Rachel Kleinfeld writes: There are few points on which the vast majority of scholars agree. One of them is that immigrants, both legal and illegal, are far more law-abiding than native-born Americans. The findings are so strong that some scholars argue that part of the steep fall in violence in the 1990s was caused by higher than normal immigration during that period.
The fact that U.S. locales with higher rates of immigration have lower homicide rates is echoed by research conducted by Reid et al., Wadsworth, Ousey and Kubrin, and Stowell et al. The findings held for Los Angeles in the 2000s, and for gang-ridden San Diego from 1980 to 2000 when immigrants were pouring into the city: As immigrants arrived, homicides fell. In fact, pretty much the only slightly negative correlation between immigration and crime comes from Jörg Spenkuch, who found that a 10% increase in foreign-born immigrants with poor employment outlooks raises a county’s property crime rate by just over 1%, but causes no rise in violence.
This is no surprise when you know that immigrants themselves are far less likely to commit crimes – especially violent crimes – than native-born Americans. In fact, immigrants started out less violent than native-born immigrants, and have become less and less crime-prone with each census since 1980. By 2000, native-born Americans were five times more likely to be incarcerated than immigrants. That particularly holds true for less-educated Mexican, Salvadoran, and Guatemalan young men, who are overrepresented among illegal immigrants. By 2010, more than 10 percent of native-born men aged 18-39 without a high school diploma were incarcerated. The percentage for Central American immigrants? Just 1.7 percent. [Continue reading…]