Immigration and Crime in the New Destinations, 2000–2007: A Test of the Disorganizing Effect of Migration

Abstract

Objectives

Drawing from a social disorganization perspective, this research addresses the effect of immigration on crime within new destinations—places that have experienced significant recent growth in immigration over the last two decades.

Methods

Fixed effects regression analyses are run on a sample of n = 1252 places, including 194 new destinations, for the change in crime from 2000 to the 2005–2007 period. Data are drawn from the 2000 Decennial Census, 2005–2007 American Community Survey, and the Uniform Crime Reports. Places included in the sample had a minimum population of 20,000 as of the 2005-07 ACS. New destinations are defined as places where the foreign-born have increased by 150 % or more since 1990 and with a minimum foreign-born population of 1000 in 2007.

Results

Results indicate new destinations experienced greater declines in crime, relative to the rest of the sample. Moreover, new destinations with greater increases in foreign-born experienced greater declines in their rates of crime. Additional predictors of change in crime include change in socioeconomic disadvantage, the adult-child ratio, and population size.

Conclusions

Results fail to support a disorganization view of the effect of immigration on crime in new destinations and are more in line with the emerging community resource perspective. Limitations and suggestions for future directions are discussed.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    For example, Card (1990) finds that the influx of Mariel Cubans into Miami had virtually no effect on the wages of Miami's existing workforce precisely because previous waves of immigrants resulted in large numbers of immigrant employers who were able to absorb the newcomers.

  2. 2.

    The ACS provides much of the same information as the Census (in most cases the wording of questions is identical), the major differences being that the ACS is conducted in 1-, 3-, and 5-year waves and is extrapolated from a sample of the population, as opposed to the counts offered by the Census. Though few studies have used the ACS to date, there are several reasons to do so. First, because it is conducted yearly, the ACS provides some of the most recent data available on demographic and economic characteristics for the nation’s population. Second, the ACS offers data products in 1-, 3-, and 5-year forms, with each increase in the number of years corresponding to a smaller population threshold for inclusion, essentially allowing researchers the option of choosing between increased data currency or heightened stability. Third, in contrast to a point-in-time survey such as the decennial census, wherein data are tied to a specific date, ACS data represent the average of any given characteristic over a 1-, 3-, or 5-year period.

  3. 3.

    Twenty-thousand is the minimum population size for places included in the ACS 3-year product.

  4. 4.

    The ACS 5-year product is generalizable to all-places in the US, with no minimum size requirement. However, as the ACS began in 2005, the first available 5-year wave is 2009.

  5. 5.

    I thank the anonymous reviewer for raising this important question, which is also discussed further in the limitations section.

  6. 6.

    In each case, a minimum of two years of reporting was required for inclusion in the analysis. Any place for which two years of data in each period could not be obtained was excluded from the analysis.

  7. 7.

    For sake of brevity, only the analyses of the three index measures of crime are presented here. Additional analyses were also run on each type of crime for each time period, for a total of 12 more models, all of which are substantively similar to the ones presented here. They are available upon request from the author.

  8. 8.

    It was hoped that this index would also include the z-score for the percent of the population that speaks English less than very well, capturing variations in human capital. However, given the extent of missing values on that measure, as drawn from the ACS 2005–2007, it was excluded to preserve sample size.

  9. 9.

    For the first time period, recent immigrants are those who arrived between January 1995 and March 2000; for the second time period, those who arrived between January 2000 and the average of 2005–2007. Because the ACS data are essentially averaged across the period and because growth in immigration began to slow from 2006 to 2007 (before leveling off from 2007 to 2008), the total number of recent foreign-born drawn from the data set most closely resembles the total from 2006, effectively adding only one additional year’s worth of immigrants.

  10. 10.

    Analyses were also run with a total-foreign-born index in place of the recent foreign-born index presented here. Results do not differ substantively and are available for interested readers upon request.

  11. 11.

    Pre-1990 immigration counts are calculated from the measure on foreign-born year-of-entry provided in both the 2000 decennial Census and the 2005–2007 ACS.

  12. 12.

    Additional analyses (not shown but available upon request) were run wherein new destinations were operationalized as (1) places whose recent foreign-born population increased by 150 % with a minimum of 500 of foreign-born in the 2005–2007 time period (n = 200). The results obtained using this alternative specification did not significantly differ from what is presented here.

  13. 13.

    Since the unit of analysis here is cities, rather than counties, it may be argued that the above operationalization undercounts new destination places. However, as few studies on new destinations and crime exist at the place-level, an approach modeled on the established literature seems warranted.

  14. 14.

    The analyses were re-run (not shown) with a disadvantage index containing the percent of the population that is non-Hispanic black, in addition to the items mentioned above, and a third time with the NH Black measure included as its own predictor, with no substantive differences to the results discussed here. The only considerable effect of the measure’s inclusion was to reduce the overall sample size by approximately 60 cases, due to missing data from the ACS.

  15. 15.

    The decision to use two years as the measure of stability is entirely data-driven, as appears to be the case for other researchers. The 2000 census specifically asks whether householders have resided in the same place for at least the last five years, while the ACS asks only whether residence has been continuous since the previous year. Such a disparity is unacceptable. Fortunately, each data set also includes a variable reporting when the householder moved into the home. As a result, the stability variable incorporated here from the ACS measures the percentage of householders who moved in prior to 2004, two years from the median time point of the data set, while the decennial census variable measures the percentage of the population who moved in prior to 1998, approximately two years prior to the decennial census.

  16. 16.

    To confirm the fit of a fixed effects model over a random effects one, I performed a centered scores test. The results suggest that the random effect is in fact correlated with the measured predictor variables, warranting the use of a fixed effects model.

  17. 17.

    An additional benefit is that, because there are only two time points, the within-unit differences for all measures are approximately normally distributed, precluding the need to modify measures and easing interpretation of results.

  18. 18.

    See “Appendix” Table 5 for correlation coefficients among variables.

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Acknowledgments

The author would like to thank the anonymous reviewers for their detailed and constructive comments, which have significantly improved the final paper. The author also wishes to thank the Editor for his helpful comments and support during the review process.

Conflict of interest

The author declares that he has no conflict of interest.

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Correspondence to Vincent Ferraro.

Appendix

Appendix

See Table 5.

Table 5 Spearman correlation coefficients, N = 1252

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Ferraro, V. Immigration and Crime in the New Destinations, 2000–2007: A Test of the Disorganizing Effect of Migration. J Quant Criminol 32, 23–45 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10940-015-9252-y

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Keywords

  • Crime
  • Immigration
  • Social disorganization
  • New destination
  • Community resource perspective