Politicians often claim that there is a relationship between immigration patterns and increased crime. In a study done at the University at Buffalo however, no links were found between the two. According to the findings, immigration instead appears to be linked to reductions in some types of crimes instead.
Robert Adelman, an associate professor of sociology at UB and the paper’s lead author, says that the results are very clear and that the research shows stable and strong evidence that, on average, immigration and crime are not linked across U.S. metropolitan areas. The study found that immigration does not increase assaults and that serious crimes such as burglaries, larceny, robberies and murder are in fact lower in places where immigration levels are high.
Adelman feels strongly that facts are critical in the current political environment. The empirical evidence in not only this study, but other related research as well, shows little to no support for the view that more immigrants lead to increased crime.
According to Adelman, research previously done was based on arrest and offense data. That research showed that overall, native-born Americans are more likely to commit crimes than foreign-born individuals are.
The authors stepped back from the study of individual immigrants for the current study, but rather investigated whether larger scale immigration patterns in communities could be tied to increased crime because of changes in cities. The changes they looked at included the claim that immigrants displace domestic workers from jobs, and the availability of fewer economic opportunities.
A sample of 200 metropolitan areas, as defined by the U.S. Census Bureau, was drawn. The authors then used census data and uniform crime reporting data from the Federal Bureau of Investigation from 1970 to 2010 – a 40-year period.
Adelman explains that this is a study across time and place and notes that the evidence is clear. He emphasized that the study does not claim that immigrants are never involved in crime, but that communities that undergo demographic change driven by immigration patterns do not experience a substantial increases in any of the types of crime that were examined. The opposite was in fact true – in many cases, crime remained either stable, or actually decreased in communities that assimilated many immigrants.
Adelman also cautions that, as the relationship between immigration and crime is complex, more research needs to be done. Overall, this research supports other scholarly conclusions that immigrants have a positive effect on American economic and social life.
Adelman feels it important that public policies be based on facts and evidence, rather than ideologies and unfounded claims that vilify certain segments of the U.S. population, without any facts to support them.
The full peer reviewed study was published in the Journal of Ethnicity in Criminal Justice.