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Why Are Immigrants' Incarceration Rates So Low? Evidence on Selective Immigration, Deterrence, and Deportation

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Author Info

  • Kristin F. Butcher

    ()
    (Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago)

  • Anne Morrison Piehl

    ()
    (Rutgers University and NBER)

Abstract

Immigrants to the United States tend to have characteristics in common with native-born populations that are disproportionately incarcerated. The perception that immigration adversely affects crime rates led to legislation in the 1990s that particularly increased punishment of criminal aliens. In fact, immigrants have much lower institutionalization (incarceration) rates than the native born—on the order of one-fifth the rate of natives. More recently arrived immigrants have the lowest relative 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 is not driving the results. Rather, the process of migration selects individuals who are more responsive to deterrent effects than the average native. Immigrants who were already in the country reduced their relative institutionalization probability over the decades; and the newly arrived immigrants in the 1980s and 1990s seem to be particularly unlikely to be involved in criminal activity, consistent with increasingly positive selection along this dimension.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Rutgers University, Department of Economics in its series Departmental Working Papers with number 200605.

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Length: 20 pages
Date of creation: 15 Mar 2006
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:rut:rutres:200605

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Keywords: immigration; crime; incarceration; assimilation;

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References

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  1. 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.
  2. Darren Lubotsky, 2000. "Chutes or Ladders? A Longitudinal Analysis of Immigrant Earnings," Labor and Demography 0004006, EconWPA.
  3. George J. Borjas, 2003. "The Labor Demand Curve Is Downward Sloping: Reexamining The Impact Of Immigration On The Labor Market," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 118(4), pages 1335-1374, November.
  4. Gary S. Becker, 1968. "Crime and Punishment: An Economic Approach," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 76, pages 169.
  5. George J. Borjas, 1994. "The Economics of Immigration," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 32(4), pages 1667-1717, December.
  6. Gordon H. Hanson, 2005. "Emigration, Labor Supply, and Earnings in Mexico," NBER Working Papers 11412, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. repec:fth:prinin:445 is not listed on IDEAS
  8. George J. Borjas, 1987. "Self-Selection and the Earnings of Immigrants," NBER Working Papers 2248, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. 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.
  10. 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..
  11. 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.
  12. Borjas, George J., 2002. "Homeownership in the immigrant population," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 52(3), pages 448-476, November.
  13. 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.
  14. Darren Lubotsky, 2000. "Chutes or Ladders? A Longitudinal Analysis of Immigrant Earnings," Working Papers 824, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section..
  15. 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.
  16. Kristin F. Butcher & Anne Morrison Piehl, 1998. "Recent immigrants: Unexpected implications for crime and incarceration," Industrial and Labor Relations Review, ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 51(4), pages 654-679, July.
  17. 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.
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