40 years of data don’t link crime and immigration

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A new study finds no links between immigration to the United States and crime, and even connects immigration to a reduction in some kinds of crimes.

“Our research shows strong and stable evidence that, on average, across US metropolitan areas crime and immigration are not linked,” says Robert Adelman, an associate professor of sociology at the University at Buffalo and the paper’s lead author. “The results show that immigration does not increase assaults and, in fact, robberies, burglaries, larceny, and murder are lower in places where immigration levels are higher.

“The results are very clear.”

“This is a study across time and across place and the evidence is clear.”

Previous research, based on arrest and offense data, has shown that, overall, foreign-born individuals are less likely to commit crimes than native-born Americans, says Adelman.

“Facts are critical in the current political environment,” says Adelman. “The empirical evidence in this study and other related research shows little support for the notion that more immigrants lead to more crime.”

For the current study, the authors stepped back from the study of individual immigrants and instead explored whether larger scale immigration patterns in communities could be tied to increases in crime due to changes in cities, such as fewer economic opportunities or the claim that immigrants displace domestic workers from jobs.

The authors drew a sample of 200 metropolitan areas as defined by the US Census Bureau and used census data and uniform crime reporting data from the Federal Bureau of Investigation for a 40-year period from 1970 to 2010. Their results appear in the Journal of Ethnicity in Criminal Justice.

Report aims to debunk anti-immigration myths

“This is a study across time and across place and the evidence is clear,” says Adelman. “We are not claiming that immigrants are never involved in crime. What we are explaining is that communities experiencing demographic change driven by immigration patterns do not experience significant increases in any of the kinds of crime we examined. And in many cases, crime was either stable or actually declined in communities that incorporated many immigrants.”

Adelman says the relationship between immigration and crime is complex and more research needs to be done, but this research supports other scholarly conclusions that immigrants, on the whole, have a positive effect on American social and economic life.

“It’s important to base our public policies on facts and evidence rather than ideologies and baseless claims that demonize particular segments of the US population without any facts to back them up,” says Adelman.

Adelman’s coauthors are researchers from the University of Alabama, Kennesaw State University, and Georgia State University.

Source: University at Buffalo