The immigrant paradox: immigrants are less antisocial than native-born Americans

Abstract

Purpose

Although recent research on crime and violence among immigrants suggests a paradox—where immigrants are more socially disadvantaged yet less likely to commit crime—previous research is limited by issues of generalizability and assessment of the full depth of antisocial behavior.

Methods

We surmount these limitations using data from waves I and II of the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions (NESARC) and compare immigrants (N = 7,320) from Asia, Africa, Europe, and Latin America to native-born Americans (N = 34,622) with respect to violent and nonviolent forms of antisocial behavior.

Results

After controlling for an extensive array of confounds, results indicate that immigrants are significantly less antisocial despite being more likely to have lower levels of income, less education, and reside in urban areas. These findings hold for immigrants from major regions of the world including Africa, Asia, Europe, and Latin America.

Conclusions

This study confirms and extends prior research on crime and antisocial behavior, but suggests that it is premature however to think of immigrants as a policy intervention for treating high crime areas.

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Correspondence to Michael G. Vaughn.

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Vaughn, M.G., Salas-Wright, C.P., DeLisi, M. et al. The immigrant paradox: immigrants are less antisocial than native-born Americans. Soc Psychiatry Psychiatr Epidemiol 49, 1129–1137 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00127-013-0799-3

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Keywords

  • Immigrant
  • Crime
  • Immigration
  • Antisocial behavior
  • Race and ethnicity