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A peaceful place to live

Thursday, April 7, 2011

For the first time ever, peace is being used to rank countries and states.

The Institute for Economics and Peace launched the United States Peace Index Wednesday.

Identifying peace as "the absence of violence" and using indicators such as homicide rates, violent crimes, percentage of population in jail, number of police officers and availability of small arms, the IEP ranked Iowa as the ninth most peaceful state.

The study also finds that peace in the U.S. improved by 8 percent from 1995 to 2009.

Iowa's score of 1.85 is just .51 behind top-ranked Maine's score, beats the national average of 2.02 and is less than half of the nation's worse score of 3.97, found in Louisiana.

Though the study only breaks down the numbers for the top and bottom five -- therefore not offering a closer look at Iowa's ranking -- it reinforces what Iowans have known for years.

Iowa is a great place to live.

However, there is also some negative news.

Using the same formula, the IEP determined that Iowa's peace index was sixth-ranked at 1.54 in 1991, meaning it has dropped 20.1 percent.

Part of that could be blamed on a growing population. Iowa's population has grown from 2,776,755 in 1990 to 3,046,355 in 2010, according to census data.

Where there are more people, there is more potential for crime.

There may be something to that theory, as the top 10 peaceful states have an average population of 2.62 million, while the 10 states on the other side of the spectrum have an average population of 7.91 million.

Population can only be part of the equation, though.

Education has to be another part of it.

Here again, it makes sense that Iowa's peace ranking has slipped, just as it's education ranking has slipped over the last two decades.

But neither trying to suppress population nor just improving education would create more peace in Iowa.

It all comes down to personal responsibility and compassion for others.

Iowans need to continue the positive work ethic this state is known for, while also reaching out and helping neighbors whenever possible.

Peace in this state and nation isn't about a ranking.

Peace is about everyone doing their best to love others as they love themselves.

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Gabe Licht
Junior Moments