Why Immigrant Communities Have Less Crime


Do strong ties to family and neighborhood institutions explain why immigrant communities experience less crime and delinquency than communities of native-born residents? Building on previous research that determined foreign-born youth are less likely to commit violent acts, a study in the journal Youth Violence and Juvenile Justice tries to pinpoint why. Its findings are inconclusive.

In “The Power of Place Revisited: Why Immigrant Communities Have Lower Levels of Adolescent Violence,” researchers used data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health to look at whether community social capital—such as a parent's involvement in community organizations—and violent victimization—such as having witnessed violent crime—are factors that lessen adolescent violence in immigrant communities.

“The findings from this study raise more questions than they answer, which suggests several future directions researchers should consider,” write Charis E. Kubrin and Scott A. Desmond. “First, and perhaps most important, researchers should not abandon the idea that community social capital is relevant for understanding less adolescent violence in immigrant communities.”

The authors write that restrictive legislation and aggressive deportation of undocumented immigrants are unlikely to reduce crime. On the contrary, they write, “Aggressive deportation might contribute to greater suspicion of law enforcement in immigrant communities, or breakup otherwise stable family and community social networks, both of which might contribute to an increase, rather than the desired reduction, in violent crime.”

The full study is available for a fee HERE. (Journalists who would like to access the study free of charge should email TCR Deputy Editor Alice Popovici at alice@thecrimereport.org.)

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