Crimebusters Tip: Get Natives to Leave in Favor of Immigrants

Economist Bryan Caplan apologizes for falling into one of the very economic biases he says the general public falls for in his fascinating new book, The Myth of the Rational Voter: Why Democracies Choose Bad Policies: The anti-foreign bias.

He had assumed, as do many Americans in this great land of immigrants, that immigrants represented a specially severe crime risk. A July 2007 working paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research set him straight. Here's how he explains it on his blog:

[D]espite their demographics, immigrants are drastically less criminal than native-born Americans. In fact, immigrants have one-fifth the incarceration rate of natives. Yes, natives are incarcerated at five times the rate of the foreign-born:

Using the 1980, 1990, and 2000 Censuses, we show that 18-40 year-old male immigrants have lower institutionalization rates than the native born in each year. The gap in these institutionalization rates widens over the decades, and by 2000 immigrants have institutionalization rates that are one-fifth of the native born.

Is this base statistical trickery? Not likely; these are raw numbers that anyone can double-check against the census. Could these results simply reflect the practice of deporting criminal aliens? Nope; our actual practice is to make immigrants serve their full sentence before expelling them.

But how can we reconcile the facts with the demographics? [Study authors Kristin F.] Butcher and [Anne Morrison] Piehl show that given their demographics, we should expect immigrants to commit crimes at double the native rate. But for some reason(s), demographics yield a massive overprediction; immigrants commit crimes at one-tenth the expected rate given their demographics. Yes, if immigrants acted like otherwise similar natives, they were be ten times as criminal as they actually are.

Full text of an earlier version of the paper.

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  • ||

    Immigrants until they are citizens get deported if they are convicted of a crime. That is a hell of a deterent. I suspect natives would commit a lot fewer crimes if the punishment was being shipped out to Mexico were part of the punishment. Also, immigrants self select. Most crimes are commited by a small percentage of career reprobates. Why would a career criminal in say Mexico want to leave there where the cops are much more bribable and less effective and come here and deal with our police? That is assuming he even has the ambition to leave. Why steal for a living there when you can do it right here? The statistic make sense when you think about it.

  • ||

    But...border...security!.. umm... AHHHHHHHHH!

  • thoreau||

    I agree with MikeP.

  • ||

    "Using the 1980, 1990, and 2000 Censuses, we show that 18-40 year-old male immigrants have lower institutionalization rates than the native born in each year."

    When they say "immigrant" does that mean all immigrants or just legal ones? Considering what you have to go through to immigrate legally, it is no surprise at all that immigrants would have a lower incarceration rate. The implication in the post is that it refers to all immigrants. I would like to know if it does because if it doesn't include illegal immigrants, than the statistic is meaningless. Yes of course when you make peopel go through a background check and go through a years long process to come here, you are going to weed out most of the criminals. But what about the 11 + million people who are here illegally? What is their incarceration rate?

  • ||

    I would echo what John says, but add this:
    If you look only at illegal immigrants (the only ones I care to keep out...I welcome legal immigrants), then the mere fact that they are illegal immigrants makes 100% of them criminals.

  • ||

    If being manipulated by the MexicanGovernment in order to obtain PoliticalPower were a crime, every MexicanImmigrant would be behind bars.

  • ||

    If you look only at illegal immigrants (the only ones I care to keep out...I welcome legal immigrants), then the mere fact that they are illegal immigrants makes 100% of them criminals.

    Are you being facetious? I can't tell.

  • ||

    I would echo what John says, but add this:
    If you look only at illegal immigrants (the only ones I care to keep out...I welcome legal immigrants), then the mere fact that they are illegal immigrants makes 100% of them criminals.


    It's not a crime, NAL. I assume you know this, but perhaps you're being facetious, as Greg said.

  • ||

    The anti-foreign bias.
    Lumping "immigrants" together into one group shows your own "us vs. them" bias.

    Immigrants until they are citizens get deported if they are convicted of a crime. That is a hell of a deterent.
    It sure is - when I was an "illegal immigrant," of sorts, in France I was on my best behavior; in fact I didn't even wave American flags around and gripe about the French gov't's unfairness and xenophobia.

    When they say "immigrant" does that mean all immigrants or just legal ones?
    Good question, and there's probably good reasons why that information was omitted.

