Which States Are Considered The Safest?

The safety of the people shall be the highest law.

quote attributed to Marcus Tullius Cicero

You don’t have to go any further than the headlines of today’s publications to appreciate the importance of feeling safe in your community. Global jihadists have made this a front and center issue. But Islamism isn’t the only safety concern people have. Crime (including violent crime) impacts resident perception of how safe they feel in their community.

I found a New Zealand group called the Safe Communities Foundation that offers perspective on community safety, its importance and what you can do to improve resident safety. It is only one of many resources, but I wanted to share a non-U.S. resource to help stretch your thinking and encourage you to seek the best insights from around the world.

I don’t think anybody would debate feeling safe matters. It is one of Maslow’s foundations in his hierarchy of needs. His model describes safety as security, stability and freedom from fear. It is the set of needs that dominate behavior after physiological needs are met. Net, Maslow postulates it is a really big deal.

So, since safety is such a big (and obvious) concern, where in the U.S. do residents feel their expectation for safety is being met the best?

Let’s look at the Xavier University American Dream Composite Index (ADCI) research for some insight. Safe community is one of 35 dimensions found to statistically define the American Dream. The ADCI study defines safe community as the extent of safety where you live.

The ADCI is a unique and robust measure of the American Dream. The national study is conducted monthly. Xavier University has provided me a three-year calendar database (2013 – 2015) to conduct secondary analyses on both a state and major MSA level.

For the purposes of this post, I have only provided states and MSAs where residents have a perception for the dimension that is statistically significantly above or below national average.

Note, with all perceptual data the next step (particularly for below national average situations) is to assess whether the perception is based in reality or it is a misunderstanding.  This often requires the use of secondary data or supplemental market research to determine the answer.  But, knowing the answer is important before action planning because if the low score is due to misperception the solution is education not a new policy or program.

Remember, the data represents how residents in the specific state perceive dimension performance.  It is not somebody on the outside offering an opinion. Consequently, even if you do not like the results it is important to understand why your residents perceive dimension performance as they do.

The Data

Above National Average

South Dakota (index 107)

New Jersey (index 105)

Minnesota (index 103)

Below National Average

New York (index 99)

Illinois (index 98)

Tennessee (index 98)

Washington (index 97)

West Virginia (index 94)

D.C. (index 89)

MSA data is available only on large MSAs. The results should be viewed with that in mind.

Above National Average

Des Moines – West Des Moines, Iowa (index 108)

Harrisburg – Carlisle, Pennsylvania (index 108)

Madison, Wisconsin (index 106)

Minneapolis – St. Paul – Bloomington, Minnesota/Wisconsin (index 103)

Below National Average

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (index 96)

Memphis, Tennessee (index 94)

Greensboro – High Point, North Carolina (index 93)


If you are looking to live in a state where you can be confident your family will be safe, then you might check out one of the states from the above national average list.

If you are a business owner or CEO trying to decide between site locations in multiple states, you know how important it is to have a spa community for your employees and families.  You might want to factor these data into your consideration.

If you are an elected official particularly Governor) or economic development professional from a state on the below average list, you may want to run supplemental research to try and determine the barriers might be to your residents feeling they are safe.

Where is it easiest to achieve the American Dream?

Check out the Site Selection article that ranks all states and major MSAs based on the degree to which their residents perceive they are achieving their American Dream.  You will be able to see the performing states/MSAs for each dimension of the American Dream and overall.  Special thanks to Site Selection Magazine for their continuing support in helping bring these data to economic development professionals, elected officials and anybody else with an interest in better understanding the American Dream.



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