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Analysis

Ranking says Az anything but 'peaceful' place

Arizona seems to have earned a national reputation for violent rhetoric, but are we truly a violent place?

The answer — well, one answer — is: pretty much.

Arizona is ranked 46th  among the 50 states on the 2012 Peace Index, a measure devised by the Institute for Economics and Peace, an international non-profit research organization founded by an Australian entrepreneur. This ranking places us just below Missouri and above Florida.

The most peaceful state is Maine, this study concludes; the least peaceful is Louisiana.

The IEP also ranked major U.S. metropolitan areas. The Phoenix metro area placed 20th in peacefulness among the top 61 metros, just below Cincinnati and just above Buffalo.

The most peaceful metro is Cambridge, Massachusetts; the least peaceful is Detroit.

The first question that comes to mind is: What does this claim to measure?

The IEP report defines peacefulness, reasonably enough, as the absence of violence. The major indicators it uses to rank states and metro areas are: Homicide rate, violent crime rate, incarceration rate, number of police employees per 100,000 people, and availability of small arms.

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The second question is: Who cares?

Well, there’s the pesky issue of human misery to consider. But the report also notes that that violence is expensive (it estimates that violence cost Arizona about $11 billion in 2010), and is typically accompanied by such phenomena as poverty, unemployment, single-parent families, poor educational attainment and low civic engagement.

Sound familiar?

This news this would be alarming enough without considering that that Mississippi, placed at 41, actually ranked better than Arizona in the peacefulness sweepstakes. Those who follow socio-economic data know that Mississippi has long been a source of comfort to us by faithfully registering worse scores than Arizona on virtually all measures. This borders on betrayal!

The Peace Index could easily be dismissed as yet another fatuous exercise by a bunch of do-gooders who have too much time on their hands and should instead have real jobs, if there were any real jobs. But it seems to have be rather carefully done by a lot of people (true, many of them Europeans) with impressive backgrounds. It’s worth a look, though you may well disagree with its methods or findings.

In any case, just don’t get mad!

Morrison Institute for Public Policy is a leader in examining critical Arizona and regional issues, and is a catalyst for public dialogue. An Arizona State University resource, Morrison Institute uses nonpartisan research and communication outreach to help improve the state's quality of life.

Bill Hart is a senior policy analyst at Morrison Institute for Public Policy.

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