Neighborhoods-not immigrants-determining factor for homicides

Extending Immigration and Crime Studie National Implications and Local Settings

From The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 

Public opinion and public policy often assume that immigration is directly related to higher rates of crime, but the social conditions of neighborhoods actually have a more significant effect on violent crimes than immigrant populations. This study examines the issue using local and national data over several decades. The researchers selected two cities affected by immigration in different ways during different time periods, as well as recent national data that compare violent crime rates to immigration concentration levels. They concluded that immigration does not necessarily mean more homicide, location and neighborhood characteristics were the most significant influencers of homicide rates. “Neighborhoods with higher levels of disadvantage experience significantly more homicides, including those that are gang- and drug-related,” wrote the authors. “Residential stability, percentage professional, adult to child ratio, and young male emerges (but the latter two in opposite directions) for total and gang homicide.” They feel their findings could be used to help direct immigrant crime prevention resources to other more influential areas, such as help to encourage Latinos to seek employment in professional occupations.


One of American society’s enduring debates centers on the immigration and violent crime relationship. This classic debate is revisited using data for individual homicide incidents and census-tract-level homicides in Miami, Florida, and San Antonio, Texas, in the 1980s and 1990s, respectively. The article starts with these two comparative cases because they mirror the immigration influx, Latino growth, and homicide decline seen throughout the country since 1980. These findings are also replicated in an analysis of the immigration and crime influx across the nation using U.S. counties in 2000. In sum, results from comparative cases, different time points, homicide motivations, and individual/community/national levels—and even controlling for Latino regional concentration—are reported. The findings were clear and unequivocal: more immigrants did not mean more homicide, and that outcome held across time and place.

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Article details

Martinez, R., & Stowell, J. (2012). Extending Immigration and Crime Studies: National Implications and Local Settings The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 641 (1), 174-191 DOI: 10.1177/0002716212437363

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