Migration and Human Rights (34): The “Criminal Immigrant” Stereotype, Ctd.

comments 7
citizenship / data / international relations / law

I presented some data debunking the criminal immigrant stereotype a few times already. It’s simply not true that immigration leads to an increase in crime rates. True, immigrants are often – but not always – relatively poor, undereducated and – initially at least – not well adjusted to their host community. But none of that seems to be a sufficient reason for higher crime rates among immigrants.

On the contrary, there’s some evidence here of immigration actually reducing crime rates:

During the 1990s, immigration reached record highs and crime rates fell more precipitously than at any time in U.S. history. And cities with the largest increases in immigration between 1990 and 2000 experienced the largest decreases in rates of homicide and robbery. … Wadsworth contends that looking at crime statistics at a single point in time can’t explain the cause of crime rates.

Using such snapshots in time, Wadsworth finds that cities with larger foreign-born and new-immigrant populations do have higher rates of violent crime. But many factors—including economic conditions—influence crime rates.

If higher rates of immigration were boosting crime rates, one would expect long-term studies to show crime rising and falling over time with the influx and exodus of immigrants. Instead, Wadsworth found the opposite. (source)

There’s yet another study here showing that Hispanic Americans are less violent than whites or blacks.

A simple juxtaposition of immigration trends and crime trends can already make clear how silly it is to claim that higher immigration rates produce higher crime rates:

foreign born share of US population

Property crime rates in the United States, 198...

Property crime rates in the United States (1986-2005) Source: FBI Uniform Crime Reports

What could be the explanation? Why does immigration reduce crime rates? Maybe the culture and religion of the immigrants has something to do with it. Or maybe it’s true that people migrate because they want to have a better life, and that engaging in crime is incompatible with this motivation. Or perhaps the fact that immigrants tend to live in extended families and close-knit communities discourages crime.

I’ve said it before: although correlation doesn’t always equal causation, these numbers are compelling, even if we accept some possible caveats (illegal immigrants, when committing a crime, are perhaps more likely to flee abroad and hence not end up in incarceration statistics, and there may be some underreporting of crime in communities with a lot of illegal immigrants). Politicians should therefore stop exploiting irrational fears about immigrant crime for their own partisan gain. You don’t solve the crime problem by closing the border, and certainly not by ignoring overwhelming scientific evidence.


  1. Pingback: The burglar and I | STEREOTYPES 2010

  2. Pingback: Measuring Human Rights (14): Numbers of Illegal Immigrants | P.A.P.-BLOG – HUMAN RIGHTS ETC.

  3. Pingback: Human Rights Maps (144): The “Criminal Immigrant” Stereotype | P.a.p.-Blog

  4. Pingback: Unintentional Human Rights Violations | P.a.p.-Blog | Human Rights Etc.

  5. Pingback: Migration and Human Rights (43): The Impact of Immigration on the Educational Attainment of Natives | P.a.p.-Blog, Human Rights Etc.

  6. Pingback: Most Urgent Human Rights Policies | P.a.p.-Blog, Human Rights Etc.

  7. Pingback: Migration and Human Rights (46): The “Criminal Immigrant” Stereotype, Ctd. | P.a.p.-Blog, Human Rights Etc.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s