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"At a time when debate on the subject has intensified, resolution seems simple: systematically examine the substantial and rapidly growing body of scholarship between immigration and crime, and arrive at whatever logical conclusion the evidence supports," says Charis Kubrin, UCI professor of criminology, law & society.

Immigration does not raise crime, UCI-led study finds, refuting common assumption

Meta-analysis mainly shows no correlation at all – or a tendency to reduce illegal activity

Irvine, Calif., June 27, 2017 – Immigration has no effect on crime, according to a University of California, Irvine professor’s comprehensive examination of 51 studies on the topic published between 1994 and 2014.

The meta-analysis – conducted by UCI’s Charis Kubrin, a professor of criminology, law & society, along with Graham Ousey of the College of William & Mary – is the first on the relationship between immigration and crime.

Appearing in the inaugural issue of the Annual Review of Criminology, the review article arrives at a time when debate about the subject has intensified.

“So many of the current executive orders and policies are based on this idea that immigration causes crime: building the border wall, adding thousands of Border Patrol officers. But that narrative is simply false. Overall, immigration does not cause crime. In fact, our analysis reveals that, if anything, immigration causes a drop in crime,” Kubrin said.

The reviewed studies most frequently found no relationship between immigration and crime. But among those that did find a correlation, it was 2.5 times more likely that immigration was linked to a reduction in crime than an increase.

Additionally, it was the most rigorous studies that showed immigration lowering crime. For instance, those that controlled for more outside factors found a stronger negative relationship between immigration and crime, as did “longitudinal” ones, which looked at changes over time.

“These kinds of studies better reflect reality. Because of the strengths of longitudinal research, we think those studies should be given more weight,” Kubrin said. “If you’re going to hang your hat on any of the findings, you want to do so on the better ones.”

The analysis also revealed that location played a key role. Immigration was tied to lower crime in well-established, traditional immigrant destinations – such as Los Angeles and Chicago, which have welcoming enclaves and political support. But in newer destinations, such as Phoenix, immigration was linked to higher crime.

In new research funded by the National Science Foundation, Kubrin is examining the characteristics of immigrant communities that lead to decreased crime rates.

“For me, I’m done asking about whether immigration causes crime. In my mind, this meta-analysis closes the book on that question. We have the answer,” she said. “The public needs to be done with this question. Now we need to move on to more important questions of why crime is lower in immigrant communities.”

About Annual Reviews: Annual Reviews is a nonprofit publisher dedicated to synthesizing and integrating knowledge for the progress of science and benefit of society. For further information contact: lallen@annualreviews.org or visit our Press Center.

About the University of California, Irvine: Founded in 1965, UCI is the youngest member of the prestigious Association of American Universities. The campus has produced three Nobel laureates and is known for its academic achievement, premier research, innovation and anteater mascot. Led by Chancellor Howard Gillman, UCI has more than 30,000 students and offers 192 degree programs. It’s located in one of the world’s safest and most economically vibrant communities and is Orange County’s second-largest employer, contributing $5 billion annually to the local economy. For more on UCI, visit www.uci.edu.

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