Red states and blue states may like to point to one another as the source of all that is wrong with the U.S., but the truth is that each of the 50 states has its own virtues and vices. For example, Missouri has the worst drug use problem. And it certainly comes as no surprise that Nevada is the most gambling-addicted.
But the cost of state sins is something we have to share as a nation. Gambling alone costs the U.S. about $5 billion per year. That’s nothing compared to the amount of money we lose from smoking, though – over $300 billion per year. Harmful behavior on the individual level can add up to staggering economic costs on a national scale. While many people want to quit their vices, it’s a difficult road even under normal circumstances, so the stresses of the COVID-19 pandemic make abstaining all the harder.
Some states are more well-behaved than others. In order to determine the states that most give in to their desires, WalletHub compared the 50 states across 47 key indicators of immoral or illicit behavior. Our data set ranges from violent crimes per capita to excessive drinking to the share of the population with gambling disorders.
Most Sinful States in the U.S.
WalletHub Vice Index
Anger & Hatred
Excesses & Vices
Note: With the exception of “WalletHub Vice Index,” all of the columns in the table above depict the relative tank of that city, where a rank of 1 represents the best conditions for that metric category.
It’s not enough just to know where certain problems lie. The important next step is figuring out how to fix them and improve each state’s quality of life. For advice on how to reverse some of these bad trends, we asked the following questions to a panel of experts:
- What makes some states more sinful than others? Laws? Culture?
- Should sport betting be legalized across the U.S. by the Federal Government? What are the pros and cons of such a move?
- What are the most efficient measures that federal and state authorities can use to curb the obesity epidemic? Is something like the “soda tax” a valid approach?
- What advice do you have for people trying to quit pandemic-acquired vices (excessive drinking and eating, gambling, unnecessary spending etc.)?
- Given that U.S. hate crimes are on the rise, what can be done to reverse this uptick?
- How can federal authorities combat human trafficking? Is legalizing prostitution a good idea?
Ask the Experts
In order to determine the most sinful states in America, WalletHub compared the 50 states across seven key dimensions: 1) Anger & Hatred, 2) Jealousy, 3) Excesses & Vices, 4) Greed, 5) Lust, 6) Vanity and 7) Laziness.
We examined those dimensions using 47 relevant metrics, which are listed below with their corresponding weights. Each metric was graded on a 100-point scale, with a score of 100 representing the highest level of sinfulness. For metrics marked with an asterisk (*), the square root of the population was used to calculate the population size in order to avoid overcompensating for minor differences across states.
Finally, we calculated the overall score, or WalletHub Vice Index, for each state based on its weighted average across all metrics and used the resulting scores to rank-order the states.
Anger & Hatred – Total Points: 14.3
- Violent Crimes per Capita: Full Weight (~0.89 Points)
- Sex Offenders per Capita: Full Weight (~0.89 Points)
- Bullying Rate: Full Weight (~0.89 Points)
- Share of Public-School Students in Grades 9–12 Who Carried a Weapon on School Property: Full Weight (~0.89 Points)
- Hate-Crime Incidents per Capita: Full Weight (~0.89 Points)
- Hate Groups per Capita: Full Weight (~0.89 Points)
- Share of Maltreated Adults: Full Weight (~0.89 Points)
Notes: This metric measures the prevalence of rape, physical abuse and or stalking (emotional abuse) among men and women by an intimate partner.
- Share of Maltreated Children: Full Weight (~0.89 Points)
Notes: This metric measures the prevalence of physical, psychological or sexual abuse and maltreatment among children.
