Journal of Quantitative Criminology

, Volume 29, Issue 2, pp 191–215 | Cite as

The Effects of Immigrant Concentration on Changes in Neighborhood Crime Rates

  • John M. MacDonaldEmail author
  • John R. Hipp
  • Charlotte Gill
Original Paper



This study investigated the extent to which immigrant concentration is associated with reductions in neighborhood crime rates in the City of Los Angeles.


A potential outcomes model using two-stage least squares regression was estimated, where immigrant concentration levels in 1990 were used as an instrumental variable to predict immigrant concentration levels in 2000. The instrumental variables design was used to reduce selection bias in estimating the effect of immigrant concentration on changes in official crime rates between 2000 and 2005 for census tracts in the City of Los Angeles, holding constant other demographic variables and area-level fixed effects. Non-parametric smoothers were also employed in a two-stage least squares regression model to control for the potential influence of heterogeneity in immigrant concentration on changes in crime rates.


The results indicate that greater predicted concentrations of immigrants in neighborhoods are linked to significant reductions in crime. The results are robust to a number of different model specifications.


The findings challenge traditional ecological perspectives that link immigrant settlement to higher rates of crime. Immigration settlement patterns appear to be associated with reducing the social burden of crime. Study conclusions are limited by the potential for omitted variables that may bias the observed relationship between immigrant concentration and neighborhood crime rates, and the use of only official crime data which may under report crimes committed against immigrants. Understanding whether immigrant concentration is an important dynamic of changing neighborhood patterns of crime outside Los Angeles will require replication with data from other U.S. cities.


Immigration Neighborhood effects Counterfactual Selection bias 



Aaron Kofner at RAND provided GIS and other programming assistance. The authors thank Phil Cook, Jeffrey Morenoff, Jeffrey Fagan, and Anne Morrison Piehl for their helpful suggestions on an earlier draft of the manuscript. All errors and omissions are those of the authors. Support for this project was made possible in part by funding from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: 1U49CE000773 to the RAND Corporation. The points of view are those of the authors only.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • John M. MacDonald
    • 1
    Email author
  • John R. Hipp
    • 2
  • Charlotte Gill
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of CriminologyUniversity of PennsylvaniaPhiladelphiaUSA
  2. 2.University of CaliforniaIrvineUSA
  3. 3.George Mason UniversityFairfaxUSA

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