April 5, 2011; Source: SunHerald | Maine is the most peaceful state in the country. Louisiana is the least peaceful. And billions of dollars can be saved by becoming a more peaceful city or town. Who knew?

These findings are part of the inaugural United States Peace Index (USPI) created by the international think tank Institute for Economics and Peace. The aim of the USPI is to further the understanding of factors associated with peace and to help quantify the economic benefits that result from it. The report offers state-by-state rankings and highlights how peace significantly correlates with economic opportunity, education, and heath.

In this era of budget battles, the report estimates that reductions in crime, violence and incarceration to the same levels as Canada would collectively save $89 billion and produce $272 billion in economic stimulus at all levels of the government. It also estimates that 2.7 additional jobs would be created, lowering the U.S unemployment rate by 20 percent.

Other key findings:

  • Peace in the United States improved 8 percent from 1995 to 2009. The improvement is driven by a substantial decrease in homicides and violent crime.
  • Peace correlates to opportunity, health, education and the economy. Access to basic services, high school graduation rates, infant mortality, and poverty are some of the 15 socioeconomic factors that strongly correlate to a state’s ranking for peace.
  • Party affiliation does not have a discernable impact on peace.

The report also notes how some states moved up or down the peace quotient ladder. Six of the top ten most populous states gained the most percentage points on the scale – dramatically improving their peacefulness. Three Midwestern states, North Dakota, South Dakota and Montana, all dropped at least 40 percentage points in peacefulness, although they are still in the top half of the USPI.

The complete report can be downloaded here.

Kerry Kennedy, President of the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice, has cautioned to be mindful of spending cuts that impact those most vulnerable to violence and poverty, and hinder overall prosperity. “The index underlines the negative impact of violence on our economy, and reinforces the idea that minimizing violence, through job creation programs and access to education and healthcare dramatically increases prospects for growth,” Kennedy said.—Nancy Knoche