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.