Race and Inequality

Examining Current Research on the Relationship of Immigration and Crime

Charis Kubrin
Professor of Criminology, Law and Society, University of California, Irvine

Key Findings

  • The current body of immigration-crime research identifies a largely nonsignificant relationship between immigration and crime.
  • Current research does not support findings, which indicate that immigration increases crime rates.


In the article, “Immigration and Crime: Assessing a Contentious Issue,” Kubrin examined the relationship between immigration and crime, seeking to build a deeper understanding of the complexities of this often-debated relationship. The authors reviewed and assessed a total of 51 studies published between 1994 and 2014 that examined the immigration-crime relationship. The authors found that the most common outcome reported in these studies is a nonsignificant association between immigration and crime, meaning that the relationship between the two is weak at best. Furthermore, several of the examined studies found that greater immigration was associated with lower crime rates. One theory that was not supported by the existing body of research is that immigration increases crime. The authors suggested that there are many nuances that need to be taken into account when seeking to understand the overall immigration-crime relationship. Several challenges exist, including data limitations such as: lack of documentation of immigration status (native born vs. foreign born), lack of data on documented vs undocumented immigrants, and an overall under-reporting of crime. With regards to future research in this area, the authors suggested a need for longitudinal studies to address other critical questions related to historical context and time.

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