Wednesday, July 11, 2007
Despite the wailing in Congress and from the restrictionist crowd about the "criminal alien" problem, the evidence continues to grow that immigrants are more likely to abide by the law than U.S. citizens. We have posted some of the reports, including some by UC Irvine prof Ruben Rumbaut (here and here).
The latest study (here) is "Why are Immigrants' Incarceration Rates so Low? Evidence on Selective Immigration, Deterrence, and Deportation" by Kristin F. Butcher and Anne Morrison Piehl. Abstract: The perception that immigration adversely affects crime rates led to legislation in the 1990s that particularly increased punishment of criminal aliens. In fact, immigrants have much lower institutionalization (incarceration) rates than the native born - on the order of one-fifth the rate of natives. More recently arrived immigrants have the lowest relative incarceration rates, and this difference increased from 1980 to 2000. We examine whether the improvement in immigrants' relative incarceration rates over the last three decades is linked to increased deportation, immigrant self-selection, or deterrence. Our evidence suggests that deportation does not drive the results. Rather, the process of migration selects individuals who either have lower criminal propensities or are more responsive to deterrent effects than the average native. Immigrants who were already in the country reduced their relative institutionalization probability over the decades; and the newly arrived immigrants in the 1980s and 1990s seem to be particularly unlikely to be involved in criminal activity, consistent with increasingly positive selection along this dimension.
Perhaps we should promote immigration to reduce the crime rate in the United States?