Journal of Quantitative Criminology

, Volume 33, Issue 4, pp 835–857 | Cite as

Examining Systematic Crime Reporting Bias Across Three Immigrant Generations: Prevalence, Trends, and Divergence in Self-Reported and Official Reported Arrests

  • Bianca E. BersaniEmail author
  • Alex R. Piquero
Original Paper



Mounting evidence reveals that foreign-born, first generation immigrants have significantly lower levels of criminal involvement compared to their US-born, second and third-plus generation peers. This study investigates whether this finding is influenced by differential crime reporting practices by testing for systematic crime reporting bias across first, second, and third-plus generation immigrants.


This study draws on data from the Pathways to Desistance Study, a longitudinal investigation of the transition from adolescence to young adulthood among a sample of serious adolescent offenders. Self-reported and official reports of arrest are compared longitudinally across ten waves of data spanning 7 years from adolescence into young adulthood for nearly 1300 adjudicated males and females.


This study reveals a high degree of correspondence between self-reports of arrest and official reports of arrest when compared within groups distinguished by immigrant generation. Longitudinal patterns of divergence, disaggregated by under-reporting and over-reporting, in self- and official-reports of arrest indicated a very high degree of similarity regardless of immigrant generation. We found no evidence of systematic crime reporting bias among foreign-born, first generation immigrants compared to their US-born peers.


First generation immigrants are characterized by lower levels of offending that are not attributable to a differential tendency to under-report their involvement in crime.


Immigration and crime Crime reporting bias Self-reported arrests Official arrests Longitudinal 


  1. Bersani BE (2014) An examination of first and second generation immigrant offending trajectories. Justice Q 31:315–343CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bersani BE, Loughran TA, Piquero AR (2014) Comparing patterns and predictors of immigrant offending among a sample of adjudicated youth. J Youth Adolesc 43:1914–1933CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bowler AC (1931) Recent statistics on crime and the foreign born. In: National Commission (ed) On law observance and enforcement: report on crime and the foreign born (part II). Government Printing Office, Washington, DC, pp 79–196Google Scholar
  4. Brame R, Fagan J, Piquero AR, Schubert CA, Steinberg L (2004) Criminal careers of serious delinquents in two cities. Youth Violence Juv Justice 2:256–272CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Chaves LR (2008) The Latino threat: constructing immigrants, citizens, and the nation. Stanford University Press, StanfordGoogle Scholar
  6. Corchado A (2013) Midnight in Mexico: a reporter’s journey through a country’s descent into darkness. Penguin Books, LondonGoogle Scholar
  7. Correia ME (2010) Determinants of attitudes toward police of Latino immigrants and non-immigrants. J Crim Justice 38:99–107CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Davies G, Fagan J (2012) Crime and enforcement in immigrant neighborhoods: evidence from New York City. Ann Am Acad Polit Soc Sci 641:99–124CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Davis WE (1985) Language and the justice system: problems and issues. Justice Syst J 10:353–364Google Scholar
  10. Davis RC, Henderson NJ (2003) Willingness to report crimes: the role of ethnic group membership and community efficacy. Crime Delinq 49:564–580CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Davis RC, Henderson NJ (2007) Immigrants and law enforcement: a comparison of native-born and foreign-born americans’ opinions of the police. Int Rev Victimol 14:81–94CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Decker SH, Lewis PG, Provine DM, Varsanyi MW (2009) On the frontier of local law enforcement: local police and federal immigration law. In: McDonald WF (ed) Sociology of crime, law, and deviance. Emerald/JAI Press, Bingley, pp 261–278Google Scholar
  13. Demuth S (2003) Racial and ethnic differences in pretrial release decisions and outcomes: a comparison of hispanic, black and white felony arrestees. Criminology 41:873–908CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Eggleston EP, Laub JH, Sampson RJ (2004) Methodological sensitivities to latent class analysis of long-term criminal trajectories. J Quant Criminol 20:1–26CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Ewing WA, Martínez DE, Rumbaut RG (2015) The criminalization of immigration in the United States. American Immigration Council Special Report, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  16. Farrington DP, Loeber R, Stouthamer-Loeber M, Van Kammen WB, Schmidt L (1996) Self-reported delinquency and a combined delinquency seriousness scale based on boys, mothers, and teachers: concurrent and predictive validity for African-Americans and Caucasians. Criminology 34:493–517CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Ferraro V (2016) Immigration and crime in the new destinations, 2000–2007: a test of the disorganizing effect of migration. J Quant Criminol 32(1):23–45CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Forth AE, Kosson DS, Hare RD (2003) The hare psychopathy checklist: youth version. Technical manual. Multi-Health Systems, Inc., New YorkGoogle Scholar
  19. Fortuny K, Chaudry A (2011) Children of immigrants: growing national and state diversity. Brief 1. The Urban Institute, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  20. Good PI (2013) Permutation tests: a practical guide to resampling methods for testing hypotheses. Springer, BerlinGoogle Scholar
  21. Gottfredson DC, Baron WH (1993) Deinstitutionalization of juvenile offenders. Criminology 31(4):591–611CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Gottschalk M (2015) Caught: the prison state and the lockdown of American politics. Princeton University Press, PrincetonCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Hagan J, Palloni A (1998) Immigration and crime in the United States. In: Smith JP, Edmonston B (eds) The immigration debate: studies on the economic, demographic, and fiscal effects of immigration. National Academy Press, Washington, DC, pp 367–387Google Scholar
  24. Harris KM (1999) The health status and risk behaviors of adolescents in immigrant families. In: Hernandez DJ (ed) Children of immigrants: health, adjustment, and public assistance. National Academy Press, Washington, DC, pp 286–347Google Scholar
  25. Hindelang MJ, Hirschi T, Weis JG (1981) Measuring delinquency. Sage, Beverly HillsGoogle Scholar
  26. Hirschman C (2001) The educational enrollment of immigrant youth: a test of the segmented-assimilation hypothesis. Demography 38:317–336CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Horney J, Wayne Osgood D, Marshall IH (1995) Criminal careers in the short-term: intra-individual variability in crime and its relation to local life circumstances. Am Sociol Rev 60:655–673CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Huizinga D, Esbensen F-A, Weiher AW (1991) Are there multiple paths to delinquency? J Crim Law Criminol 82:83–118CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Immigration Commission (1911) Reports of the immigration commission: immigration and crime. Government Printing Office, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  30. Jennings WG, Zgoba KM, Piquero AR, Reingle JM (2013) Offending Trajectories among native-born and foreign-born hispanics to late middle age. Sociol Inq 83:622–647CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Jolliffe D, Farrington DP, David Hawkins J, Catalano RF, Hill KG, Kosterman R (2003) Predictive, concurrent, prospective and retrospective validity of self-reported delinquency. Crim Behav Mental Health 13:179–197CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Kirk