- Teen Dating Violence: Full Weight (~0.89 Points)
Notes: This composite metric includes the percentage of teens that:
- Were ever physically forced to have sexual intercourse
- Experienced sexual violence by anyone
- Experienced sexual dating violence
- Experienced physical dating violence
- Share of Internet Comments that are Hostile: Full Weight (~0.89 Points)
- Road Rage Ranking (Share of Rude Drivers): Full Weight (~0.89 Points)
- Discrimination Cases Filed per Adult Population: Full Weight (~0.89 Points)
- Number of Mass Shootings: Full Weight (~0.89 Points)
- Deaths due to Firearms per Capita: Full Weight (~0.89 Points)
- Share of Persons Arrested For Aggravated Assault: Full Weight (~0.89 Points)
- Share of Elder-Abuse, Gross-Neglect and Exploitation Complaints: Full Weight (~0.89 Points)
Jealousy – Total Points: 14.3
- Thefts per Capita: Full Weight (~4.77 Points)
- Identity-Theft Complaints per Capita: Full Weight (~4.77 Points)
- Fraud & Other Complaints per Capita: Full Weight (~4.77 Points)
Excesses & Vices – Total Points: 14.3
- Share of Obese Adults: Full Weight (~1.43 Points)
- Fast-Food Establishments per Capita: Full Weight (~1.43 Points)
- Excessive Drinking: Full Weight (~1.43 Points)
Note: This metric measures the age-adjusted prevalence of binge and heavy drinking among the adult population.
- Share of Adults Who Have Reported Having Driven After Drinking Too Much: Full Weight (~1.43 Points)
- Share of Adult Smokers: Full Weight (~1.43 Points)
- Share of Adult Coffee Drinkers: Full Weight (~1.43 Points)
Note: This metric measures the percentage of adults who drank ready-to-drink coffee in the past six months.
- Share of Population Using Marijuana: Full Weight (~1.43 Points)
Note: This metric measures the percentage of residents aged 18 years and older who used marijuana in the past month.
- Retail Opioid Prescriptions Dispensed per 100 Persons: Full Weight (~1.43 Points)
- Drug Overdose Deaths: Full Weight (~1.43 Points)
Note: This metric measures the number of deaths due to drug poisoning per 100,000 residents.
- Debt-to-Income Ratio: Full Weight (~1.43 Points)
Greed – Total Points: 14.3
- Casinos per Capita*: Double Weight (~4.77 Points)
- Gambling-Related Arrests per Capita: Full Weight (~2.38 Points)
- Charitable Donations as Share of Income: Full Weight (~2.38 Points)
- Share of Population with Gambling Disorders: Full Weight (~2.38 Points)
- Persons Arrested for Embezzlement per Capita: Full Weight (~2.38 Points)
Lust – Total Points: 14.3
- Teen Birth Rate: Full Weight (~3.58 Points)
Note: This metric measures the number of births per 1,000 female residents ages 15 to 19.
- Google Search Interest Index for “XXX Entertainment”: Full Weight (~3.58 Points)
Note: This metric measures search interest for online adult entertainment.
- Average Time Spent on Adult Entertainment Sites: Full Weight (~3.58 Points)
- Persons Arrested for Prostitution and Commercialized Vice per Capita: Full Weight (~3.58 Points)
Vanity – Total Points: 14.3
- Beauty Salons per Capita*: Full Weight (~5.72 Points)
- Google Search Interest Index for “Top 5 Plastic Surgeries”: Full Weight (~5.72 Points)
Note: This metric measures search interest for the five most common plastic surgery procedures (breast augmentation, liposuction, rhinoplasty, blepharoplasty and facelift).
- Consumer Expenditures per Household on Personal Care Products and Services: Half Weight (~2.86 Points)
Laziness – Total Points: 14.3
- Share of Adults Not Exercising: Full Weight (~2.60 Points)
- Average Weekly Hours Worked: Full Weight (~2.60 Points)
- Volunteer Rate: Half Weight (~1.30 Points)
- Average Daily Time Spent Watching TV: Full Weight (~2.60 Points)
- High School Graduation Rate: Full Weight (~2.60 Points)
- Share of Disconnected Youth: Full Weight (~2.60 Points)
Note: “Disconnected Youth” refers to the population ages 16 to 24 who are neither working nor in school.
Sources: Data used to create this ranking were collected from the U.S. Census Bureau, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Federal Trade Commission, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, TransUnion, National Council on Problem Gambling, Corporation for National and Community Service, Esri's Updated Demographics (2020 estimates), Parents For Megan's Law Inc., The Crime Victims Center, U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Wired, U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Gun Violence Archive, Fraser Institute, PornHub, U.S. Department of Commerce, National Center of Education Statistics, United Health Foundation, Google Ads, Kars4Kids and The Southern Poverty Law Center.