Immigration does not raise crime, UCI-led study finds, refuting common assumption

Meta-analysis mainly shows no correlation at all – or a tendency to reduce illegal activity

Immigration has no effect on crime, according to a comprehensive examination of 51 studies on the topic published between 1994 and 2014.

The meta-analysis – conducted by Charis Kubrin, a professor of criminology, law & society, along with Graham Ousey of the College of William & Mary – is the first on the relationship between immigration and crime.

Appearing in the inaugural issue of the Annual Review of Criminology, the review article arrives at a time when debate about the subject has intensified.

“So many of the current executive orders and policies are based on this idea that immigration causes crime: building the border wall, adding thousands of Border Patrol officers. But that narrative is simply false. Overall, immigration does not cause crime. In fact, our analysis reveals that, if anything, immigration causes a drop in crime,” Kubrin said.

The reviewed studies most frequently found no relationship between immigration and crime. But among those that did find a correlation, it was 2.5 times more likely that immigration was linked to a reduction in crime than an increase.

Additionally, it was the most rigorous studies that showed immigration lowering crime. For instance, those that controlled for more outside factors found a stronger negative relationship between immigration and crime, as did “longitudinal” ones, which looked at changes over time.

“These kinds of studies better reflect reality. Because of the strengths of longitudinal research, we think those studies should be given more weight,” Kubrin said. “If you’re going to hang your hat on any of the findings, you want to do so on the better ones.”

The analysis also revealed that location played a key role. Immigration was tied to lower crime in well-established, traditional immigrant destinations – such as Los Angeles and Chicago, which have welcoming enclaves and political support. But in newer destinations, such as Phoenix, immigration was linked to higher crime.

In new research funded by the National Science Foundation, Kubrin is examining the characteristics of immigrant communities that lead to decreased crime rates.

“For me, I’m done asking about whether immigration causes crime. In my mind, this meta-analysis closes the book on that question. We have the answer,” she said. “The public needs to be done with this question. Now we need to move on to more important questions of why crime is lower in immigrant communities.”

-June 27, 2017