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Immigration and Crime: Evidence from Canada

  • Zhang, Haimin
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    There is growing belief in many developed countries, including Canada, that the large influx of the foreign-born population increases crime. Despite the heated public discussion, the immigrant-crime relationship is understudied in the literature. This paper identifies the causal linkages between immigration and crime using panel data constructed from the Uniform Crime Reporting Survey and the master files of the Census of Canada. This paper distinguishes immigrants by their years in Canada and defines three groups: new immigrants, recent immigrants and established immigrants. An instrumental variable strategy based on the historical ethnic distribution is used to correct for the endogenous location choice of immigrants. Two robust patterns emerge. First, new immigrants do not have a significant impact on the property crime rate, but with time spent in Canada, a 10% increase in the recent-immigrant share or established-immigrant share decreases the property crime rate by 2% to 3%. Neither underreporting to police nor the dilution of the criminal pool by the addition of law-abiding immigrants can fully explain the size of the estimates. This suggests that immigration has a spillover effect, such as changing neighbourhood characteristics, which reduces crime rates in the long run. Second, IV estimates are consistently more negative than their OLS counterparts. By not correctly identifying the causal channel, OLS estimation leads to the incorrect conclusion that immigration is associated with higher crime rates.

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    File URL: http://www.clsrn.econ.ubc.ca/workingpapers/CLSRN%20Working%20Paper%20no.%20135%20-%20Zhang.pdf
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    Paper provided by Vancouver School of Economics in its series CLSSRN working papers with number clsrn_admin-2014-20.

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    Length: 59 pages
    Date of creation: 28 Apr 2014
    Date of revision: 28 Apr 2014
    Handle: RePEc:ubc:clssrn:clsrn_admin-2014-20
    Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.clsrn.econ.ubc.ca/

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    4. Jeff Grogger, 1997. "Market Wages and Youth Crime," NBER Working Papers 5983, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. 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.
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    9. Edward L. Glaeser & Bruce Sacerdote, 1996. "Why is There More Crime in Cities?," Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers 1746, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research.
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    11. 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.
    12. George J. Borjas & Jeffrey Grogger & Gordon H. Hanson, 2006. "Immigration and African-American Employment Opportunities: The Response of Wages, Employment, and Incarceration to Labor Supply Shocks," NBER Working Papers 12518, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    13. Gregorio Caetano & Vikram Maheshri, 2013. "Do 'Broken Windows' Matter? Identifying Dynamic Spillovers in Criminal Behavior," Working Papers 2013-252-22, Department of Economics, University of Houston.
    14. Green, David A. & Worswick, Christopher, 2012. "Immigrant earnings profiles in the presence of human capital investment: Measuring cohort and macro effects," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 19(2), pages 241-259.
    15. Spenkuch, Jörg L., 2010. "Understanding the Impact of Immigration on Crime," MPRA Paper 22864, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    16. 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.
    17. Saiz, Albert, 2007. "Immigration and housing rents in American cities," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 61(2), pages 345-371, March.
    18. Jennifer Hunt & Marjolaine Gauthier-Loiselle, 2010. "How Much Does Immigration Boost Innovation?," American Economic Journal: Macroeconomics, American Economic Association, vol. 2(2), pages 31-56, April.
    19. Morgan Kelly, 2000. "Inequality And Crime," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 82(4), pages 530-539, November.
    20. Albert Saiz, 2003. "Room in the Kitchen for the Melting Pot: Immigration and Rental Prices," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 85(3), pages 502-521, August.
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    22. 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.
    23. James Ted McDonald & Christopher Worswick, 1997. "Unemployment Incidence of Immigrant Men in Canada," Canadian Public Policy, University of Toronto Press, vol. 23(4), pages 353-373, December.
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