Rise in immigration may help explain drop in violent crimes, study says

May 14, 2010

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, a University of Colorado at Boulder researcher has found.

Tim Wadsworth, an assistant professor of sociology, has tested the hypothesis, famously advanced by Harvard sociologist Robert J. Sampson, that the rise in immigration could be related to the drop in crime rates.

Wadsworth noticed Sampson's argument in a 2006 New York Times op-ed piece. As Wadsworth recalled, "My reaction was that this is really interesting, and it's a very testable question."

New research supports Sampson's hypothesis, Wadsworth reports in the June edition of Social Science Quarterly.

"Cities that experienced greater growth in immigrant or new-immigrant populations between 1990 and 2000 tended to demonstrate sharper decreases in homicide and robbery," Wadsworth writes. "The suggestion that high levels of immigration may have been partially responsible for the drop in crime during the 1990s seems plausible."

Drawing from the FBI's Uniform Crime Reports and U.S. Census data, Wadsworth analyzed 459 cities with populations of at least 50,000. Wadsworth measured immigrant populations in two ways: those who are foreign-born and those who immigrated within the previous five years.

Wadsworth focused on medium and large cities because about 80 percent of takes place there. Wadsworth said distinguishing legal and illegal immigration is difficult, as the U.S. Census does not track those numbers, but he notes that immigrant citizens and non-citizens often live together in the same communities.

He tracked crime statistics for homicide and robbery because they tend to be reported more consistently than other crimes. Robberies are usually committed by strangers -- which increases the reporting rate -- and " are difficult to hide," he said.

Wadsworth's findings contradict much of the public rhetoric about the relationship between immigration and crime. As the Arizona Republic reported this month, violent crime in that state's border towns has remained essentially flat during the past decade even as drug-trade violence on the other side of the border has burgeoned.

The presumed link between immigration and crime has a long history in the United States and overseas. Wadsworth said such sentiments are often expressed on Internet blogs and elsewhere.

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 . Instead, Wadsworth found the opposite.

Using long-term analyses, Wadsworth noted, cities that experienced the largest growth in the proportion of foreign-born and newly arrived immigrant populations experienced larger decreases in violent crime between 1990 and 2000. That finding, Wadsworth wrote, "suggests that Sampson may be right -- that immigration may be partly responsible for the decrease in violent crime."

Wadsworth's research suggests that, controlling for a variety of other factors, growth in the new immigrant population was responsible, on average, for 9.3 percent of the decline in homicide rates, and that growth in total immigration was, on average, responsible for 22.2 percent of the decrease in robbery rates.

Exactly why growth in immigration is accompanying decreases in violent crime is hard to determine with city-level data. Some have suggested that immigrant communities are often characterized by extended family networks, lower levels of divorce, and cultural and religious beliefs that facilitate community integration. Wadsworth notes that "criminologists have long known that these factors provide buffers against crime."

"From the late 1800s to the present, the association between immigration and crime has been a center point of anti-immigrant discourse and public policy," Wadsworth writes. "Although there has been scant empirical research to support such claims, they have persisted with little debate."

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deatopmg
2.8 / 5 (9) May 14, 2010
the drop in crime couldn't have anything to do w/ a '90's booming economy and low unemployment rate, because that might blow this politically motivated, wishful thinking aberration out of the water?
For the record, the vast majority of these "immigrants" entered this country by breaking and entering according to, like it or not, the law of the land. If it was your home you'd probably make sure they go to jail or maybe you would say oh, sorry your country is in terrible economic shape and you can't find a job why don't you stay with us. We'll feed you, pay for any medical problems you might have, pay for your children's schooling, buy you anything you might need, and you don't have to pay us back so long as you take out the trash once a week.

No discussion or consideration here that Phoenix has the 2nd highest kidnap rate in the world, all due to, ok I'll say it, ILLEGAL immigrants.

As far as I'm concerned these people ARE welcome here. Just get in line like everyone else.
gopher65
3.8 / 5 (5) May 14, 2010
Phoenix does not have the second highest kidnapping rate in the world. I'm afraid that you're falling prey to an unfortunate fact: people in first world countries report crimes to authorities, while in the third world people don't, mostly because they're just as afraid of the authorities than they are of the criminals.

So the US does NOT have higher murder, rape, and kidnapping rates than Afghanistan. People here just report all those things. Do you really think some oppressed woman in Afghanistan is going to report being raped? She'd be executed for "allowing" herself to be raped:P. Kidnapping is much the same; you take care of it yourself, or they die.

Moving on to crime as a whole, where I live it is literally illegal to spit on the sidewalk. If the police see it that gets reported as a crime. Not so other places, where you cannot only spit, but defecate in the street, legally.

UN-reported crime rates are not an apples-to-apples comparison between countries.
jonnyboy
2 / 5 (4) May 14, 2010
illegal immigrants end up in big cities and aren't the ones committing crimes, they don't want to get sent back where they came from and are also less likely to report a crime against them for the same reason. Therefore they lower the crime rate by increasing the population and decreasing the reporting of crimes, obviously way too simple for this "sociologist" to understand.
ArtflDgr
2.6 / 5 (5) May 14, 2010
this is so stupid...

if they actually were recording the breaking of laws, EVERY illegal entry was a crime they didnt count.

so maybe the fact they are not counting crime is the reason they are lowering the numbers.

record numbers of immigrants are not possible in a system that limits legal immigration equally for all countries.

95 people are in jail for murder in maricopa... so yes they DO commit crimes.

want to talk to the husband of that B movie actress who was murdered just as her last movie comes out?

illegal immigrants commit higher rates of crime..

not lower.

theya re not afraid of deportation, they came in illegally and will do it again... its the LEGALS that are afraid of losing their place...

duh.

[and before you say something stupid, i am from an immigrant family. i am first born here on dads side, second on moms, and my wife is applying for her citizenship.. oh... and we are racially mixed... ]

ArtflDgr
2.3 / 5 (6) May 14, 2010
Phoenix does not have the second highest kidnapping rate in the world.

Yes it does...

359 in 2007 a 10-year high
366 in 2008
302 for the first 11 months of 2009

most are illegal immigrants kidnapping illegal immigrants

then there is the slave trade where immigrants are held by other Spanish to do work or to pay money or else their family gets hurt back home

[then you have the communism factor... or havent you notices they are too stupid to read the actual law, they believe the same crap stories that kgb fed the people of india in 1957, and think that by telling the americans to leave the continent, they will be considered good future citizens]

personally, if this is their attitude, deport those that break the law and can be determined, close off all immigration of Spanish until the numbers from other countries are equal to the cheaters

cant be against equality, can you? and the Spanish have cheated more than any other group to oppress the other immigrants by cheating
Roj
4 / 5 (2) May 14, 2010
The presumed link between immigration and crime has a long history in the United States and overseas..
The link between immigrants & crime is less money being spent on illegal drugs by the low-wage class.

Immigrant-indentured labor displaces taxable wages, disposable incomes, recreational drug use, and the addiction-related, income-generating crimes.
Shootist
2.3 / 5 (3) May 15, 2010
"Rise in immigration may help explain drop in violent crimes, study says"

Was this crap in a peer reviewed journal?

Every day 12 Americans are murdered by illegal immigrants.
gopher65
not rated yet May 15, 2010
That statist is incorrect, unless you include illegal immigrants as "American". Most murder victims of illegal immigrants are other illegal immigrants. The US is still doing way better than other places, as shown here:

http://www.nation...r-capita

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