immigration crime rate question

On Facebook, Vipul Naik asked the following question about research on crime rates of immigrants vs. natives:

It’s well known among scholars of crime that in the US, immigrants have somewhat lower crime rates than natives (both before and after controlling for ethnicity), whereas, in Western and Northern Europe, immigrants have somewhat higher crime rates than natives.

Various explanations have been posited, such as Western and Northern Europe being worse at assimilating immigrants.

But it seems to me that the simplest explanation is that the US has a higher base rate of native crime, so it’s easier for immigrants to “do better” than natives, whereas the native rate of crime in Western and Northern Europe is so low that the same immigrant crime rate looks worse in comparison. My impression (based on some quick look at the statistics) is that immigrants to Western and Northern Europe don’t have crime rates (substantially) higher than immigrants to the US.

This perspective doesn’t seem clearly articulated in discussions of the “do immigrants commit more crime than natives?” question. Why might that be so? And should we care about the relative crime rates, rather than whether the crime rates are high in absolute terms?

Criminology scholars?

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Written by fabiorojas

March 29, 2014 at 12:01 am

Posted in fabio, mere empirics

4 Responses

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  1. One perspective that I have read is that the immigrants to the US, lately, are mostly Mexicans who are Catholic. Their crime rate is lower and therefore they are tolerated. However, the issue of illegality is still prominent and leads to immediate deportation upon the commission of a crime. One of the issues has to do with the effect of religion as a status marker that has some influence on personality and behavior. The illegal Mexican immigrants are usually hard workers as indicated by industries that have grown around them: landscaping, car washing, and restaurant work. This is Robert Sampson’s view. A related view from Papachristos is that crime is a function of recidivism or the density of ex-cons per region. Andrew Papachristos also addresses the role of gang proximity to other gangs as causative of higher crime rates due to gang competition. Sampson considers the issue of perception and assessment of disorder as determining the judgment of decline or of a decaying trajectory. When people view the event of disorder as a serious problem, the area tends to decay. This is quite different from an attitude which views the event of disorder as requiring an immediate solution. Investigating, arresting, prosecuting and cleaning up. One might consider the pragmatic perspective as more effective than the derogatory attitude. My view is that resources are differentially accessible to certain areas and these areas are unable to address their disorders effectively. In England, for example, the crime rate is very low even though they have sporadic outbreaks of crime. However, England and London in particular is the most heterogeneous and the densest nation in Europe. Perhaps the Democratic ethos is the key. If status differentials become too wide, prejudice and resistance between groups or classes or religions occur. On the other hand, A serious problem has kicked up which may be due to stratification or to certain status markers, that is, suicide. The suicide rate in India is twice that of the US, but the suicide rate in the US is much greater than the homicide rate. Economic differentials may be causal, but I have heard of no adequate explanations for the suicide rates other than repeats of Durkheim’s basic conclusions. Therefore, I am wondering about unregulated social issues, and I suspect gender and sexual orientation conflicts are the anomy.


    Fred Welfare

    March 29, 2014 at 1:49 am

  2. I’m pretty sure the “crime rate” in the UK is relatively high, if by “crime” you mean theft, even though violent crime is lower, especially if you exclude fights at bar-closing time. I Have not checked the data lately, so I’m going off past memory, but it is important to distinguish the risk that you’ll have your stuff stolen from the risk that you’ll be hurt in a violent attack by a stranger from the risk that people who know each other may get into a violent altercation. Explanations of “crime” probably need to begin by distinguishing among types of crimes and the factors that produce them, including they way measured crime rates for different types of crimes are more or less affected by various kinds of reporting and enforcement biases. US crime rates are not especially high overall although there is more homicide in the US due to the prevalence of guns. And it is well know in the US that reported crime rates are heavily skewed by administrative and enforcement practices. No reason to believe that is any different elsewhere.

    The implication of all this from my viewpoint is that before I tried to theorize the role of immigrants in different countries, I’d want to begin by understanding how reporting and enforcement practices might be shaping the data. Also US practices of deporting immigrant offenders could be shaping the data.



    March 29, 2014 at 1:53 pm

  3. @olderwoman: The OP’s question concerns crime rates of immigrants vs. natives in the U.S. and Europe and the pattern is as the OP describes. Are you claiming that national differences in the definition and measurement of crime produce the pattern the OP is considering (immigrantsnatives in Europe)? If so, that is quite a trick. How does it work?



    March 30, 2014 at 2:28 pm

  4. Rick. I’m not really saying the OP is wrong, because I don’t know whether it is. And, in fact, I suspect it is not wrong, because “immigrant” is the market of “the other” much more in Europe than in the US, where “race” is more salient. But the immigrant vs native comparison could pretty easily be wrong, given the well-known variability and institutional endogeneity of the measures of both sets of variables (crime and immigration status).



    March 30, 2014 at 6:33 pm

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