Immigrants Don’t Contribute Much to Crime Rate, Says Study

Corbis (Corbis)

New research is smashing common stereotypes about immigrants contributing to the crime rate, proving that people who migrate to the United States are actually less likely to commit crimes than Americans.

Researchers studied 43,000 immigrants from Europe, Asia, Latin America, and Africa, analyzing self-reported behaviors such as bullying, stealing, acquiring traffic tickets, and other types of non-violent and violent crimes. The study, recently published in the journal Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, found that, although immigrants tend to be poorer, less educated, and more urbanized than people born in the United States, those challenges don't motivate them to commit crimes. But there's a surprising twist to their findings: For each year that an immigrant spends in the United States, he or she becomes 1.9 percent more likely to commit a violent crime percent and 0.9 percent more likely to commit a non-violent crime.

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"The media and pop culture often portray immigrants as coming to the United States and becoming involved with crime. However, we didn't find that to be true," lead study author Michael G. Vaughn, PhD, a professor of social work at St. Louis University, tells Yahoo Shine. "Although we didn't study why, one possible theory is that immigrants usually have good intentions. They're motivated to be here so they're less likely to participate in crimes, especially in a country where they may not be familiar with societal rules." Vaughn also adds that immigrants tend to inhabit areas populated with others from their native countries, so there may be a group mentality that encourages people to stick to good behavior.

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Interestingly, says Vaughn, people who migrated to the United States before the age of 13 were likelier to commit crimes than older people, because (unsurprisingly) tweens are more prone to peer pressure and outside influence than those who are more mature. However, all immigrants are more likely to commit crimes the longer they live in the United States, possbily because, as part of the assimilation process, their moral guidelines relax as they befriend Americans and get situated in their new home.

"The effects on good behavior are short-term so the study shouldn't be interpreted as an antidote to crime," says Vaughn. "However, it's thought provoking, nonetheless."

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