Nevada doesn’t rank well on listings of lists of each state’s per-capita measures of bad human behavior.
Nevada’s high ranking among states per-capita rates of crime, suicide and substance abuse, to name but several, are often named as reasons why we should lift Nevada above the median level of state and local government spending we maintain today.
But these “per-capita” measures include behavior of non-residents along with residents, while only dividing by the number of residents. Take crime, for example: the total number of murders in Nevada includes those committed by residents and visitors, but this total is only divided by the number of residents – not the number of residents plus visitors. If Nevada has an unusually high number of visitors given our resident population – and we do – then such per-capita measures are artificially high – and our ranking amongst states is also artificially high.
In an attempt to determine just how distorted such per-capita rankings might be, Nevada’s Legislative Counsel Bureau was asked to determine how many days visitors spent in Nevada each year. Here’s the memo.
The answer is that Nevada has 249.4-million “visitor days” per year. Using the same logic, there are 912.5-million “resident days” per year (2.5-million population x 365 days per year) . Thus, 21.5% of human activity in Nevada can be attributed to visitors while 78.5% of human activity in Nevada can be attributed to residents. No other state can attribute such a high percentage of its human activity to visitors.
Some may have an equal raw number of “visitor days” but they have much larger resident populations. If we did the same math for California, assuming they had the same raw number of “visitor days” as Nevada, California’s resident population of 40-million or so translates to 98.3% residents and 1.7% visitors.
How does this impact listings of ranked, per-capita measures? Here is a ranking of homicide rates where Las Vegas ranks 23rd highest, at 10.2. It includes murders committed by residents and visitors, but is expressed per 100,000 residents. If the total murders were divided into 121,500 people (residents plus visitors) then the homicide rate would only be 8.0 – which drops us to 53rd, just ahead of Battle Creek, MI and Longview, TX, and below our 50th MSA ranking.