Contrary to popular stereotypes, areas undergoing immigration are associated with lower violence, not spiraling crime, according to a new study.
Harvard University sociologist Robert Sampson examined crime and immigration in Chicago and around the United States to find the truth behind the popular perception that increasing immigration leads to crime.
Sampson’s study results, detailed in the winter issue of the American Sociological Association’s Contexts magazine, summarizes patterns from seven years’ worth of violent acts in Chicago committed by whites, blacks and Hispanics from 180 neighborhoods of varying levels of integration. He also analyzed recent data from police records and the U.S. Census for all communities in Chicago.
This article is typical in that the headline, and initial paragraphs, are designed to lead us to believe that Hispanic immigration is good for the United States. But further down we find a clue as to what is really happening:
However, Sampson shows that concentrated immigration predicts lower rates of violence across communities in Chicago, with the relationship strongest in poor neighborhoods.
In other words, when Hispanics displace blacks, crime goes down. This should be no surprise. The article does not appear to link directly to the study (and it is riddled with advertising links) so I have not read the study itself, but it is possible that Sampson is confusing cause and effect here. It might be that, if the immigrants are poor, they move to black neighborhoods – where their presence reduces crime. If they’re well-off, they move to affluent neighborhoods – which tend to already be low-crime. It would be interesting to see if Sampson can document before/after cases where the introduction of immigrants actually reduced crime in specific (white) areas. Without racial data, it is hard to derive anything meaningful from this study.
As for the “Hispanic paradox”, it can be explained any number of way, but this “paradox” is only temporary. Each generation of Hispanics becomes more criminal, and dysfunctional. So it is hard to see how large-scale Hispanic immigration is good for the United States.
The article goes on:
Immigration is therefore not just a Hispanic issue; although little noticed, increasing foreign-born diversity among blacks (e.g., from the West Indies and Africa) is associated with lower crime even within segregated black communities.
Perhaps, if he replaced the word “even” with “especially”, the statement would be more accurate. Any sort of immigration into the ghetto is going to decrease crime (at least short term) simply because ghetto blacks are the most crime-prone segment of the population.
One paragraph, toward the end of the article, is particularly puzzling:
Sampson’s arguments are supported at the national level as well. Significant immigration growth — including by illegal aliens — occurred in the mid-1990s, peaking at the end of the decade. During this time, the national homicide rate plunged. Crime dropped even in immigration hot spots, such as Los Angeles (where it dropped 45 percent overall), San Jose, Dallas and Phoenix.
Is he trying to say that it was immigration that brought about the decrease in homicide rates? I wonder if there is any evidence for this claim. It seems to me that this is a roundabout way of saying “The United States should be more like Mexico – because Mexico is a low-crime utopia”. We are also left wondering if Sampson, himself, lives among Hispanic immigrants. Given his high opinion of them, surely he has chosen to live in the barrio. On second thought, I doubt it.