Study: Immigration Is Not Linked to Increased Crime Rates

40 years of evidence shows no correlation between immigration and higher crime.

By Christopher Bergland

There is no correlation between immigration and increases in crime, according to a new University of Buffalo-led study by a team of researchers from across the United States who analyzed forty years of empirical evidence. The February 2017 report, “Urban Crime Rates and the Changing Face of Immigration: Evidence Across Four Decades,” was published yesterday in the Journal of Ethnicity in Criminal Justice.

Although political arguments supporting an immigration ban from certain countries claim that reducing immigration will make America safer, the empirical evidence does not support these claims. In fact, higher levels of immigration are actually associated with reductions in some types of crime, according to the latest evidence-based research.

Crime Rates Are Often Lowest in Places Where Immigration Levels Are Highest

“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,” lead author Robert Adelman, associate professor of sociology, said in a statement to the University at Buffalo.

For this study, Robert Adelman collaborated with Lesley Williams Reid, from the University of Alabama; Gail Markle from Kennesaw State University; Charles Jaret, of Georgia State University; and Saskia Weiss, an independent criminal justice scholar.

The team of researchers investigated the immigration-crime relationship in 200 metropolitan areas over a 40 year period (1970 to 2010) based on immigration statistics and crime reporting data from the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The researchers’ objective was to identify if there was any association between immigration and a broad range of violent and property crimes.

Their detailed analysis of almost a half century of data found that immigration was consistently linked to decreases in violent (e.g., murder) and property (e.g., burglary) crime throughout the four-decade period. In a statement, Adelman said,

“Facts are critical in the current political environment. The empirical evidence in this study and other related research shows little support for the notion that more immigrants lead to more crime. It’s important to base our public policies on facts and evidence rather than ideologies and baseless claims that demonize particular segments of the U.S. population without any facts to back them up.”

The latest research by Adelman et al. supports other empirically-based conclusions that immigrants, as a collective group, have a positive effect on the social and economic fabric of American life.

Previous research on the link between immigration and crime—which analyzed arrest and offense data—found that, overall, foreign-born individuals are less likely to commit crimes than native-born Americans. That being said, Adelman acknowledges that the relationship between immigration and crime is very complex and more research necessary.

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

 

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