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Immigration and Crime: Assessing a Contentious Issue

Charis E. Kubrin, Graham C. Ousey

Are immigration and crime related? This review addresses this question in order to build a deeper understanding of the immigration-crime relationship. We synthesize the recent generation (1994 to 2014) of immigration-crime research focused on macrosocial (i.e., geospatial) units using a two-pronged approach that combines the qualitative method of narrative review with the quantitative strategy of systematic meta-analysis. After briefly reviewing contradictory theoretical arguments that scholars have invoked in efforts to explain the immigration-crime relationship, we present findings from our analysis, which () determined the average effect of immigration on crime rates across the body of literature and () assessed how variations in key aspects of research design have impacted results obtained in prior studies. Findings indicate that, overall, the immigration-crime association is negativeā€”but very weak. At the same time, there is significant variation in findings across studies. Study design features, including measurement of the dependent variable, units of analysis, temporal design, and locational context, impact the immigration-crime association in varied ways. We conclude the review with a discussion of promising new directions and remaining challenges in research on the immigration-crime nexus.

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