    ...the statistic is meaningless.
    Without more information, that's quite correct. Reason tried to pawn off some similar propaganda a few months ago by claiming that 30 of 34 groups of immigrants (or some similar numbers) had low crime rates, without saying what the actual groups were; lots of commenters were NOT fooled. Perhaps this is just the same "information" repackaged...

    Let's assume, because it's implied but not actually stated, (and ignoring the fact that it's obviously absurd), that all immigrants can be lumped together into one amorphous mass and that they have uniformly low crime rates; how do you square that with the fact that Hispanic descendants of immigrants in the US, for example, or Muslim descendants of immigrants in Europe, have *far* higher crime rates than the extant general populations, and also far higher crime rates than their immigrant ancestors? Why should we be impressed with the fact that the original immigrants have low crime rates (if, of course they actually do) when their descendants have very high crime rates?

  • ||

    Let me amend my above comment. As I understand it, illegal presense is not a crime, but illegal entry may be.

    Roughly half of illegal immigrants arived in the U.S. on legal visas but have stayed after their visa expires.

  • ||

    I agree with a lot of these remarks. It's people like Reason who are the real racists since they cannot differentiate between different types of immigrants. They just think they're all the same... "those people".

    I am totally in favor of legal immigrants, provided reduce the number down to a more manageable number and only allow them to come from places like England and Denmark, which do not have the crime problems associated with many of the other groups of immigrants. In fact, I'm probably one of the biggest cheerleaders of immigration.

    The thing that gets me is illegal immigrants. Illegal immigrants like the Mexicans who come across our border. The first thing they do is steal our water because they are thirsty after breaking into our deserts. They are already super-criminals by the time they start looking for work on a street corner as a roofer, yard worker, or picking fruit -- all jobs that true Americans would do if they paid well enough.

    I should have liberty from illegal immigrants of all kinds (not just the Mexicans). I guess you could call me a true Libertarian. And, unlike the bloggers at this site, I use REASON. Funny, huh?

  • highnumber||

    Wheeeeeeee!!!!

    Wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Wheeeeeeeee!!!!!!!

  • ||

    The thing that gets me is illegal immigrants. Illegal immigrants like the Mexicans who come across our border. The first thing they do is steal our water because they are thirsty after breaking into our deserts. They are already super-criminals by the time they start looking for work on a street corner as a roofer, yard worker, or picking fruit -- all jobs that true Americans would do if they paid well enough.

    I should have liberty from illegal immigrants of all kinds (not just the Mexicans). I guess you could call me a true Libertarian. And, unlike the bloggers at this site, I use REASON. Funny, huh


    Yeah!!

    And don't forget that those fucking mexican immigrants are violating our RIGHTS. What about my right to not have the option to press 1 "para Espanol"? No one is defending that right?

    For a site named REASON....

  • ||

    How do you reconcile the study with this fact:

    http://www.newsmax.com/archives/ic/2006/3/27/114208.shtml

    Illegals now make up half of California's prison population.

  • VM||

    Single Lunatic is just bitter cuz Information Society didn't get back together on VH1's "Bands Reunited".

    TomH: wheeeeee! wheeeee!! wheeeee!!!

  • ||

    "[D]espite their demographics, immigrants are drastically less criminal than native-born Americans. In fact, immigrants have one-fifth the incarceration rate of natives."

    I've commented on this in the past. I've seen studies that suggest that the second and third generations of immigrants trend progressively toward the crime rate for native born people in the same economic categories, but what really stood out to me, as being counter-intuitive, was a Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas study which links stronger border enforcement to an increase in violent crime.

    "Second, it is likely that more enforcement(and other factors) have led to an increased use of professional smugglers which in turn has led to more violence on the border."

    http://www.dallasfed.org/research/papers/2003/wp0303.pdf

  • ||

    The article uses "immigrant" and "illegal alien" interchangably. Your bias is showing, Mr. Caplan. Those of us against the other side of the issue aren't anti-immigration, we're anti-illegal-immigration.

    However, it is still true that illegal aliens are less prone to crime than citizens and resident immigrants. Perhaps the fear of deportation is part of it, but I suspect it's because they came here to work, not to rob banks. We need to fix the system so that they can come here to work legally.

  • Alexandra||

    Are we talking legal or illegal immigrants? Illegal immigrants, by definition, are lawbreakers and are committing a crime by their presence here.

  • ||

    When you can increase your standard of living by a factor of 10 by justing working a minium wage job in the US, there is no real financial incentive to steal things.

