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Why are immigrants' incarceration rates so low? evidence on selective immigration, deterrence, and deportation

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  • Kristin Butcher
  • Anne Morrison Piehl

Abstract

Much of the concern about immigration adversely affecting crime derives from the fact that immigrants tend to have characteristics in common with native born populations that are disproportionately incarcerated. This perception of a link between immigration and crime led to legislation in the 1990s increasing punishments toward criminal aliens. Despite the widespread perception of a link between immigration and crime, immigrants have much lower institutionalization (incarceration) rates than the native born. More recently arrived immigrants have the lowest comparative incarceration rates, and this difference increased from 1980 to 2000. We present a model of immigrant self-selection that suggests why, despite poor labor market outcomes, immigrants may have better incarceration outcomes than the native- born. We examine whether the improvement in immigrants’ relative incarceration rates over the last three decades is linked to increased deportation, immigrant self- selection, or deterrence. Our evidence suggests that deportation and deterrence of immigrants’ crime commission from the threat of deportation are not driving the results. Rather, immigrants appear to be self-selected to have low criminal propensities and this has increased over time.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago in its series Working Paper Series with number WP-05-19.

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Date of creation: 2005
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Handle: RePEc:fip:fedhwp:wp-05-19

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Keywords: Immigrants ; Deportation;

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  1. Kristin F. Butcher & Anne Morrison Piehl, 1998. "Cross-city evidence on the relationship between immigration and crime," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 17(3), pages 457-493.
  2. George J. Borjas, 2003. "The Labor Demand Curve is Downward Sloping: Reexamining the Impact of Immigration on the Labor Market," NBER Working Papers 9755, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Darren Lubotsky, 2000. "Chutes or Ladders? A Longitudinal Analysis of Immigrant Earnings," Labor and Demography 0004006, EconWPA.
  4. Kristin F. Butcher & Anne Morrison Piehl, 1999. "The Role of Deportation in the Incarceration of Immigrants," NBER Working Papers 6974, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Una Okonkwo Osili & Anna Paulson, 2004. "Institutional quality and financial market development: evidence from international migrants in the U.S," Working Paper Series WP-04-19, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.
  6. repec:fth:prinin:445 is not listed on IDEAS
  7. Gary S. Becker, 1968. "Crime and Punishment: An Economic Approach," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 76, pages 169.
  8. Una Okonkwo Osili & Anna Paulson, 2004. "Prospects for immigrant-native wealth assimilation: evidence from financial market participation," Working Paper Series WP-04-18, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.
  9. George J. Borjas, 1988. "Self-Selection and the Earnings of Immigrants," NBER Working Papers 2248, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Kristin F. Butcher & Anne Morrison Piehl, 1997. "Recent Immigrants: Unexpected Implications for Crime and Incarceration," NBER Working Papers 6067, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. George J. Borjas, 2002. "Homeownership in the Immigrant Population," NBER Working Papers 8945, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. Kristin Butcher, 1990. "Black Immigrants to the United States: A Comparison with Native Blacks and Other Immigrants," Working Papers 648, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section..
  13. Darren Lubotsky, 2000. "Chutes or Ladders? A Longitudinal Analysis of Immigrant Earnings," Working Papers 824, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section..
  14. George J. Borjas, 1994. "The Economics of Immigration," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 32(4), pages 1667-1717, December.
  15. Gordon H. Hanson, 2005. "Emigration, Labor Supply, and Earnings in Mexico," NBER Working Papers 11412, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  16. Borjas, George J, 1985. "Assimilation, Changes in Cohort Quality, and the Earnings of Immigrants," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 3(4), pages 463-89, October.
  17. Luojia Hu, 1999. "Use of Means-Tested Transfer Programs by Immigrants, Their Children, and Their Children's Children," JCPR Working Papers 71, Northwestern University/University of Chicago Joint Center for Poverty Research.
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