With every new headline about a mass shooting, terrorist attack, hate crime or natural disaster, many of us fear for our safety and that of our loved ones. Just in 2018, the devastating Camp Fire killed 86 people, and hurricanes Florence and Michael took the lives of dozens each. And Louisiana led the U.S. in the homicide rate, averaging 12.4 per 100,000 people. Each state is safe from some dangers but falls prey to others.
Safety is a basic human need. We require some form of it, such as personal and financial protection, in every part of daily life. But we’re likely to feel more secure in some states than in others.
In order to determine the safest states in America, WalletHub compared the 50 states across 52 key safety indicators grouped into five different categories. Our data set ranges from assaults per capita to unemployment rate to total loss amounts from climate disasters per capita. Read on for our findings, expert insight from a panel of researchers and a full description of our methodology.
Safest States in the U.S.
‘Personal & Residential Safety’ Rank
‘Financial Safety’ Rank
‘Road Safety’ Rank
‘Workplace Safety’ Rank
‘Emergency Preparedness’ Rank
Ask the Experts
No place is completely immune to danger of any form. Some areas simply deal with safety issues better than others. For additional insight and advice, we asked a panel of experts to share their thoughts on the following key questions:
- There are many different potential threats to one’s safety: crime, weather, pollution, dangerous workplaces. In choosing a place to live, how should people weigh the risks?
- What actions can the Trump administration undertake to reduce crime and improve public safety?
- Do you agree with President Trump that increased border security will reduce crime?
- What can state and local policymakers do to reduce crime in their communities?
- What tips do you have for consumers looking to improve their financial safety?
In order to determine the safest states in which to live, WalletHub compared the 50 states across five key dimensions: 1) Personal & Residential Safety, 2) Financial Safety, 3) Road Safety, 4) Workplace Safety, and 5) Emergency Preparedness.
We evaluated those dimensions using 52 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 safety.
We then determined each state’s weighted average across all metrics to calculate its overall score and used the resulting scores to rank-order our sample.
Personal & Residential Safety – Total Points: 40
- Presence of Terrorist Attacks: Full Weight (~1.78 Points)
Note: This binary metric considers the presence or absence of a terrorist incident or attack in a city between 2008 and 2018.
- Number of Mass Shootings: Full Weight (~1.78 Points)
- Murders & Non-Negligent Manslaughters per Capita: Double Weight (~3.56 Points)
- Forcible Rapes per Capita: Double Weight (~3.56 Points)
- Assaults per Capita: Double Weight (~3.56 Points)
- Thefts per Capita: Full Weight (~1.78 Points)
- Sex Offenders per Capita: Double Weight (~3.56 Points)
- Drug Abuses per Capita: Half Weight (~0.89 Points)
- Overdose Deaths per Capita: Half Weight (~0.89 Points)
- Law-Enforcement Employees per Capita: Full Weight (~1.78 Points)
- Active Firefighters per Capita: Full Weight (~1.78 Points)
- Emergency Medical Technicians and Paramedics per Capita: Full Weight (~1.78 Points)
- Suicide Rate: Full Weight (~1.78 Points)
- Bullying Incidence Rate: Full Weight (~1.78 Points)
- Share of Elder-Abuse, Gross-Neglect and Exploitation Complaints: Full Weight (~1.78 Points)
- Hate-Crime Incidents per Capita: Full Weight (~1.78 Points)
- Hate Groups per Capita: Full Weight (~1.78 Points)
- Neighborhood Watch Groups per Capita: Half Weight (~0.89 Points)
- Share of Families with Children Aged 0 to 17 Years Who Feel They Live in Safe Neighborhoods: Full Weight (~1.78 Points)
- Share of Families with Children Aged 6 to 17 Years Who Go to Safe Schools: Full Weight (~1.78 Points)
Financial Safety – Total Points: 15
- Share of Uninsured Population: Full Weight (~0.75 Points)
- Unemployment Rate: Double Weight (~1.50 Points)
- Underemployment Rate: Full Weight (~0.75 Points)
- Foreclosure Rate: Full Weight (~0.75 Points)
- Median Credit Score: Full Weight (~0.75 Points)
- Debt per Income: Full Weight (~0.75 Points)
- Poverty Rate: Full Weight (~0.75 Points)
- Share of Adults with Rainy-Day Funds: Full Weight (~0.75 Points)
- Fraud & Other Complaints per Capita: Full Weight (~0.75 Points)
Note: “Other” includes both financial and nonfinancial complaints.
