The California Story: Reduced Crime, High Immigration

Print More

California’s dramatic decline in rates of drug overdose, gun violence and juvenile crime parallels the sharp increase in foreign immigrants to the state, says a study released yesterday.

According to the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice, youth violent crime rates have dropped 72 percent, and homicide arrests of urban youth have plunged by 92 per cent between 1980 and 2015. Over roughly the same period America’s largest state (by population) moved from two-thirds white to over 60 percent people of color—a demographic transformation the study says was driven largely by high rates of foreign immigration.

The parallel trends refute the fear-mongering of politicians about the dangers to public safety posed by unrestricted immigration, claimed study author Mike Males, Ph.D., a senior research fellow at the San Francisco-based non-profit.

“California has demonstrated substantial gains in health and safety as its demographic composition has become more diverse and immigration has increased,” Males wrote.

“The state’s experience shows that racial transition can accompany greater public safety and well-being, a reality that should impact the national discussion over immigration.”

In particular, Males claimed, his findings challenged the idea that “sanctuary cities,” such as those found in California, fuel increased crime.

Critics of immigration policy single out undocumented immigrants, many of whom they say are already convicted felons, as a growing crime threat. While the study did not differentiate between crimes committed by “legal” and “illegal” immigrants, other research, however, shows that undocumented immigrants commit less crime than the majority population.

Since 1995, 3.4 million people have immigrated to California from foreign countries since 1995; while two million U.S.-born residents, mostly white, have emigrated from the state, according to U.S. Census figures. An estimated 2.6 million undocumented immigrants, mostly Latino, currently live in California.

Males said his findings suggest it is worth exploring whether increased diversity has a beneficial impact on public safety.

“Indicators of social health and safety—such as violence, violent death and school dropouts—have decreased significantly (in the time period studied),” he wrote. “And California has weathered the national opioid epidemic better than elsewhere in the country.”

The fact that the positive trends were most marked among young people, who represent California’s most diverse demographic group, is especially noteworthy, he argued.

The full report, entitled “Refuting Fear: Immigration, Youth and California’s Stunning Declines in Crime and Violence,” is available here.

One thought on “The California Story: Reduced Crime, High Immigration

  1. This relation (more immigrants fewer reported crimes), could be partly spurious because immigrants are more reluctant to report crime. See the 2016 paper: Silence Speaks: The Relationship between Immigration and the Underreporting of Crime.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *