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On Immigration and Crime

NCJ Number
Date Published
40 pages
This chapter surveys the body of theoretical and empirical works on the relationship between immigration and crime in 20th-century America.
The authors discuss three major theoretical perspectives that have guided explanations of the immigration/crime link: opportunity structure, cultural approaches, and social disorganization. The chapter also examines empirical studies of immigrant involvement in crime. The chapter reviews public opinion about immigrants, especially as it relates to immigrants and crime, and then provides original data on the connection between public opinion and immigrant crime. The authors conclude that there are important reasons to believe that immigrants should be involved in crime to a greater degree than native-born Americans; for example, immigrants face acculturation and assimilation problems that most natives do not, and immigrants tend to settle in disorganized neighborhoods characterized by structural features often associated with crime, such as widespread poverty, ethnic heterogeneity, and a preponderance of young males; however, despite claims by pundits and writers that high levels of "immigrant crime" are an unavoidable product of immigration, scholars rarely produce any systematic evidence of this recently re-emerging social problem. Still, studies show that, compared with native groups, immigrants seem better able to withstand criminogenic conditions than native groups. Native groups would profit from a better understanding of how immigrant groups faced with adverse social and economic conditions manage to refrain from criminal behavior. 8 exhibits, 3 notes, and 100 references

Date Published: January 1, 2000