By Matt Goodman,

DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – According to results from a nonpartisan research institute, Texas remains among the nation’s least peaceful states. But it’s making strides –– slowly.

“So, Texas is coming in at No. 44 out of the 50 states, but what I would say is that if we look at it over 20 years, the peacefulness in Texas has actually improved,” said Steve Killelae, a spokesman for the Washington, D.C.-based Institute for Economics and Peace.

Every year since 1991, the institute has compiled the U.S. Peace Index, which measures the peacefulness of each state based on five indicators: A state’s homicide level; presence of violent crime; incarceration rates; the level of policing; and the availability of small arms.

Texas’s peace index has long been among the nation’s worst. But, as Killelae said, its 2012 index is nearly 20 percent better than it was during its worst point in 1994.

“As a compass of measure it’s improved about 19 percent over the 20 years,” Killelae said. “So I think that’s quite interesting.”

The institute takes those qualifying factors further by analyzing their economic heft.

Killelae says the group researches direct costs as a result of the crime: The money spent directly by each state on policing, incarceration and the judicial system.

Next, it looks at how much money and production jailed individuals are costing the state.

“We also look at the cost of lost productivity, which could occur through homicides, like that’s a lifetime of lost employment,” Killelae said. “The cost of time off through rape or violent robbery and the medical expenses associated with that, as well.”

Essentially, each state is being measured against a perfect one –– a state that wouldn’t need police or prisons.

“You wouldn’t need them because there isn’t any crime nor would you have anyone in jail,” Killelae said.

The report says the total cost of violence on the U.S. economy last year was $460.8 billion. Texas took a $42 billion economic hit because of crime, the report says.

Maine was the nation’s most peaceful state. If the other 49 were at that same level, the report says the U.S. could recoup $274 billion.

“This economic impact would be potentially large enough to generate 1.7 million jobs,” the report says.

But the overall summary paints a bright picture; atop Page 6 in bold, italicized typeface contains the nugget below:

“The last twenty years have seen a substantial and sustained reduction in direct violence in the United States.”

In 1991, violent incidents occurred 748 per 100,000 incidents. In 2011, that rate dipped to 399. MSNBC reported this is because of improved policing, an aging population and better socioeconomic standards.

The report found Louisiana to be the least peaceful state in the country.

Read the full study here. 

News Radio 1080 KRLD’s Mitch Carr contributed to this report.