TIME real estate

These Are the Safest States in America

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The list was compiled based on crime data, median household income, poverty rates, and educational attainment rates

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.

TIME States

New York State Assembly Speaker Surrenders to FBI

The speaker of the New York State Assembly Sheldon Silver, in Albany, N.Y., in 2012.
Hand Pennink—Reuters The speaker of the New York State Assembly Sheldon Silver, in Albany, N.Y., in 2012.

Sheldon Silver faces a federal investigation into payments he received from a real estate law firm

The speaker of the New York State Assembly, a longtime Democratic powerbroker, surrendered to authorities on federal corruption charges Thursday morning.

Sheldon Silver, the Assembly’s speaker since 1994 who was reelected in November, turned himself in to FBI agents in Lower Manhattan, the New York Times reports. State legislatures are still able to serve after an arrest, but must leave if they are convicted of a felony.

“I hope I’ll be vindicated,” he said as he turned himself in, according to the Times.

Silver, 70, is the subject of a federal probe investigating payments he failed to list on annual disclosure filings from a small law firm that specializes in New York City real estate taxes, according to the Times.

[NYT]

TIME States

This State Could Soon Have the Country’s Highest Minimum Wage

World Trade Center at dusk
Raimund Koch—Getty Images

Move over, Washington state

Governor Andrew Cuomo proposed new minimum wages for New York State and New York City to combat the widening wage gap.

Move over, Washington state. The U.S. may soon have a new minimum wage king.

During his annual State of the State address on Wednesday, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo formally proposed raising the state’s minimum wage by the end of 2016 from its current $8.75 per hour level to $10.50, a figure that would give the Empire State the highest statewide minimum wage in the nation, moving past Washington’s $9.47 hourly rate. Cuomo also announced a new $11.50 minimum wage for New York City, accounting for the city’s high cost of living.

“The minimum wage is very simple,” Cuomo said on Wednesday. “We believe if you work full-time you should be able to pay the rent and pay for food and not live in poverty. That’s the basic promise of employment, and we’re not there yet,” he said.

The governor’s proposal is expected to face opposition from the Republican-controlled New York Senate.

New York’s minimum wage is set to increase to $9 next year, based on legislation that Cuomo signed into law in 2013. But Cuomo acknowledged that even though the state is in the midst of a three-year minimum wage hike phase-in period, the raises aren’t enough. “The wage gap is continuing to grow,” Cuomo said when he first announced the new wage hike proposal on Sunday.

The governor’s office did not immediately return a request for comment from Fortune on whether the state’s new minimum wage would rise based on the rate of inflation going forward.

Cuomo’s plan to give New York City its own minimum wage for the first time comes in stark contrast to his previous stance on the issue. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has been calling for Albany to give him the power to set a separate minimum wage for the high-cost city since he took office a year ago. (New York State law currently prohibits cities from possessing that authority.) Last year, Cuomo said that allowing local governments set their own minimum wages would lead to a “chaotic situation.” But as the governor sought reelection last summer, his position reportedly began to loosen up. Seeking the support of the progressive Working Families Party, he backed the group’s proposal that municipalities with higher costs of living should be allowed to set their own minimum wages. That plan called for a $13.13 minimum wage in New York City, which Cuomo’s State of the State proposal failed to meet.

While the plan for a separate New York City minimum wage may seem like a major victory for de Blasio, Cuomo’s plan will reportedly keep the power to set minimum wages in the state’s hands. Cuomo’s office did not respond to a question about that aspect of the plan on Wednesday. After announcing the $11.50 wage for New York City on Sunday, the governor did say that he believed the state, not any local government, should set wages.

This article originally appeared on Fortune.com

TIME States

Right-to-Die Law Proposed in California

Brittany Maynard, a terminally ill woman who decided to end her life early under an Oregon law. She died Nov. 1, 2014.
AP Brittany Maynard, a terminally ill woman who decided to end her life early under an Oregon law. She died on Nov. 1, 2014.

Brittany Maynard's family is backing the measure

Two California lawmakers backed by the family of a woman who drew national attention by choosing to end her life after an aggressive and debilitating cancer diagnosis are set to introduce a new right-to-die bill on Wednesday.

The End of Life Option Act would allow doctors to prescribe lethal doses of medications to terminally ill patients with six months or less to live, the San Jose Mercury News reports. Two state senators are pushing the bill with the support of Brittany Maynard’s family.

