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Crime and Immigration: Evidence from Large Immigrant Waves

  • Brian Bell
  • Francesco Fasani
  • Stephen Machin

This paper examines the relationship between immigration and crime in a setting where large migration flows offer an opportunity to carefully appraise whether the populist view that immigrants cause crime is borne out by rigorous evidence. We consider possible crime effects from two large waves of immigration that recently occurred in the UK. The first of these was the late 1990s/early 2000s wave of asylum seekers, and the second the large inflow of workers from EU accession countries that took place from 2004. A simple economics of crime model, when dovetailed with facts about the relative labour market position of these migrant groups, suggests net returns to criminal activity are likely to be very different for the two waves. In fact, we show that the first wave led to a small rise in property crime, whilst the second wave had no such impact. There was no observable effect on violent crime for either wave. Nor were immigrant arrest rates different to natives. Evidence from victimization data also suggests that the changes in crime rates during the immigrant waves cannot be ascribed to crimes against immigrants. Overall, our findings suggest that focusing on the limited labour market opportunities of asylum seekers could have beneficial effects on crime rates.

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Paper provided by Centre for Economic Performance, LSE in its series CEP Discussion Papers with number dp0984.

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Date of creation: Jun 2010
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Handle: RePEc:cep:cepdps:dp0984
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://cep.lse.ac.uk/_new/publications/series.asp?prog=CEP

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  1. Bianchi, Milo & Buonanno, Paolo & Pinotti, Paolo, 2010. "Do Immigrants Cause Crime?," CEPREMAP Working Papers (Docweb) 1023, CEPREMAP.
  2. Edin, Per-Anders & Fredriksson, Peter & Åslund, Olof, 2000. "Ethnic enclaves and the economic success of immigrants - evidence from a natural experiment," Working Paper Series 2000:9, IFAU - Institute for Evaluation of Labour Market and Education Policy.
  3. David Card, 2004. "Is the New Immigration Really So Bad?," CReAM Discussion Paper Series 0402, Centre for Research and Analysis of Migration (CReAM), Department of Economics, University College London.
  4. Sara Lemos & Jonathan Portes, 2008. "New Labour? The Impact of Migration from Central and Eastern European Countries on the UK Labour Market," Discussion Papers in Economics 08/29, Department of Economics, University of Leicester.
  5. Kristin F. Butcher & Anne Morrison Piehl, 2006. "Why Are Immigrants' Incarceration Rates So Low? Evidence on Selective Immigration, Deterrence, and Deportation," Departmental Working Papers 200605, Rutgers University, Department of Economics.
  6. Hatton, Timothy J., 2008. "The Rise and Fall of Asylum: What Happened and Why?," CEPR Discussion Papers 6752, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  7. Card, David, 2001. "Immigrant Inflows, Native Outflows, and the Local Labor Market Impacts of Higher Immigration," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 19(1), pages 22-64, January.
  8. Alan B. Krueger & Jorn-Steffen Pischke, 1996. "A Statistical Analysis of Crime Against Foreigners in Unified Germany," NBER Working Papers 5485, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Christian Dustmann & Tommaso Frattini & Ian P. Preston, 2013. "The Effect of Immigration along the Distribution of Wages," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 80(1), pages 145-173.
  10. DavidG. Blanchflower & Chris Shadforth, 2009. "Fear, Unemployment and Migration," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 119(535), pages F136-F182, 02.
  11. Ehrlich, Isaac, 1973. "Participation in Illegitimate Activities: A Theoretical and Empirical Investigation," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 81(3), pages 521-65, May-June.
  12. Freeman, Richard B., 1999. "The economics of crime," Handbook of Labor Economics, in: O. Ashenfelter & D. Card (ed.), Handbook of Labor Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 52, pages 3529-3571 Elsevier.
  13. Borjas, George J., 1999. "The economic analysis of immigration," Handbook of Labor Economics, in: O. Ashenfelter & D. Card (ed.), Handbook of Labor Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 28, pages 1697-1760 Elsevier.
  14. repec:pse:psecon:2008-05 is not listed on IDEAS
  15. Stephen Machin & Costas Meghir, 2004. "Crime and Economic Incentives," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 39(4).
  16. Eric D. Gould & Bruce A. Weinberg & David B. Mustard, 2002. "Crime Rates And Local Labor Market Opportunities In The United States: 1979-1997," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 84(1), pages 45-61, February.
  17. 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.
  18. Gary S. Becker, 1974. "Crime and Punishment: An Economic Approach," NBER Chapters, in: Essays in the Economics of Crime and Punishment, pages 1-54 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  19. repec:hal:wpaper:halshs-00586864 is not listed on IDEAS
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