Rethinking immigration and crime: cities with high influxes of immigrants have low crime rates

A new report shows that cities and neighborhoods where immigrants live actually show a decrease in crime.

Claude Fischer a professor of sociology at the University of California, Berkeley, has written a report on crime during recessions. The main crux of what he is arguing is that traditionally during a recession crime goes up yet during this recession crime has actually dropped. One of the reasons why, may surprise you.

Recently, scholars have added yet another explanation: Immigration – although not in the way that some people might expect. Cities and neighborhoods that have received the largest influx of immigrants (including Mexican immigrants) have had – despite popular stereotypes to the contrary – the largest drops in criminal violence. (See, for example here and here. Thus, increased immigration may explain part of the crime drop since 1990.

The other reports mentioned are ones from Robert J. Sampson chair of the Sociology Department of Harvard, that document is entitled Rethinking Crime and Immigration, he advances the idea that Hispanic American’s as a whole do better on a wide range of social indicators:

Consider first the “Latino Paradox.” Hispanic Americans do better on a wide range of social indicators—including propensity to violence—than one would expect given their socioeconomic disadvantages. To assess this paradox in more depth, my colleagues and I examined violent acts committed by nearly 3,000 males and females in Chicago ranging in age from 8 to 25 between 1995 and 2003. The study selected whites, blacks, and Hispanics (primarily Mexican-Americans) from 180 neighborhoods ranging from highly segregated to very integrated. We also analyzed data from police records, the U.S. Census, and a separate survey of more than 8,000 Chicago residents who were asked about the characteristics of their neighborhoods.

Within his study he actually found a drop in violence in areas with a high population of Hispanics:

Notably, we found a significantly lower rate of violence among Mexican-Americans compared to blacks and whites. A major reason is that more than a quarter of those of Mexican descent were born abroad and more than half lived in neighborhoods where the majority of residents were also Mexican. In particular, first-generation immigrants (those born outside the United States) were 45 percent less likely to commit violence than third-generation Americans, adjusting for individual, family, and neighborhood background. Second-generation immigrants were 22 percent less likely to commit violence than the third generation.

Certainly these studies are not conclusive but these new studies do point to a new way of viewing immigration and crime, which hopefully can begin a  new dialogue which can begin to end so much of the negative perception on immigrants.

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