MORE Brittany Maynard Could Revive the Stalled ‘Death With Dignity Movement

Maynard was living in the San Francisco Bay Area when she and her husband moved to Portland, Ore., to take advantage of the state’s Death With Dignity law, in a widely publicized story that the bill’s authors say could be a tipping point in support for medically assisted suicide. Oregon, Washington and Vermont have such laws, but attempts to pass similar legislation in California have failed before.

“Our hope is to see the end-of-life option as part of a continuum of established rights available to patients,” state Sen. Bill Monning said.

[San Jose Mercury News]

TIME States

Missouri 5-Year-Old Fatally Shoots Baby Brother

He found the gun lying near the bed, local sheriff said

A nine-month-old boy died Monday after his 5-year-old brother shot him in the head.

The Missouri infant was reportedly in a playpen when his older brother fired a loaded gun that he found near the bed, Nodaway County Sheriff Darren White said, local media KCTV reports.

The boys’ mother told 911 dispatchers her son had been shot with a paintball gun.

When the emergency crew arrived, they discovered he had been shot with a .22 caliber magnum revolver. The shooting, authorities say, was an accident.

[KCTV]

MONEY Debt

You’re Going to Spend $280,000 on Interest in Your Lifetime

Sorry.

The typical American consumer will fork over an average of $279,002 in interest payments during the course of his or her lifetime. So says a new report from Credit.com, which analyzed the lifetime cost of debt in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, based on average mortgage balances, credit card debt, and credit scores.

The size of the nut varies dramatically from state to state. Residents of Washington, D.C.—where average new mortgages are $462,000 and the average credit score of 656 falls squarely in the “fair” range—can expect to pay $451,890 in interest, the highest in the nation.

Concerned D.C. residents might want to consider hitching a ride to Iowa, where the average new mortgage is the nation’s lowest, at $120,467. Add in an average credit card debt of $2,935—also the lowest in the country—and a credit score of 689, and residents of the Hawkeye State have a lifetime cost of debt of “only” $129,394.

Along with 30-year fixed-rate mortgages, Credit.com also considered an average auto loan balance of $22,750 (assuming nine cars over a lifetime) and 40 years of revolving credit card debt when calculating its findings.

Here’s a breakdown of the top 10 states with the highest cost of debt:

  1. Washington, D.C. ($451,890)
  2. California ($368,745)
  3. Hawaii ($312,747)
  4. New Jersey ($309,500)
  5. New York ($300,031)
  6. Maryland ($294,720)
  7. Virginia ($280,516)
  8. Washington ($267,964)
  9. Massachusetts ($261,220)
  10. Colorado ($255,232)

And the lowest:

  1. Iowa ($129,394)
  2. Nebraska ($137,174)
  3. Wisconsin ($144,127)
  4. Maine ($154,340)
  5. North Dakota ($157,011)
  6. South Dakota ($157,136)
  7. Montana ($160,849)
  8. Pennsylvania ($163,513)
  9. West Virginia ($166,232)
  10. Vermont ($167,042)

See the full state-by-state list.

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: January 12

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. On the fifth anniversary of the Haiti earthquake, political strife is still the greatest obstacle to recovery.

By Jacqueline Charles in the Miami Herald

2. The U.S. uses economic sanctions because they don’t require a global coalition to work. But they may inflict damage beyond the intended target.

By Paul Richter in the Los Angeles Times

3. With deepening partisanship becoming the norm, don’t look to the states for new ideas.

By Aaron Chatterji in the New York Times

4. Juries could use virtual reality headsets to ‘visit’ crime scenes.

By Jessica Hamzelou in New Scientist

5. A new waterproof solar lantern is helping reduce deaths from burning fuel indoors for the world’s 1.2 billion living without electric light.

By Michael Zelenko in the Verge

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME 2016 Election

Why Democrats Are Losing the Working Class

Voting booths in polling place
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Hint: they don't vote.

It’s true that wealthier Americans tend to vote for Republicans and that the less well-off tend to vote for Democrats. And it’s true that, in theory, such a demographic breakdown would be good for Dems. After all, in raw numbers, there are more—many, many times more—working-class Americans than there are folks at the top of the income pyramid.

The problem, as Democrats well know, is that it doesn’t much matter who the working class supports if they don’t show up to vote. And there’s the rub.

According to a Pew Research Center study released today, the “least financially secure Americans,” despite being significantly more likely to back Democrats, tend to “opt out of the political system altogether.”

