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Understanding the Impact of Immigration on Crime

Spenkuch, Jörg L. (2010): Understanding the Impact of Immigration on Crime.

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Abstract

Since the 1960s both crime rates and the share of immigrants among the American population have more than doubled. Almost three quarters of Americans believe immigration increases crime, yet existing academic research has shown no such effect. Using panel data on US counties from 1980 to 2000, this paper presents empirical evidence on a systematic and economically meaningful impact of immigration on crime. Consistent with the economic model of crime this effect is strongest for crimes motivated by financial gain, such as motor vehicle theft and robbery. Moreover, the effect is only present for those immigrants most likely to have poor labor market outcomes. Failure to account for the cost of increased crime would overstate the “immigration surplus” substantially, but would most likely not reverse its sign.

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