Legal immigrants are more law-abiding than native-born Americans, new study finds

This research addresses one of the major concerns Americans have about increasing immigration. 

One concern many Americans have about increasing legal immigration is what effect that might have on crime. While that concern is understandable in theory, we just got even more statistical evidence that legal immigrants are more law-abiding than native-born Americans.

A new study evaluates a variety of Census data ranging from 1850 to 2020 to “provide the first nationally representative long-run series (1850–2020) of incarceration rates for immigrants and the US-born.” It finds that from 1880 to 1960, “immigrants’ incarceration rates were virtually identical to the incarceration rates of white US-born men.” However, after 1960, the data diverged, and immigrants actually became less likely than those born in the US to be imprisoned.

“If we compare immigrants to the broader US-born population (including non-white individuals), then immigrants are 60% less likely to be incarcerated in recent years,” the study concludes.

This isn’t the first research to reach similar conclusions. The Cato Institute’s Alex Nowrasteh has repeatedly analyzed data and similarly found that immigrants are more law-abiding than US natives. For example, Nowrasteh crunched the numbers from Texas and found that not only are legal immigrants less likely to commit crimes than Americans—illegal immigrants are too. This held true for crimes ranging from homicide to sex crimes to larceny.

“In Texas in 2017, illegal immigrants were 47 percent less likely to be convicted of a crime than native‐​born Americans and legal immigrants were about 65 percent less likely to be convicted of a crime than native‐​born Americans,” Nowrasteh reported.

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Brad Polumbo
Brad Polumbo
Brad Polumbo is a libertarian-conservative journalist and co-founder of Based Politics. His work has been cited by top lawmakers such as Senator Rand Paul, Senator Ted Cruz, Senator Pat Toomey, Congresswoman Nancy Mace, Congressman Thomas Massie, and former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, as well as by prominent media personalities such as Jordan Peterson, Sean Hannity, Dave Rubin, Ben Shapiro, and Mark Levin. Brad has also testified before the US Senate, appeared on Fox News and Fox Business, and written for publications such as USA Today, National Review, Newsweek, and the Daily Beast. He hosts the Breaking Boundaries podcast and has a bachelor’s degree in economics from the University of Massachusetts Amherst.