Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

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

Date:
May 14, 2010
Source:
University of Colorado at Boulder
Summary:
During the 1990s, immigration reached record highs and crime rates fell more precipitously than at any time in US history. Cities with the largest increases in immigration between 1990 and 2000 experienced the largest decreases in rates of homicide and robbery, a researcher has found.

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 violent crime 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 "homicides 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 immigrants. 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."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Colorado at Boulder. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Tim Wadsworth. Is Immigration Responsible for the Crime Drop? An Assessment of the Influence of Immigration on Changes in Violent Crime Between 1990 and 2000. Social Science Quarterly, 2010; 91 (2): 531 DOI: 10.1111/j.1540-6237.2010.00706.x

Cite This Page:

University of Colorado at Boulder. "Rise in immigration may help explain drop in violent crimes, says researcher." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 14 May 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/05/100514094840.htm>.
University of Colorado at Boulder. (2010, May 14). Rise in immigration may help explain drop in violent crimes, says researcher. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/05/100514094840.htm
University of Colorado at Boulder. "Rise in immigration may help explain drop in violent crimes, says researcher." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/05/100514094840.htm (accessed September 22, 2014).

Share This



More Science & Society News

Monday, September 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Liberia Pleads for Help to Fight Ebola

Liberia Pleads for Help to Fight Ebola

AP (Sep. 22, 2014) Liberia's finance minister is urging the international community to quickly follow through on pledges of cash to battle Ebola. Bodies are piling up in the capital Monrovia as the nation awaits more help. (Sept. 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Hundreds of Thousands Hit NYC Streets to Protest Climate Change

Hundreds of Thousands Hit NYC Streets to Protest Climate Change

AFP (Sep. 22, 2014) Celebrities, political leaders and the masses rallied in New York and across the globe demanding urgent action on climate change, with organizers saying 600,000 people hit the streets. Duration: 01:19 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Company Copies Keys From Photos

Company Copies Keys From Photos

Newsy (Sep. 22, 2014) A new company allows customers to make copies of keys by simply uploading a couple of photos. But could it also be great for thieves? Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Rockefeller Oil Heirs Switching To Clean Energy

Rockefeller Oil Heirs Switching To Clean Energy

Newsy (Sep. 22, 2014) The Rockefellers — heirs to an oil fortune that made the family name a symbol of American wealth — are switching from fossil fuels to clean energy. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins