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Immigrant status, citizenship, and victimization risk in the United States: New findings from the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS)

NCJ Number
Date Published
35 pages

The present study used new data from the 2017–2018 National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) to explore the association between citizenship status and victimization risk in a nationally representative sample of households and persons aged 12 years and older.




Until recently, national-level data on criminal victimization in the United States did not include information on immigrant or citizenship status of respondents. This data-infrastructure limitation has hindered scientific understanding of whether immigrants are more or less likely than native-born Americans to be criminally victimized and how victimization may vary among immigrants of different statuses. The research is guided by a theoretical framing that integrates insights from studies of citizenship with the literature on immigration and crime, as well as with theories of victimization. We find that a person's foreign-born status (but not their acquired U.S. citizenship) confers protection against victimization. We also find that the protective benefit associated with being foreign born does not extend to those with ambiguous citizenship status, who in our data exhibit attributes similar to the known characteristics of undocumented immigrants. We conclude by discussing the implications of our findings and the potential ways to extend the research. (Publisher abstract provided)

Date Published: January 1, 2021