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By Thomas C. Frohlich and Alexander Kent
January 23, 2015

This post is in partnership with 24/7 Wall Street. The article below was originally published on 247WallSt.com.

The number of violent crimes dropped across the United States by 4.4% in 2013 compared to the year before, according to estimates released by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). In the last decade, the number of violent crimes declined by nearly 15%.

In a previous interview with 24/7 Wall St., John Roman, senior fellow at public policy research organization The Urban Institute said, “A 4.4% reduction in violent crime is astonishing. If you saw a similar increase in GDP, or a similar decrease in unemployment, it would be huge national news.”

The national improvement in crime levels has not been uniform across all states, nor were the resulting crime rates. While some states were relatively more dangerous despite the improvement, others were considerably safer than most states. In Vermont, the violent crime rate dropped by more than 19% in 2013 from 2012 — the largest reduction in the country. The state was also the safest, with 115 violent crimes reported per 100,000 people.

Nationwide, 368 violent crimes were reported for every 100,000 people in 2013. Such crimes include murder, rape, aggravated assault, and robbery. In six of America’s 10 safest states, there were less than 200 violent crimes reported per 100,000 residents. Based on violent crime rates published by the FBI’s 2013 Uniform Crime Report, these are America’s safest states.

Murder and nonnegligent manslaughter were especially uncommon in the nation’s safest states. Half of the 10 states reported less than two such crimes per 100,000 people last year, and the murder rates in all of the safest states were below the national rate of 4.5 incidents per 100,000 people. Similarly, aggravated assault rates did not exceed the national rate of 229 incidents per 100,000 Americans in any of the safest states. In three states — Kentucky, Maine, and Vermont — less than 100 assaults were reported per 100,000 state residents last year.

Not only were residents of these states relatively sheltered from violence, but other sorts of crimes were also less common. For example, nine of the 10 safest states reported less property crimes per 100,000 residents than the national rate of 2,730 property crimes per 100,000 Americans. Motor vehicle crimes in particular were especially uncommon. There were less than 100 vehicle thefts reported per 100,000 state residents in five of the 10 states, versus 221.3 such thefts per 100,000 people nationwide.

While explanations for the level of safety in a particular area are by no means concrete, socioeconomic indicators are powerful predictors of crime. Just as in large U.S. cities, income plays a major role at the state level in predicting crime levels. A typical household earned more than the national median household income of $52,250 in six of the 10 states last year. Kentucky households were the exception among the safest states, with a median income of less than $44,000.

People living in the nation’s safest states were also far less likely than other Americans to live in poverty. The poverty rate in all but two of the 10 states was lower than the national rate of 15.8% last year. New Hampshire, the sixth safest state, led the nation with just 8.7% of residents living below the poverty line in 2013.

Educational attainment rates are yet another factor contributing to violent crime. Lower levels of education result in lower incomes later in life, which in turn can contribute to higher crime rates. In addition, as Roman explained in a previous discussion at the city level, poor education is part of several structural disadvantages that make crime very difficult to address. According to Roman, addressing these underlying economic and social issues is critical to reducing crime. Unsurprisingly, residents in the safest states tended to be more highly educated. More than 90% of adults in seven of the 10 states had completed at least high school last year, versus the national rate of 86.6%. And while less than 30% of Americans had attained at least a bachelor’s degree as of 2013, more than one-third of residents in four of the nation’s safest states had done so.

To identify the safest states in America, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed violent crime rates from the FBI’s 2013 Uniform Crime Report. Property crime rates also came from the FBI’s report. The data were broken into eight types of crime. Violent crime was comprised of murder and nonnegligent manslaughter, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault; and, property crime was comprised of burglary, arson, larceny, and motor vehicle theft. In addition to crime data, we also reviewed median household income, poverty rates, and educational attainment rates from the 2013 Census Bureau’s American Community Survey.

These are the safest states in America.

10. Montana
> Violent crimes per 100,000: 240.7
> Population: 1,015,165
> Total 2013 murders: 22 (tied-6th lowest)
> Poverty rate: 16.5% (19th highest)
> Pct. of adults with high school diploma: 92.7% (3rd highest)

There were nearly 241 violent crimes reported per 100,000 residents in Montana in 2013, a third lower than the national rate. While the violent crime rate fell 5.1% nationwide between 2012 and 2013, it fell more than 13% in Montana. Low crime rates may be attributable to high levels of education. Nearly 93% of Montana residents had at least a high school diploma as of 2013, the third highest rate in the country. Despite the state’s relatively well-educated population, Montana struggled with poverty last year. The state’s poverty rate was 16.5% in 2013, one of only two of the safest states with a poverty rate above the national rate of 15.8%. This was likely due in part to the state’s large Native American population, which tends to be more impoverished.

Read more: States Where People Live Longest

9. Minnesota
> Violent crimes per 100,000: 223.2
> Population: 5,420,380
> Total 2013 murders: 114 (20th lowest)
> Poverty rate: 11.2% (7th lowest)
> Pct. of adults with high school diploma: 92.4% (4th highest)

Minnesota households had a median income of $60,702 in 2013, more than $8,000 higher than the national benchmark. Additionally, state residents were quite educated, as 33.5% of adults aged 25 and older had obtained a bachelor’s degree as of 2013, well above the 29.6% of adults nationwide. The strong socioeconomic environment likely contributed to the low violent crime rate of only 223.2 incidents reported per 100,000 residents in 2013. Overall, the state’s violent crime rate fell 3.3% despite incidents of murder and nonnegligent manslaughter increasing more than 14% between 2012 and 2013.

8. Utah
> Violent crimes per 100,000: 209.2
> Population: 2,900,872
> Total 2013 murders: 49 (14th lowest)
> Poverty rate: 12.7% (14th lowest)
> Pct. of adults with high school diploma: 91.5% (tied-9th highest)

Only 12.7% of Utah residents lived below the poverty line in 2013, more than 3 percentage points below the national rate. As in several other relatively safe states, Utah had one of the smallest income gaps between rich and poor in the country — relatively few residents lived on less than $10,000 a year and more than $200,000 a year. Despite low poverty rates and a relatively balanced income distribution, Utah was one of only a handful of states where the violent crime rate rose between 2012 and 2013, driven largely by a 10.7% increase in reported robberies.

For the rest of the list, please go to 24/7WallStreet.com.

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