DS (2006) Examining the divergence across self-report and official data sources on inferences about the adolescent life-course of crime. J Quant Criminol 22:107–129CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Kirk DS, Papachristos AV, Fagan J, Tyler TR (2012) The paradox of law enforcement in immigrant communities: does tough immigration enforcement undermine public safety? Ann Am Acad Polit Soc Sci 641:79–98CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Krohn MD, Lizotte AJ, Phillips MD, Thornberry TP, Bell KA (2013) Explaining Systematic bias in self-reported measures: factors that affect the under- and over-reporting of self-reported arrests. Justice Q 30:501–528CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Kubrin CE (2014) Secure or insecure communities? Criminol Public Policy 13:323–338CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Kubrin C, Desmond SA (2015) The power of place revisited: why immigrant communities have lower levels of adolescent violence. Youth Violence Juv Justice 13(4):345–366CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Lab SP, Allen RB (1984) Self-report and official measures: a further examination of the validity issue. J Crim Justice 12:445–455CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Laub JH (2010) Nurturing the journal of quantitative criminology through late childhood: retrospective memories (distorted?) from a former editor. J Quant Criminol 26:421–424CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Lee MT, Ramiro M Jr (2009) Immigration reduces crime: an emerging scholarly consensus. In: Mcdonald WF (ed) Immigration, crime and justice, sociology of crime, law and deviance, vol 13. Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp 3–16CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Light MT, Massoglia M, King RD (2014) Citizenship and punishment: the salience of National membership in US. Criminal courts. Am Sociol Rev 79:825–847CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Lodge HC (1909) Speeches and addresses, 1884–1909. Houghton Mifflin, BostonGoogle Scholar
  42. MacDonald JM, Saunders J (2012) Are Immigrant youth less violent? Specifying the reasons and mechanisms. Ann Am Acad Polit Soc Sci 641:125–147CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. MacDonald JM, Hipp JR, Gill C (2013) The effects of immigrant concentration on changes in neighborhood crime rates. J Quant Criminol 29:191–215CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Maxfield MG, Weller BL, Widom CS (2000) Comparing self-reports and official records of arrests. J Quant Criminol 16:87–110CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Menjivar C, Bejarano C (2004) Latino immigrants’ perceptions of crime and police authorities in the United States: a case study from the phoenix metropolitan area. Ethn Racial Stud 27:120–148CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Morenoff JD, Astor A (2006) Immigrant assimilation and crime: generational differences in youth violence in Chicago. In: Martinez R Jr, Valenzuela A Jr (eds) Immigration and crime: race, ethnicity and violence. New York University Press, New York, pp 36–63Google Scholar
  47. Mulvey EP, Steinberg L, Fagan J, Cauffman E, Piquero AR, Chassin L, Knight GP, Brame R, Schubert CA, Hecker T, Losoya SH (2004) Theory and research on desistance from antisocial activity among serious adolescent offenders. Youth Violence Juv Justice 2:213–236CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Orebaugh DA (1929) Crime, degeneracy and immigration: their interrelations and interreactions. The Gorham Press, BostonGoogle Scholar
  49. Orrick EA, Piquero AR (2015) Assessing the impact of Mexican nativity on sentence length. Crim Justice Policy Rev 26:643–664CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Osgood DW (2000) Poisson-based regression analysis of aggregate crime rates. J Quant Criminol 16:21–43CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Osgood DW (2009) Statistical models for life events and criminal behavior. In: Piquero AR, Weisburd D (eds) Handbook of quantitative criminology. Springer, New York, pp 375–396Google Scholar
  52. Ousey GC, Kubrin CE (2014) Immigration and the changing nature of homicide in US cities, 1980–2010. J Quant Criminol 30:453–483CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Passel JS, Cohn D (2008) U.S. population projections: 2005–2050. Pew Research Center, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  54. Pew Research Center (2013) Second-generation americans: a portrait of the adult children of immigrants. Pew Research Center, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  55. Piquero AR (2008) Disproportionate minority contact. Future Child 18:59–79CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Piquero AR, Brame R (2008) Assessing the race-/ethnicity-crime relationship in a sample of serious adolescent delinquents. Crime Delinq 54:390–422CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Piquero AR, Blumstein A, Brame R, Haapanen R, Mulvey EP, Nagin DS (2001) Assessing the impact of exposure time and incapacitation on longitudinal trajectories of criminal offending. J Adolesc Res 16:54–74CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Piquero AR, Bersani BE, Loughran TA, Fagan J (2014a) Longitudinal patterns of legal socialization in first-generation immigrants, second-generation immigrants, and native-born serious youthful offenders. Crime Delinq. doi: 10.1177/0011128714545830 Google Scholar
  59. Piquero AR, Schubert CA, Brame R (2014b) Comparing official and self-report records of offending across gender and race/ethnicity in a longitudinal study of serious youthful offenders. J Res Crime Delinq 51:525–555CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Pogrebin MR, Poole EE (1990) Culture conflict and crime in the Korean–American community. Crim Justice Policy Rev 4:69–78CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Powell D, Perreira KM, Harris KM (2010) Trajectories of delinquency from adolescence to adulthood. Youth Soc 41:475–502CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Provine DM, Varsanyi M, Lewis PG, Decker SH (2012) Growing tensions between civic membership and enforcement in the devolution of immigration control. In: Kubrin Z, Martinez J (eds) Punishing immigrants: policy, politics and injustice. New York University Press, New York, pp 42–61CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Raudenbush SW, Bryk AS (2002) Hierarchical linear models: applications and data analysis methods, 2nd edn. Sage Publications, Thousand OaksGoogle Scholar
