Immigration growth in Spain has not caused more crime

Jun 25, 2012
Immigration growth in Spain has not caused more crime
Immigration growth in Spain has not caused more crime. Credit: SINC

Society tends to perceive an increase in the immigrant population with an increase in crime. But, according to a new study, it is not possible to infer this cause-effect relationship in the case of Spain.

"Crime in Spain is low compared to the rest of . have increased slightly in recent years, unlike the which has grown at a much greater pace. This suggests a positive yet low correlation between immigration and crime," as explained to SINC by César Alonso-Borrego, lecturer in economics at the Carlos III University in Madrid, Spain.

The researcher is a coauthor of the study published in the American Law and Economics Review Journal. It evaluates whether "this correlation consists of a causal relationship between immigration and crime." The conclusion is that it does not.

The researchers constructed an empirical model to measure the probability of committing crime depending on environmental and individual characteristics, such as educational attainment. They used data from the Spanish Home Office on the crimes committed each year for each 10,000 inhabitants in every Spanish province from 1999 to 2009. Information on the immigrant population was extracted from the Electoral Register and the Labour Force Survey. Furthermore, environmental characteristics were taken into account using measures like the GDP per capita and the unemployment rate in each province.

As the expert points out, "we studied the number of crimes per inhabitant for each place and each year. Amongst the relevant variables was the proportion of according to their origin and characteristics (age, gender, education and language)."

The use of information for each province causes a potential endogenous problem. In other words, this means the unseen differences between provinces that affect crime levels (like access to opportunities) and the proportion of immigrants.

The researcher stresses that "there tends to be more crime in places that offer more economic opportunities. These places are precisely where there are higher levels of immigrants. This suggests a positive correlation between immigration and crime, which could wrongly lead to attributing this to a causal link between both phenomena." However, thanks to the availability of longitudinal data (values for each variable over a period of various years), the researchers have been able to consistently calculate the veracity of this causal effect.

Estimates confirm the importance of language and education. "In particular, there is less crime amongst the Spanish-speaking immigrant population and, to a lesser extent, those immigrants from the European Union. Furthermore, the immigrant's educational attainment, which is relatively high in relation to native Spaniards, explains how the effect of immigration on delinquency is moderate," according to the experts.

Young men commit more crime

Likewise, as is the case in other countries, the immigration proportion of young men is associated with a higher crime rate since this population group is responsible for most of crimes committed. The expert emphasises that "the proportion of young men is higher amongst the immigrant population than the native population."

Unlike in the USA, this massive influx of immigrants is relatively recent throughout the European Union. This is particularly the case in where the weight of the immigrant population has increased since the year 2000.

"Our results fall in line with well-known 'Latino Paradox' in the USA, where the immigrant Mexican population saw a decrease in crime. This is because the immigrants from Mexico consisted of a 'virtuous selection' of individuals whose tendency to commit was lower than that of the native population. Immigration is not a homogenous phenomenon but is rather a range of very different groups that each require different policies depending on the problems associated with their specific characteristics," conclude the researchers.

Explore further: Study finds law dramatically curbing need for speed

More information: American Law and Economics Review 14 (1): 165-191, primavera 2012. doi: 10.1093/aler/ahr019

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Spanish women marry immigrants with more qualifications

Oct 05, 2011

A team at the Complutense University of Madrid (UCM) has studied the marriage strategies of immigrants in order to determine the nature of endogamic (between people of the same nationality) and exogamic partnerships ...

Recommended for you

Study finds law dramatically curbing need for speed

Apr 18, 2014

Almost seven years have passed since Ontario's street-racing legislation hit the books and, according to one Western researcher, it has succeeded in putting the brakes on the number of convictions and, more importantly, injuries ...

Newlyweds, be careful what you wish for

Apr 17, 2014

A statistical analysis of the gift "fulfillments" at several hundred online wedding gift registries suggests that wedding guests are caught between a rock and a hard place when it comes to buying an appropriate gift for the ...

Can new understanding avert tragedy?

Apr 17, 2014

As a boy growing up in Syracuse, NY, Sol Hsiang ran an experiment for a school project testing whether plants grow better sprinkled with water vs orange juice. Today, 20 years later, he applies complex statistical ...

Creative activities outside work can improve job performance

Apr 16, 2014

Employees who pursue creative activities outside of work may find that these activities boost their performance on the job, according to a new study by San Francisco State University organizational psychologist Kevin Eschleman ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

not rated yet Jun 25, 2012
A similar study of immigration in the U.S. found the same thing.

Yet Conservative Faux news outlets like the Drudge Report continue to claim or imply that immigrants - particularly mexican immigrants - commit more crimes.

I have never met a Conservative who wasn't a congenital an perpetual liar.

More news stories

Egypt archaeologists find ancient writer's tomb

Egypt's minister of antiquities says a team of Spanish archaeologists has discovered two tombs in the southern part of the country, one of them belonging to a writer and containing a trove of artifacts including reed pens ...

Making graphene in your kitchen

Graphene has been touted as a wonder material—the world's thinnest substance, but super-strong. Now scientists say it is so easy to make you could produce some in your kitchen.

Low tolerance for pain? The reason may be in your genes

Researchers may have identified key genes linked to why some people have a higher tolerance for pain than others, according to a study released today that will be presented at the American Academy of Neurology's 66th Annual ...

How to keep your fitness goals on track

(HealthDay)—The New Year's resolutions many made to get fit have stalled by now. And one expert thinks that's because many people set their goals too high.