Insurance Coverage: 0.5
  • Percentage of People Paying Only Minimum on Credit Card: 1

Driving Safety

  • Fatalities per 100 Million Vehicle Miles of Travel: 1
  • Number of “Under the Influence” Traffic Violations per Capita: 1
  • Pedestrian and Pedacyclist Fatality Rate per Capita: 1

Workplace Safety

  • Fatal Occupational Injuries per Total Employees: 1
  • Injury and Illness Rate per 10,000 Full-Time Workers: 0.5
  • Median Days Lost because of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses: 0.5
  • Employer Health Insurance Coverage Rates: 1

Natural Disasters

  • Number of Climate Disasters (over 1 billion in damage): 1
  • Estimated Property Losses from Disasters (estimates of insured property losses resulting from catastrophes): 1
  • Public Hospital Rankings: 1

Home and Community Safety

  • Total Law Enforcement Employees per Capita: 1
  • Murder and Non-negligent Manslaughter per Capita (based on number of arrests): 1
  • Forcible Rape per Capita (based on number of arrests): 1
  • Assault per Capita (based on number of arrests): 1
  • Theft per Capita (based on number of arrests): 1
  • Sex Offenders per Capita: 1
  • Incarceration Rate per Capita: 1
  • Drug Abuse per Capita (based on number of arrests): 1
  • Suicide Rate: 1
  • Bullying Incidents Rate: 1

Source: Data used to create these rankings is courtesy of 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 Parents for Megan’s Law and the Crime Victims Center and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.

Author
User
John Kiernan is Senior Writer & Editor at Evolution Finance. He graduated from the University of Maryland with a BA in Journalism, a minor in Sport Commerce & Culture,…
1180 Wallet Points
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 arguing please, but I'd love
to hear comments on what this means to different people.
Jun 19, 2014  •  Reply (1)  •  Flag
@Teegee: Not so much the natural disaster information as the personal safety categories.
Jun 19, 2014  •  Reply  •  Flag
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.
Jun 18, 2014  •  Reply  •  Flag
Lucky we live Hawaii.
Jun 18, 2014  •  Reply  •  Flag
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 that you are using very
limited data to reach your skewed conclusions.
Jun 17, 2014  •  Reply  •  Flag
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 is highly
suspect.
Jun 17, 2014  •  Reply (1)  •  Flag
The estimated property losses from disasters are referring to the period 2010 – 2013 and encompass only estimates of insured property losses resulting from catastrophes.
Jun 30, 2014  •  Reply  •  Flag