Survey Reveals the 5 US States with the Highest Murder Rate

According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the age-adjusted national homicide mortality rate increased by 30% in 2020, setting a new record, and will rise another 5% in 2021. The homicide rate in 2021 was 8.2 deaths per 100,000 inhabitants, 55% higher than a decade ago. Nonetheless, US homicide rates remain lower than the record highs of the 1970s and early 1990s.

The CDC defines “homicide” as death caused by “injuries inflicted by another person with intent to injure or kill, by any means,” as opposed to death by suicide, during conflict, or by law enforcement while on duty. Rates are derived by dividing homicides by 100,000 inhabitants, allowing for comparisons of the number of events among cities and states of varying population sizes. The CDC also publishes age-adjusted data, which allows for more accurate comparisons of populations across time than raw mortality rates alone.

Homicide Rates by State

Survey Reveals the 5 US States with the Highest Murder Rate

Homicide rates vary significantly by state. In 2021, three states had an effective murder rate of zero — a rate so low that zero is the closest round figure — while two states had more than 20.

What states have the greatest murder rate?

The following five states had the highest homicide rates in 2021:

  • Mississippi
  • Louisiana
  • Alabama
  • New Mexico
  • South Carolina

What states have the lowest murder rate?

The following five states had the lowest homicide rates in 2021:

  • New Hampshire
  • Vermont
  • Wyoming
  • Maine
  • Idaho

Although Washington, DC had the highest homicide mortality rate (33.3 per 100,000 people) of any state, it is not a state; given its population density, a more appropriate comparison is to counties in big metropolitan areas. Washington, DC has the seventh-highest crude homicide fatality rate (not age-adjusted), trailing only the counties of St. Louis, Missouri; New Orleans, Louisiana; Baltimore, Maryland; Memphis, Tennessee; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; and Richmond, Virginia.

How has the murder rate varied throughout time?

The national homicide rate of 7.8 deaths per 100,000 people has decreased since the early 1990s, when it was 9.9.

In 2020, the United States experienced the largest single-year homicide rate increase in contemporary history, rising from 6.0 in 2019 to 7.8 in 2020. The previous record annual increase was 20 percent between 2000 (5.9) and 2001 (7.1), which the CDC attributed to the September 11 terrorist events.

Which states have experienced the greatest change?

Survey Reveals the 5 US States with the Highest Murder Rate

Mississippi had the most rise in homicides from 2005 to 2021, rising from 9 to 23.7, or more than 14 per 100,000 inhabitants. Louisiana, New Mexico, Alabama, and Illinois saw the next largest rises.

Five states—New Jersey, California, Massachusetts, Arizona, and Idaho—saw minor drops, with one homicide per 100,000 people or less.

Mississippi, Louisiana, New Mexico, and Alabama had the four highest overall homicide rates in 2021, with Illinois ranking seventh.

How do various government agencies report on homicide?

The CDC and FBI are the federal government’s primary sources of homicide data. The two agencies use slightly different definitions of homicide, as well as distinct data collection and analysis methods. Historically, their annual data and patterns have been similar.

The CDC reports on homicide as a cause of death, allowing for comparisons among mortality rates, but the FBI reports on homicide in its crime data, allowing for comparisons between crime rates.

The CDC obtains homicide statistics from standardized death certificates, which often include medical information entered by coroners or medical examiners.

Meanwhile, the FBI relies on local law enforcement agencies to voluntarily disclose crime data, which many do not.


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