- Identity-Theft Complaints per Capita: Full Weight (~0.75 Points)
- Share of Unbanked Households: Full Weight (~0.75 Points)
- Job Security: Full Weight (~0.75 Points)
Note: This metric was calculated as follows: (Total Workers in 2018 – Total Workers in 2017) / Total Workers in 2017.
- New Unemployment Claims per Total Civilian Labor Force: Full Weight (~0.75 Points)
Note: “New Unemployment Claims” refers to the number of people making an initial claim for unemployment insurance benefits.
- Employment Growth (2018 vs. 2017): Full Weight (~0.75 Points)
Note: This metric was adjusted for the working-age population growth.
- Share of Households with Emergency Fund: Full Weight (~0.75 Points)
Note: This metric refers to the share of households who saved for unexpected expenses or emergencies in the past 12 months.
- Share of People Not Saving Money for Children’s College: Full Weight (~0.75 Points)
- Share of Households Behind on Bills in Past 12 Months: Full Weight (~0.75 Points)
- Personal Bankruptcy Filings per Capita: Full Weight (~0.75 Points)
- Share of Homes Underwater (with negative equity): Full Weight (~0.75 Points)
Road Safety – Total Points: 15
- Traffic Indiscipline (composite metric): Full Weight (~1.67 Points)
Note: This is a composite metric that measures incidents due to poor behavior: phone use, speeding, aggressive acceleration, harsh braking, and poor turning.
- Fatalities per 100 Million Vehicle Miles of Travel: Double Weight (~3.33 Points)
- DUIs per Capita: Full Weight (~1.67 Points)
- Pedestrian & Pedalcyclist Fatality Rate per Capita: Double Weight (~3.33 Points)
- Share of Uninsured Drivers: Full Weight (~1.67 Points)
- Road Quality: Full Weight (~1.67 Points)
- Driving Laws Rating: Full Weight (~1.67 Points)
Note: This metric is based on the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety’s Roadmap Report of State Highway Safety Law. In order to achieve the highest rating, according to the organization, “States must have 11 to 15 laws including both primary enforcement seat belt laws, or 9 or more laws including both primary enforcement seat belt laws and an all-rider helmet law.”
Workplace Safety – Total Points: 15
- Fatal Occupational Injuries per 100,000 Full-Time Workers: Full Weight (~3.00 Points)
- Injuries & Illnesses per 10,000 Full-Time Workers: Full Weight (~3.00 Points)
- Median Days Lost Due to Occupational Injuries & Illnesses: Full Weight (~3.00 Points)
- Presence of Occupational Safety & Health Act Plans: Double Weight (~6.00 Points)
Note: According to the U.S. Department of Labor, “Under the [Occupational Safety and Health] Act, employers are responsible for providing a safe and healthful workplace. OSHA’s mission is to assure safe and healthful workplaces by setting and enforcing standards, and by providing training, outreach, education and assistance.”
Emergency Preparedness – Total Points: 15
- Number of Climate Disasters Causing $1 Billion+ in Damages in Past Decades: Full Weight (~7.50 Points)
Note: “Past Decades” refers to the period between 1980 and 2019.
- Loss Amount from Climate Disasters Causing $1 Billion+ in Damages per Capita: Full Weight (~7.50 Points)
Note: This metric refers to the period between 1980 and 2019.
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Sources: Data used to create this ranking were collected from the U.S. Census Bureau, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Federal Bureau of Investigation, TransUnion, U.S. Fire Administration, Administration for Community Living – AGing Integrated Database, United Health Foundation, Federal Trade Commission, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, U.S. Department of Labor – Employment and Training Administration, Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, The Road Information Program, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, U.S. Department of Labor – Occupational Safety and Health Administration, National Centers for Environmental Information, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, The Crime Victims Center, Child and Adolescent Health Measurement Initiative, Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, Insurance Research Council, FINRA Investor Education Foundation, Wm. Robert Johnston, Gun Violence Archive, Southern Poverty Law Center, National Sheriffs’ Association, Renwood RealtyTrac, Zillow and EverQuote.
Image: vchal / Shutterstock.com
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