Cross-City Evidence on the Relationship between Immigration and Crime Essay - 6954 Words

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Cross-City Evidence on the Relationship between Immigration and Crime

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Text Preview Cross-City Evidence on the Relationship between Immigration and Crime / 457

Cross-City Evidence
on the Relationship
between Immigration
and Crime

Kristin F. Butcher
Anne Morrison Piehl

Abstract
Public concerns about the costs of immigration and crime are high, and sometimes overlapping. This article investigates the relationship between immigration into a metropolitan area and that area’s crime rate during the 1980s. Using data from the Uniform Crime Reports and the Current Population Surveys, we find, in the cross section, that cities with high crime rates tend to have large numbers of immigrants. However, controlling for the demographic characteristics of the cities, recent immigrants appear to have no effect on crime rates. In explaining changes in a city’s crime rate over time, the flow of immigrants again has no effect, whether or not we control for other city-level characteristics. In a secondary analysis of individual data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (NLSY), we find that youth born abroad are statistically significantly less likely than native-born youth to be criminally active.

Immigration and crime are not only two of today’s “hot-button” issues in politics, they seem to occupy the same region of the public mind. The constant juxtaposition of the words “immigration” and “crime” in news story after news story might forge the perception of a causal link between the two issues. Juxtaposition, however, is not the only way in which the two are linked by those in the policy arena.

A direct relationship is assumed to exist between illegal immigration and crime.1 An explicit example of this is in Proposition 187 in California. This proposition has received most attention for the connections it asserts between illegal immigration and the rising costs of public expenditures on welfare and schools. However, the proposition also highlights victimization. Section 1 of the law reads, “The People of California find and declare as follows: . . . That they have suffered and are suffering personal injury and damage caused by the criminal conduct of illegal aliens in this state.”

Although illegal immigrants are typically cited as contributing to crime, there is also a great deal of legislative attention aimed at “criminal aliens” regardless

Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, Vol. 17, No. 3, 457–493 (1998) © 1998 by the Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management Published by John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
CCC 0276-8739/98/03457-37

458 / Cross-City Evidence on the Relationship between Immigration and Crime of their immigration status [see Butcher and Piehl, 1998]. The 104th Congress included a large number of bills, amendments, and resolutions that took aim at this issue.2 For example in 1996, then Senator Dole sponsored the “AntiTerrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act.”3 This act is primarily a crime prevention measure, yet a large section of it is devoted to immigration issues. Title IV of this act is entitled “Terrorist and Criminal Alien Removal and Exclusion.” Subtitle D (“Criminal Alien Procedural Improvements”) includes myriad amendments to the Immigration and Nationality Act (currently under debate), the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, and the U.S. Code. The proposals are aimed at streamlining the deportation of criminal aliens and improving the working relationship among the various divisions of government that oversee immigration and crime control in order to help identify and punish criminal aliens. The 1994 crime law itself covered many of these same topics.

Politicians also frequently draw a causal relationship between immigration and crime in public statements about the policies they propose. For example, in a 1996 editorial about the immigration bills then being debated in the two houses of Congress, some versions of which sought to reduce the numbers of legal immigrants admitted, and all versions of which promised to “crack down” on... Show More

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