While 94% of the the most financially secure Americans were registered to vote, only 54% of the least financially secure were, according to the study. Even fewer actually make it to their polling booths. While 2014 voting records are not yet available, in 2010, 69% of the most financially secure cast ballots, while just 30% of the least financially secure did, according to Pew.

The least financially secure Americans also tended to avoid other aspects of the political system as well, the study found. Working class Americans called and wrote to their representatives at much lower rates than their richer neighbors, and paid much less attention to basic facts in national politics. Roughly 60% of the most financially secure Americans could correctly identify the parties in control of the House and Senate when the study was conducted before the 2014 midterm; just 26% of the least financially secure could do the same.

These findings will not come as much of a surprise to Democrats, who were trounced in last year’s mid-term election in part because so few people—and particularly those at the lower end of the income spectrum—actually turned up to vote. In November, less than half of eligible voters showed up at the polls in 43 states, marking the lowest voter turnout on record in 72 years.

While voter turnout generally increases during presidential election years, and is therefore likely to tick up again in 2016, low voter turnout remains a huge problem for Democrats’ efforts not only to win over but also collect votes from the American working class.

That’s one reason they have been committed to making it easier for all Americans to vote. Working-class folks, who tend to have less flexible hours at work, vote disproportionately more in states that allow early voting and mail-in ballots—measures that are overwhelmingly supported by Democrats. In Colorado, for example, which began allowing mail-in ballots saw much, much higher turnout in 2014 than it’d had in 2010. Oregon and Washington, which also allow for mail-in ballots, had turnout rates that were higher than average in 2014, too. In North Carolina, where early voting measures allowed people to go to the polls over the course of seven days also helped increase voter turnout in that state by 35% from where it was in 2010.

The Pew study was based on data collected from a nationally representative panel of 3,154 adults, who were surveyed online and by mail between Sept. 9 and Oct. 3, 2014. The survey determined respondents’ financial security by asking about their difficult paying bills, whether they receive government aid, and whether they had access to financial assets and tools, like bank accounts and retirement savings.

TIME Drugs

Meth Seizures at U.S.-Mexico Border Set New Records

President Obama to Announce Executive Action on Undocumented Immigration Issue
Sandy Huffaker—Getty Images A car drives along the U.S. - Mexico border wall in Calexico, Calif. on Nov. 19, 2014.

Figures show a 300% increase in methamphetamine seizures at California ports of entry from fiscal years 2009 to 2014

Methamphetamine seizures along the California-Mexico border soared to new highs in the fiscal year 2014, as narcotics smuggling cartels sought to benefit from the cost advantages of producing the drug south of the frontier.

The San Diego field office of U.S. Customs and Border Protection seized 14,732 pounds of methamphetamine during the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, The San Diego Union-Tribune reports. That accounts for 63% of all seizures of the drug at U.S. ports of entry nationwide.

Authorities have found the drug strapped to pedestrians or hidden in food cans, as well as in liquid form, passed off as windshield washer fluid.

Read more at The San Diego Union-Tribune

TIME animals

There Will Be No Live-Possum Drop in Brasstown, N.C., This New Year’s Eve

Possum Drop in Brasstown, North Carolina
Erik S. Lesser—EPA A sign honoring the possums of Brasstown is seen during the 20th annual Possum Drop on New Year's Eve at Clay's Corner in Brasstown, North Carolina, Dec. 31, 2013.

The organizer will drop a dead one, instead

A North Carolina town will drop its tradition of dropping a live possum this New Year’s Eve.

Following an injunction won by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), Clay Logan, of Brasstown, N.C., has decided not to use a live animal in his annual Possum Drop, the Charlotte Observer reports. Instead, the possum Logan will lower to the ground in a tinsel-decorated plexiglass cage this year will be roadkill or, perhaps, the main ingredient in a pot of possum stew.

PETA and Logan have been at loggerheads for more than a year over the event, an annual rite in this town of 240 people that includes a full evening of marsupial-themed activities. PETA has accused Logan of subjecting a shy animal to noise and confusion, while Logan has defended the tradition as “good clean family fun, a good old redneck good time” that doesn’t harm the tiny animal, who is released into the wild afterward.

It’s unclear if this battle will be dropped for good come 2015, however. The injunction just requires Logan to get a state permit to use a live possum, and Logan told the Associated Press that he simply didn’t have time to get one this year.

[Charlotte Observer]

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