The Influence of Immigration on Metropolitan Crime Rates

Lesley Williams Reid, Georgia State University
Harald Ernst Weiss, The Ohio State University
Robert M. Adelman, Georgia State University
Charles Jaret, Georgia State University

Despite the plethora of popular commentary on the alleged link between immigration and crime, empirical research exploring this link is sparce. Noticeably misssing from the literature on immigration and crime is a consideration of how rates of immigration affect rates of crime at the macro-level. While individual-level studies of immigrant criminality and victimization tend to demonstrate that immigrants typically engage in less crime than their native-born counterparts, the effect of rates of immigration on aggregate reates of criminal offending is less clear. In this research, we attempt to fill this void in the literature by exploring the effect of rates of immigration on rates of crime in metropolitan areas. We combine 2000 Census data and 2000 UCR data to explore how the size of the foreign-born population influences property offending across a random sample of 150 metropolitan areas. Contrary to much of the individual-level research, we find that at the aggregate-level, metropolitan areas with large immigrant populations tend to have higher rates of property crime, even after controlling for a host of demographic, economic and spatial characteristics. While these findings may appear to contradict individual-level analyses of the relationship between immigration and crime, we discuss how immigration may shape aggregate criminal offending by changing the offending patterns of other racial and ethnic groups in metropolitan areas.

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Updated 05/20/2006