Vermont knocked North Dakota off its six-year perch as the nation's safest state in a survey getting steeped in controversy and the Green Mountain State also pulled a three-peat as the nation's healthiest state, but Minnesota retained what's becoming a perennial "Most Livable State" title.
Morgan Quitno Press, the Lawrence KS researcher and publisher of statistics that give the status of the nation's states and their cities in several categories, on April 25 released their latest "Safest and Most Dangerous States," "Healthiest States," and "Most Livable States."
New England was a big regional winner as Vermont, North Dakota, Maine, South Dakota and New Hampshire filled the top five slots as the nation's safest states. The South and Southwest filled the bottom five slots as Maryland, Florida, Arizona, Nevada and Louisiana came in as the nation's most dangerous states.
The rankings are based on how a state compares with the national average in six crime categories — murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary and motor vehicle theft.
Morgan Quitno says some law enforcement officials and criminologists have considered ranking according to crime can give a state a bad rap it might not deserve, because ranking by the numbers doesn't consider population density, composition of the population (particularly the concentration of youth), climate, economic conditions, strength of local law enforcement agencies, citizen's attitudes toward crime, cultural factors, education levels, crime reporting practices of citizens, family cohesiveness and other factors that impact crime levels.
However, Morgan Quitno stands by its report as "straightforward data that all of use can use and understand."
"For five of the ten years that we have issued the Safest and Most Dangerous State designations, Louisiana has ranked as the nation’s Most Dangerous State," said Scott Morgan, president of Morgan Quitno Press. "The state's murder rate not only is the highest in the country but also is double the national average."
There was some good news for the Pelican State.
"Despite the not-so-good news about Louisiana's crime situation, the state is making progress," said Morgan. "The state's violent crime rate has decreased more than 19 percent in the five years from 1997 to 2001, better than the national average decline of 17.4 percent."
Must be the maple syrup.
Vermont was also back for the third year as the Morgan Quitno's healthiest state, followed by New Hampshire, Nebraska, Iowa and Minnesota. The South couldn't rise again as the least healthy states were New Mexico, Alabama, South Carolina, Louisiana and finally Mississippi. At No. 22, Virginia was the highest ranked southern state in this category.
The healthy living award is based on an analysis of 21 factors, including access to health care providers, affordability of health care, infant mortality rates, teen birth rate, binge drinking rates and sexually transmitted disease rates.
"Vermont fits this profile well. It boasts a low teen birth rate, a high childhood vaccination rate and excellent access to primary care physicians. Conversely, Mississippi faces the nation's highest infant mortality rate, the highest teen birth rate and the highest percentage of population lacking access to primary care physicians," Morgan said.
For the seventh year in a row, Minnesota is the nation's most livable state, according to Morgan Quitno. Following were Iowa, New Hampshire, Nebraska and Virginia.
Still more bad news came from the South. The least livable states were West Virginia, Alabama, Tennessee, Louisiana and Mississippi.
To determine a state's livability, Morgan Quitno averaged a 1 to 50 score for 43 factors, including everything from crime rates, costs of living, incomes and home ownership rates to low birth weight births, per capita number of books in libraries, sunny days and hazardous waste sites.
"Our Most Livable State Award is not a measurement of which state is most fun or the best place for everyone to live," said Morgan. "It is based on statistical indicators that reflect the kind of lifestyle that most Americans agree is positive — affordable housing, safe streets, good employment opportunities, a strong education system and a healthy state economy."