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    Leaving California: What states are the safest places to live?
    • June 17, 2023

    It seems many folks, when starting their quest to leave California, talk about enhancing the sense of safety in their lives.

    The Golden State’s migration woes have grabbed recent headlines as debate swirls about California being too soft on crime. So as a public service – no less, to provide an economic lesson or two – my trusty spreadsheet looked at a trove of statistics measuring the many factors surrounding the concept of “safety” for the 49 other states.

    Now, feeling safe is somewhat vague but also very personal. Is it simply crime avoidance? Do you include chances for other “harm,” ranging from weather to business cycles, driving or working? And what about the costs of these hazards?

    Yet for readers who are in a rush to exit California, my math says you’ll be safest in Massachusetts, followed by Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine and Rhode Island.

    Safety seekers should avoid Louisiana, Arkansas, South Carolina, Mississippi and Oklahoma.

    Now let’s be honest about the mathematical and philosophical challenges of any safety measurement. No ranking is perfect, and it’s impossible to account for everyone’s needs.

    In my quest to find the safest states, I started with a collection of similar risk assessments by WalletHub, US News and World Report, and Consumer Affairs. I added scorecards on narrower security issues from MoneyGeek, Oxfam, Bankrate, Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Then I topped it off with a dash of various government stats.

    Here’s what I learned …

    Crime counts

    People often see “safety” as criminal acts and how to avoid them.

    Talk about a topic that’s got lots of statistics but still is hard to quantify. Exactly, what is crime? Is it any legal transgression – or just the most serious, most violent offenses? Does that include your personal legal safety? Do you value quality or quantity of policing? How can one factor in the local justice system, too?

    Three national measurements of public safety took on that calculation challenge. My composite index of those gradings says the best states to avoid crime are New Hampshire, Maine, Vermont, New Jersey and Connecticut.

    Your worst odds of dodging the criminals are found in Arkansas, Louisiana, South Carolina, Alaska and Colorado.

    And California, if ranked, would be No. 32.

    Other hazards

    Safety isn’t just about crime. Life is filled with a host of other potential perils.

    My scorecard devoted half of each state’s grade to risks outside of public safety. Let’s look at five threats, each equal to 10% of a state’s safety ranking.

    Climate risks: What’s the chance your life is upended by Mother Nature?

    Pick your potential peril: flood, fire, winds, drought, blizzard or earthquake. Various government agencies weigh these risks. Those measurements offer one way for someone shopping for a new hometown to measure the odds – both to their body and pocketbook.

    Climate risks are smallest in New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Maine. And they’re highest in Louisiana, Mississippi and Iowa.

    California, if ranked, would be No. 34.

    Road hazards: Juggle this risk any way you choose. Accidents. Deaths. Drunken drivers. Road quality.

    What you’re basically trying to answer is “How can I avoid America’s craziest drivers?”

    This tally says the best drivers are in Massachusetts, Minnesota and New York. And the worst? Mississippi, Arkansas and New Mexico.

    California, if ranked, would be No. 32.

    Workplace safety: Depending on your career path, on-the-job injuries are something to worry about.

    Plus, states have varying laws for protecting workers – both their health and wealth opportunities.

    By this math, workers should feel safest in Washington, Oregon and Vermont. But be wary of jobs in Mississippi, Idaho and North Dakota.

    California, if ranked, would be the fourth-best place to work.

    Economic security: There are no financial guarantees in life and monetary calamity is another risk that can strike, too.

    So where is wealth, personal finances and career most protected from hazards ranging from swings of business cycles to nefarious folks?

    The best grades are found in Minnesota, Utah and Idaho. The worst are in Louisiana, Mississippi and New Mexico.

    And California, if ranked, would be No. 31.

    Insurance: You’ll have to weigh all these risks to choose what level of uncertainty is acceptable in any relocation.

    Remember, insurance companies do similar risk calculations, and consumers will see those results in the form of the premiums companies charge.

    The spreadsheet tallied auto and property policy premiums, comparing those costs to local incomes in order to rank state insurance expenses.

    Financially shielding yourself from risk is most affordable in Virginia, Maryland and New Jersey. Insurance will take the biggest bite out of your wallet in Kentucky, Oregon and Maine.

    And California, if ranked, has the 21st-best insurance costs.

    Bottom line

    What no math can do is gauge safety as a state of mind.

    And this notion of personal security is as subjective and emotional as it can get.

    Politically speaking, let’s politely say there’s a belief that “blue” states like California are poor bets for safety. Now, maybe my scorecard is wrong, but when I define “blue” vs. “red” states as those who supported President Biden in 2020 vs. those who did not, respectively, the average blue state had a No. 17 safety ranking vs. No. 33 for a red one.

    Or consider that my rankings suggest ex-Californians don’t often relocate to what appear to be safest states. Look at popular destinations and their respective rankings: Texas (No. 43), Nevada (No. 36), Florida (No. 31) and Arizona (No. 25). There was an exception: Idaho was No. 10.

    To be fair, perhaps the safety bar is low for those exiting the Golden State. California would have ranked a lowly No. 32 if it was included in my safety scorecard.

    Jonathan Lansner is the business columnist for the Southern California News Group. He can be reached at [email protected]

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    ​ Orange County Register