  64. Rengifo AF, Fratello J (2015) Perceptions of the police by immigrant youth: looking at stop-and-frisk and beyond using a New York City sample. Youth Violence Juv Justice 13(4):409–427CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Roberts J (2011) Why misdemeanors matter: defining effective advocacy in the lower criminal courts. UC Davis Law Rev 45:277–372Google Scholar
  66. Rumbaut RG, Ewing WA (2007) The myth of immigrant criminality and the paradox of assimilation: incarceration rates among native and foreign-born men. Immigration Policy Center, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  67. Rumbaut RG, Gonzales RG, Komaie G, Morgan CV, Rosaura T-E (2006) Immigration and incarceration: patterns and predictors of imprisonment among first- and second-generation young adults. In: Martinez R Jr, Valenzuela A Jr (eds) Immigration and crime: race, ethnicity, and violence. New York University Press, New York, pp 64–89Google Scholar
  68. Sampson RJ (2008) Rethinking crime and immigration. Contexts 7:28–33CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Sampson RJ, Morenoff J, Raudenbush SW (2005) Social anatomy of racial and ethnic disparities in violence. Am J Public Health 95:224–232CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Schlesinger T (2005) Racial and ethnic disparity in pretrial criminal processing. Justice Q 22:170–192CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Schubert CA, Mulvey EP, Steinberg L, Cauffman E, Losoya S, Hecker T, Chassin L, Knight GP (2004) Operational lessons from the pathways to desistance project. Youth Violence Juv Justice 2:237–255CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Sellin T (1938) Culture conflict and crime. Social Science Research Council, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  73. Simes JT, Waters MC (2014) The politics of immigration and crime. In: Bucerius SM, Tonry M (eds) The oxford handbook of ethnicity, crime, and immigration. Oxford University Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  74. Snijders T, Bosker R (1999) Multilevel analysis: an introduction to basic and advanced multilevel modeling. Sage Publications, Thousand OaksGoogle Scholar
  75. StataCorp. (2013) Stata statistical software: release 13. StataCorp LP, College StationGoogle Scholar
  76. Sutherland EH (1924/1934) Criminology. J. B. Lippincott Co, PhiladelphiaGoogle Scholar
  77. Theodore N (2013) Insecure communities: Latino perceptions of police involvement in immigration enforcement. Department of Urban Planning and Policy, University of Illinois at Chicago, ChicagoGoogle Scholar
  78. Thornberry TP, Krohn MD (2000) The self-report method for measuring delinquency and crime. In: Duffee D, Crutchfield RD, Mastrofski S, Mazerolle L, McDowall D (eds) Criminal justice 2000: vol. 4: measurement and analysis of crime and justice. National Institute of Justice/Department of Justice, Washington, D.C, pp 33–83Google Scholar
  79. Thornberry TP, Krohn MD (2003) Comparison of self-report and official data for measuring crime. In: Pepper JV, Petrie CV (eds) Measurement problems in criminal justice research: workshop summary. National Academy Press, Washington, DC, pp 43–94Google Scholar
  80. Tracy PE (1987) Race and class differences in official and self-reported delinquency. In: Wolfgang ME, Thornberry TP, Figlio RM (eds) From boy to man, from delinquency to crime. University of Chicago Press, Chicago, pp 87–121Google Scholar
  81. Treyger E, Chalfin A, Loeffler C (2014) Immigration enforcement, policing, and crime: evidence from the secure communities program. Criminol Public Policy 13:285–322CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  82. Trump D (2015) Donald trump presidential campaign announcement [Video file].
  83. Tyler TR, Schulhofer S, Huq A (2010) Legitimacy and deterrence effects in counter-terrorism policing: a study of Muslim Americans. Law Soc Rev 44:365–401CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  84. U.S. Government Accountability Office (2009) Immigration enforcement: better controls needed over program authorizing state and local enforcement of federal immigration laws. GAO-09-109. Report to congressional requesters. GAO, Washington, DC.
  85. Van Vechten CC (1941) The criminality of the foreign born. J Crim Law Criminol 32:139–147Google Scholar
  86. Vaughn MG, Salas-Wright CP, DeLisi M, Maynard BR (2014) The immigrant paradox: immigrants are less antisocial than native-born Americans. Soc Psychiatry Psychiatr Epidemiol 49:1129–1137CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  87. Wadsworth T (2010) Is immigration responsible for the crime drop? An assessment of the influence of immigration on changes in violent crime between 1990 and 2000. Soc Sci Q 91:531–553CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  88. Wickersham Report (1931) National commission on law observance and enforcement no. 10. Report on crime and the foreign born. Government Printing Office, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  89. Wolfe SE, Pyrooz DC, Spohn CC (2011) Unraveling the effect of offender citizenship status on federal sentencing outcomes. Soc Sci Res 40:349–362CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  90. Zatz MS, Smith H (2012) Immigration, crime and victimization: rhetoric and reality. Ann Rev Law Soc Sci 8:141–159CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of SociologyUniversity of Massachusetts BostonBostonUSA
  2. 2.Ashbel Smith Professor of Criminology, Program in CriminologyUniversity of Texas at DallasRichardsonUSA

Personalised recommendations