Immigration and Crime: Is the Relationship Nonlinear?
Research shows that immigration and crime are either not related or are negatively related across neighborhoods, contrary to social disorganization theory and consistent with the immigration revitalization thesis. This research, however, is largely silent as to any possible non-linear effects. Yet modeling a relationship as linear when it is nonlinear can result in biased estimates and lead to a faulty conclusion of no relationship. And, social theory offers sound reasons for why the immigration-crime association may be non-linear. Beyond basic arguments advanced in the immigration revitalization thesis, related explanations underscore potential concentration effects. Immigrant/ethnic enclave theory and racial threat theory, in particular, identify concentration effects that are likely to matter—albeit in different ways. Using a novel dataset with information on crime in over 15,000 neighborhoods across a diverse range of hundreds of U.S. cities, we examine whether or not the immigration-crime association is non-linear. We find that for both violent and property crime, a nonlinear relationship best captures the immigration-crime association. In further analyses, we attempt to determine the theoretical perspective with which the findings are most consistent.
Charis E. Kubrin is a professor of criminology, law and society and (by courtesy) sociology at the University of California, Irvine. Kubrin’s research analyzes neighborhood correlates of crime, with an emphasis on race and violent crime. Recent work examines the immigration-crime nexus across neighborhoods and cities, as well as assesses the impact of criminal justice reform on crime rates. Kubrin has received several national awards including the Ruth Shonle Cavan Young Scholar Award from the American Society of Criminology; the Coramae Richey Mann Award from the Division on People of Color and Crime, the American Society of Criminology; and the W.E.B. DuBois Award and the Paul Tappan Award from the Western Society of Criminology. In 2019, she was named a fellow of the American Society of Criminology.