Exploring the Safest States to Live in America Based on Crime Rates
Ask any prospective homebuyer and they will tell you that the crime rate and public safety of the area they’re buying a home in is very important to them. If they have children, they want to know their kids can play at the neighborhood park or go to and from school without worry. Everyone wants to feel safe in their city as they go about their daily lives, running errands, going to work, and eventually heading home at the end of the day.
Our mission at Homes.com is to make the entire home buying process as smooth and easy for our users as possible, and part of that process is educating house hunters on topics to empower their journey. Knowing the crime rate of an area before you move is important, and that’s why we wanted to take a look at the crime rate perception versus crime rate reality in each state. As it turns out, some places are safer than they feel while others are less safe than locals think.
We surveyed 100 Americans in every U.S. state asking them to rank how safe they feel walking alone at night, 1 (very unsafe) – 5 (very safe). We then compared FBI data on violent crime by state to these perceptions, in order to determine where Americans feel the safest, and where they actually are.
How Safe Do Americans Perceive Themselves to Be?
Let’s take a look at what we discovered when we asked residents in each state to rank their perception of safety.
It became clear, very quickly, that people feel different levels of safety in public all around the country. The perception of safety, based on our 1-5 scale, shows that a majority of respondents were very comfortable walking alone at night (5 on the scale).
Over 33% of American adults responded that they would feel very comfortable walking alone at night in their current residential area, or nearby. That’s a comforting statistic! While more than half of the Americans surveyed responded that they feel, at least, somewhat safe walking alone at night, others do not have the same level of perceived safety.
Less than 1 in 10 Americans feel unsafe walking alone at night, and while more Americans feel somewhat safe walking alone at night, there are areas of the country where residents feel particularly unsafe. Let’s take a look at those states.
The U.S. States That Feel the Least Safe
Residents of Texas and Tennessee had very similar responses, showcasing that residents in these states feel the least safe walking alone at night. Tied for the states where residents feel the least safe, both Texas and Tennessee had an average response rate of 3.29 on a 5-point scale.
Southern neighbors in Mississippi also rated their perception of safety similarly – the Magnolia state had an average perceived safety rating of 3.32.
The responses from southern states like Texas, Tennessee, Mississippi, Kentucky, West Virginia, Louisiana, South Carolina and Alabama lead us to believe that residents in the Southeast have a lower perception of safety. Southwestern states like Arizona, New Mexico, and the very west-coast California also share this perception.
The U.S. States That Feel the Most Safe
If there’s a perception of being unsafe, then there are of course places in the United States where residents feel like they are safer. With that being said, the states where people feel the safest range all over the country. There’s no real theme to the regions where these states are located, save for the rural nature of the land in these states.
America’s heartland feels the safest, with Kansas coming in as the state where the perceived safety of residents is almost at a 4 on the scale. New Hampshire ranks #2, with Nevada, Utah, and Washington, D.C. following close behind. One interesting thing to note is that Vermont was ranked the number one safest state in the US, and on average, residents claim a 3.74 on our 1-5 scale, meaning that they’re one of the states where people also feel the safest.
Other states that have a large portion of rural land who are included in the states who feel the safest include Maine, Minnesota, North Dakota, Washington, and Idaho.
The Perception of Safety in Every U.S. State
This heat map shows the average safety rating that residents gave their home state. The full map gives a stronger and more comprehensive look at how safe residents feel their home states are. To make this even more relevant for our Homes.com readers, we also took a look at the crime rate in each state to compare the perception of safety with the reality of local crime rates.
The Gap Between Perception of Safety and Actual Crime Rates
Needless to say, there’s an obvious gap between perceived safety and actual safety, based on where you live. Some states might do a better job making their residents feel safe whereas other states might not have as many stipulations in place to make being out in public feel safer.
There are always outliers, so we also took a look at the states that had the biggest gap between perceived safety and the actuality of public safety based on the crime rate for that state. For example, one of the largest gaps was in Kansas, which ranks number one in terms of residents feeling the safest, but is ranked 36th in terms of violent crime among all states.
The states that are perceived as less safe include a few southern states like Kentucky, Mississippi, and West Virginia. Both Connecticut and Virginia also rank their perception of safety lower than the crime rate would suggest, although neither state ended up on the list of states who feel the least safe.
On the other hand, it’s surprising to see that residents of Kansas are not actually as safe as they think! States whose perception of safety is higher than it truly is include Washington, D.C. which has a high crime rate, as well as Nevada, Alaska, and Missouri.
The Differences in Perceived Safety Between Men and Women
Men and women have differing perceptions of safety, for good reason. Even though crime rates are decreasing in many areas around the United States, it’s always a good idea to know how to protect yourself and your property.
Studies show that women often feel less safe than men in public spaces. The gender gap in perceived safety shows that men, on average, feel closer to a 4 on our scale (feeling safe walking alone at night) whereas women are closer to a 3 (feeling somewhat safe). This indicates potential homeowners might want to look into the local crime rate while also checking into stats of the local police force.
When you are looking to buy a new home or put your home on the market, it’s helpful to know how your new neighbors feel about safety since crime certainly plays a role in the health of a city’s housing market. Whether that is a positive impact or a negative impact, property value can be affected based on local crime rates.
No matter what, feeling safe in your home is the ultimate goal, and here at Homes.com we’re here to help make that a priority.