Do Immigrants Increase Crime?

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Once again, the supposed link between immigrants and crime was peddled by President Trump with the announcement of VOICE: Victims Of Immigration Crime Engagement office. “We are providing a voice to those who have been ignored by our media, and silenced by special interests,” Trump said in his joint address to Congress this past Tuesday.

But the scare over immigrant criminality is, frankly, nothing more than fear-mongering. “Research has shown virtually no support for the enduring assumption that increases in immigration are associated with increases in crime,” write sociologist Robert Adelman and criminologist Lesley Reid.

Immigration-crime research over the past 20 years has widely corroborated the conclusions of a number of early 20th-century presidential commissions that found no backing for the immigration-crime connection. Although there are always individual exceptions, the literature demonstrates that immigrants commit fewer crimes, on average, than native-born Americans.

Also, large cities with substantial immigrant populations have lower crime rates, on average, than those with minimal immigrant populations.

Drawing on their recent study that “analyzed census data spanning four decades from 1970 to 2010 for 200 randomly selected metropolitan areas,” Adelman and Reid explain that an increase in immigration led to a decrease in murder, robbery, burglary, and larceny (on average). They conclude, “These associations are strong and stable evidence that immigration does not cause crime to increase in U.S. metropolitan areas, and may even help reduce it.”

Researchers Charis Kubrin and Graham Ousey also find that “[c]ities and neighborhoods with greater concentrations of immigrants have lower rates of crime and violence, all else being equal…In one study, for example, we found that cities with historically high immigration levels are especially likely to enjoy reduced crime rates as a result of their immigrant populations.” One of the more exciting bits of research is their forthcoming article in The Annual Review of Criminology:1

We conducted a meta-analysis, meaning we systematically evaluated available research on the immigration-crime relationship in neighborhoods, cities and metropolitan areas across the U.S. We examined findings from more than 50 studies published between 1994 and 2014[.]

Our analysis of the literature reveals that immigration has a weak crime-suppressing effect. In other words, more immigration equals less crime.

There were some individual studies that found that with an increase in immigration, there was an increase in crime. However, there were 2.5 times as many findings that showed immigration was actually correlated with less crime. And, the most common finding was that immigration had no impact on crime.

The upshot? We find no evidence to indicate that immigration leads to more crime and it may, in fact, suppress it.

Despite these facts, President Trump will likely continue and expand the Obama administration’s deportation tactics. Here’s hoping it turns out differently.

2 thoughts on “Do Immigrants Increase Crime?”

  1. From my perspective (as a random person on the internet), you ruin your credibility as a writer, or a researcher, if you don’t make important distinctions. The most important distinction not made or even covered is the difference between legal and illegal immigration.

    If there is any crime committed by an immigrant, that is more than zero, and therefore an “increase in crime.” Illegal immigration is de facto illegal and therefore a crime. So illegal immigrants are committing the crime of not being where they are legally. I have a good friend who is an illegal immigrant who volunteers with the local police department. This person’s job is to liaise with the hispanic community to help law enforcement investigate crime. The reason this job is useful to local law enforcement is illegal immigrants are afraid of law enforcement, and therefore much less likely to report crime (even if they are the victim). Unless the studies state the differences in data that may exist for legal and illegal immigrants, I consider it agenda driven propaganda, rather than a serious study. By the way, I’m in favor of a path to legal residence (but not citizenship) for illegal aliens who have committed no other crimes and who do not take government assistance.

  2. The complaint about the language of “increase in crime” basically takes my click-bait title and blows it out of proportion. It also ignores the actual content of the post, which never argues that immigrants commit “zero crimes.” It specifically points out that numerous studies find immigrants commit “fewer crimes, on average, than native-born Americans.” Or that “large cities with substantial immigrant populations have lower crime rates, on average, than those with minimal immigrant populations.” Or “increase[s] in immigration led to a decrease in murder, robbery, burglary, and larceny (on average).” Or “[c]ities and neighborhoods with greater concentrations of immigrants have lower rates of crime and violence, all else being equal.” This is all pretty specific.

    Not only that, most studies look at “foreign-born” (including illegals) vs. “native-born.” If you’re wanting a complete breakdown of crime rates between illegal and legal immigrants, there are a few studies that do it (spoilers: they find that they also have lower crime rates).

    You can read some more links here: http://difficultrun.nathanielgivens.com/2016/09/21/what-the-chances-american-deaths-via-foreign-terrorists/

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