IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Silence of the Innocents: Illegal Immigrants' Underreporting of Crime and their Victimization


  • Comino, Stefano

    () (University of Udine)

  • Mastrobuoni, Giovanni

    () (Collegio Carlo Alberto)

  • Nicolò, Antonio

    () (University of Padua)


We analyze the consequences of illegally residing in a country on the likelihood of reporting a crime to the police and, as a consequence, on the likelihood to become victims of a crime. We use an immigration amnesty to address two issues when dealing with the legal status of immigrants: it is both endogenous as well as mostly unobserved in surveys. Right after the 1986 US Immigration Reform and Control Act, which disproportionately legalized individuals of Hispanic origin, crime victims of Hispanic origin in cities with a large proportion of illegal Hispanics become considerably more likely to report a crime. Non-Hispanics show no changes. Difference-in-differences estimates that adjust for the misclassification of legal status imply that the reporting rate of undocumented immigrants is close to 11 percent. Gaining legal status the reporting rate triples, approaching the reporting rate of non-Hispanics. We also find some evidence that following the amnesty Hispanics living in metropolitan areas with a large share of illegal migrants experience a reduction in victimization. This is coherent with a simple behavioral model of crime that guides our empirical strategies, where amnesties increase the reporting rate of legalized immigrants, which, in turn, modify the victimization of natives and migrants.

Suggested Citation

  • Comino, Stefano & Mastrobuoni, Giovanni & Nicolò, Antonio, 2016. "Silence of the Innocents: Illegal Immigrants' Underreporting of Crime and their Victimization," IZA Discussion Papers 10306, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp10306

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Aigner, Dennis J., 1973. "Regression with a binary independent variable subject to errors of observation," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 1(1), pages 49-59, March.
    2. George J. Borjas, 1995. "The Economic Benefits from Immigration," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 9(2), pages 3-22, Spring.
    3. David Card, 1990. "The Impact of the Mariel Boatlift on the Miami Labor Market," ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 43(2), pages 245-257, January.
    4. Milo Bianchi & Paolo Buonanno & Paolo Pinotti, 2012. "Do Immigrants Cause Crime?," Post-Print hal-01629746, HAL.
    5. repec:dau:papers:123456789/5382 is not listed on IDEAS
    6. Giovanni Mastrobuoni & Paolo Pinotti, 2015. "Legal Status and the Criminal Activity of Immigrants," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 7(2), pages 175-206, April.
    7. 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.
    8. Milo Bianchi & Paolo Buonanno & Paolo Pinotti, 2012. "Do Immigrants Cause Crime?," Journal of the European Economic Association, European Economic Association, vol. 10(6), pages 1318-1347, December.
    9. Amalia R. Miller & Carmit Segal, 2014. "Do female officers improve law enforcement quality? Effects on crime reporting and domestic violence escalation," UBSCENTER - Working Papers 009, UBS International Center of Economics in Society - Department of Economics - University of Zurich.
    10. Correia, Mark E., 2010. "Determinants of attitudes toward police of Latino immigrants and non-immigrants," Journal of Criminal Justice, Elsevier, vol. 38(1), pages 99-107, January.
    11. Paolo Pinotti, 2015. "Immigration Enforcement and Crime," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 105(5), pages 205-209, May.
    12. George J. Borjas, 1994. "The Economics of Immigration," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 32(4), pages 1667-1717, December.
    13. Silvia Helena Barcellos, 2010. "Legalization and the Economic Status of Immigrants," Working Papers 754, RAND Corporation.
    14. Brian Bell & Francesco Fasani & Stephen Machin, 2013. "Crime and Immigration: Evidence from Large Immigrant Waves," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 95(4), pages 1278-1290, October.
    15. Sherrie A. Kossoudji & Deborah A. Cobb-Clark, 2002. "Coming out of the Shadows: Learning about Legal Status and Wages from the Legalized Population," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 20(3), pages 598-628, July.
    16. Pia Orrenius & Madeline Zavodny, 2003. "Do amnesty programs reduce undocumented immigration? Evidence from Irca," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 40(3), pages 437-450, August.
    17. Lozano, Fernando A. & Sorensen, Todd A., 2011. "The Labor Market Value to Legal Status," IZA Discussion Papers 5492, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    18. Goldberg, Itzhak & Nold, Frederick C, 1980. "Does Reporting Deter Burglars?-An Empirical Analysis of Risk and Return in Crime," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 62(3), pages 424-431, August.
    19. Silvia Helena Barcellos, 2010. "Legalization and the Economic Status of Immigrants," Working Papers WR-754, RAND Corporation.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    More about this item


    immigration; amnesty; crime reporting; victimization survey;

    JEL classification:

    • J15 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Minorities, Races, Indigenous Peoples, and Immigrants; Non-labor Discrimination
    • K37 - Law and Economics - - Other Substantive Areas of Law - - - Immigration Law
    • K42 - Law and Economics - - Legal Procedure, the Legal System, and Illegal Behavior - - - Illegal Behavior and the Enforcement of Law
    • R23 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - Household Analysis - - - Regional Migration; Regional Labor Markets; Population

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp10306. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Mark Fallak). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.