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Immigration and Crime in Early 20th Century America

Author

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  • Carolyn Moehling
  • Anne Morrison Piehl

Abstract

Research on crime in the late 20th century has consistently shown that immigrants have lower rates of involvement in criminal activity than natives. We find that a century ago immigrants may have been slightly more likely than natives to be involved in crime. In 1904 prison commitment rates for more serious crimes were quite similar by nativity for all ages except ages 18 and 19 when the commitment rate for immigrants was higher than for the native born. By 1930, immigrants were less likely than natives to be committed to prisons at all ages 20 and older. But this advantage disappears when one looks at commitments for violent offenses. Aggregation bias and the absence of accurate population data meant that analysts at the time missed these important features of the immigrant-native incarceration comparison. The relative decline of the criminality of the foreign born reflected a growing gap between natives and immigrants at older ages, one that was driven by sharp increases in the commitment rates of the native born, while commitment rates for the foreign born were remarkably stable.

Suggested Citation

  • Carolyn Moehling & Anne Morrison Piehl, 2007. "Immigration and Crime in Early 20th Century America," NBER Working Papers 13576, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:13576
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. repec:aph:ajpbhl:10.2105/ajph.2004.037705_0 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. 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.
    3. Kristin F. Butcher & Anne Morrison Piehl, 2000. "The Role of Deportation in the Incarceration of Immigrants," NBER Chapters,in: Issues in the Economics of Immigration, pages 351-386 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Kristin F. Butcher & Anne Morrison Piehl, 2005. "Why are immigrants' incarceration rates so low? evidence on selective immigration, deterrence, and deportation," Working Paper Series WP-05-19, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.
    5. Kristin F. Butcher & Anne Morrison Piehl, 1998. "Recent Immigrants: Unexpected Implications for Crime and Incarceration," ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 51(4), pages 654-679, July.
    6. Edward L. Glaeser & Bruce Sacerdote, 1999. "Why Is There More Crime in Cities?," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 107(S6), pages 225-258, December.
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. 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.
    2. Alejandro Gaviria & Carlos Medina & Jorge Tamayo, 2010. "Assessing the Link between Adolescent Fertility and Urban Crime," BORRADORES DE ECONOMIA 006860, BANCO DE LA REPÚBLICA.
    3. Masciandaro, Donato & Passarelli, Francesco, 2013. "Financial systemic risk: Taxation or regulation?," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 37(2), pages 587-596.
    4. Giovanni Mastrobuoni & Paolo Pinotti, 2011. "Migration Restrictions and Criminal Behavior: Evidence from a Natural Experiment," Carlo Alberto Notebooks 208, Collegio Carlo Alberto.
    5. Barone, Guglielmo & D'Ignazio, Alessio & de Blasio, Guido & Naticchioni, Paolo, 2016. "Mr. Rossi, Mr. Hu and politics. The role of immigration in shaping natives' voting behavior," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 136(C), pages 1-13.
    6. Scott Baker, 2013. "Effects of Immigrant Legalization on Crime: The 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act," Discussion Papers 12-012, Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research.
    7. Bodenhorn, Howard, 2009. "Criminal sentencing in 19th-century Pennsylvania," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 46(3), pages 287-298, July.
    8. Thomas Bassetti & Luca Corazzini & Darwin Cortes & Luca Nunziata, 2013. "Do Immigrants Make Us Safer? A Model on Crime, Immigration and the Labor Market," "Marco Fanno" Working Papers 0121, Dipartimento di Scienze Economiche "Marco Fanno".
    9. Giovanni Mastrobuoni & Paolo Pinotti, 2014. "The Ups and Downs in Women's Employment: Shifting Composition or Behavior from 1970 to 2010?," Upjohn Working Papers and Journal Articles 14-212, W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research.
    10. 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.
    11. Thomas Bassetti, Luca Corazzini, Darwin Cortes, 2010. "Crime, Immigration and the Labor Market: A General Equilibrium Model," ISLA Working Papers 38, ISLA, Centre for research on Latin American Studies and Transition Economies, Universita' Bocconi, Milano, Italy.
    12. Giovanni Mastrobuoni & Paolo Pinotti, 2011. "Legal status of immigrants and criminal behavior: evidence from a natural experiment," Temi di discussione (Economic working papers) 813, Bank of Italy, Economic Research and International Relations Area.
    13. repec:dau:papers:123456789/5382 is not listed on IDEAS
    14. Barone, Guglielmo & D'Ignazio, Alessio & de Blasio, Guido & Naticchioni, Paolo, 2014. "Mr. Rossi, Mr. Hu and Politics: The Role of Immigration in Shaping Natives' Political Preferences," IZA Discussion Papers 8228, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    15. Milo Bianchi & Paolo Buonanno & Paolo Pinotti, 2008. "Immigration and crime: an empirical analysis," Temi di discussione (Economic working papers) 698, Bank of Italy, Economic Research and International Relations Area.
    16. Howard Bodenhorn, 2008. "Criminal Sentencing in Nineteenth Century Pennsylvania," NBER Working Papers 14283, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    17. Milo Bianchi & Paolo Buonanno & Paolo Pinotti, 2008. "Do immigrants cause crime?," Working Papers halshs-00586864, HAL.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • J01 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - General - - - Labor Economics: General
    • K4 - Law and Economics - - Legal Procedure, the Legal System, and Illegal Behavior
    • N3 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy

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