  • FLAPPY THE EAGLE||

    THERE IS NO DIFFERENCE BETWEEN MALUM PROHIBITUM AND MALUM IN SE! ALL WILL BEND TO THE WILL OF ZEUS OR HAVE THEIR LIVERS PECKED OUT! ZEUS IS THE ONLY AUTHORITY, AND ZEUS HATES WATCHING PEOPLE PICK FRUIT BECAUSE IT MAKES HIM FEEL TIRED AND LISTLESS, SO IF YOU'RE TRYING TO COME TO A PROSPEROUS COUNTRY AND PICK FRUIT YOU SHOULD BE PREPARED FOR DIVINE RETRIBUTION. THE SORT OF RETRIBUTION AFTER WHICH YOU WILL NEED A LIVER TRANSPLANT.

  • Rhywun||

    It's people like Reason who are the real racists [...] I am totally in favor of legal immigrants, provided [they] come from places like England and Denmark

    LMAO. Now THAT'S a Friday funny.

    How do you reconcile the study with this fact:

    For starters, by not trusting any of the "facts" that appear on that particular website.

  • shecky||

    How do you reconcile the study with this fact:

    http://www.newsmax.com/archives/ic/2006/3/27/114208.shtml


    Start off by compensating for any info coming from the domain "newsmax.com".

    As I've pointed out before, it's not immediately apparent how illegal immigration, or even immigration as a whole, has caused any significant crime wave, since crime rates are lower now than they were when I was a kid in the 70s.

    Linda Chavez tackles some of the nativist nonsense here, of all places:
    http://article.nationalreview.com/?q=Y2UxNmQ0NDBjYmU3MjkzYzc1ODAzMzFhYmY3ZjFlNTc=

  • Geotpf||

    Two things here:

    1. Immigrants are frequently deported after serving thier sentences. This acts as a serious deterant, plus, since most crimes are committed by repeat offenders, eliminates the chance of repeat offender immigrants committing more crimes.

    2. If one is organized and committed enough to move to a foreign country, one is less likely to be a criminal and more likely to be a hard working individual.

  • Urkobold™||

    COUSIN FLAPPY? IS THAT YOU?
    HOW'S THE FAMILY?
    WILL YOU BE AT THE REUNION THIS SUMMER?
    TELL THE KIDS I SAID "BOOGA BOOGA!"

  • ||

    Just skimmed the preliminary text of the working paper provided and it does seem to only refer to aliens here in some legal capacity. If so, boo to the deceptively put conclusions, as those opposed to immigration tend to focus on illegals, which I guess are not counted (how could the poportion of illegals institutionalized be compared to the porportion of illegals in the Census; does the Census count illegals?).

  • ||

    I'm not sure I understand why I should expect to see a difference in crime statistics between people who are here to pick fruit legally and people who are here to pick fruit illegally.

    ...Is someone suggesting that picking fruit illegally should be considered a crime in the statistics? For comparison purposes, that's kind of a silly point.

  • More on Caplan||

    Please. Caplan is an agenda-driven hack; details at the link. I would be extremely surprised if he didn't completely ignore the distinctions between legal/illegal discussed above, and I'm sure he's also ignored the fact that many crimes IllegalAliens commit - such as IdentityTheft - are rarely prosecuted because they're protected by the crooks who make money off them (and their enablers, like Reason).

  • ||

    Mr. Nice Guy--if you can quote where they say they aren't including illegals, please show me...they explain their data set, and I quote it in my post: it is census data. And unelss they are deliberately excluding it, which I didn't notice them saying they were (show me if you have it handy) census data does include those illegals who choose to answer the census, as far as I understand it.
    As this critique (http://borjas.typepad.com/the_borjas_blog/2007/07/illegal-immigra.html via leading anti-immigrant economist George Borjas indicates, his problem with the Piehl/Butcher study is not that they EXCLUDE illegals, but lump them together with legals---and they do that because they are studying IMMIGRANTS full stop and not considering the legal-illegal distinction important.
    See this on the census and illegals:
    http://www.cis.org/articles/2001/censusrelease1001.html
    Yes, it isn't going to include everyone, legal or illegal, by using census data. But it's the actual data out there.

  • ||

    Why is it that people who are "for immigration, but against illegal imigration" almost always insist what we need to do is kick the illegals out and make it tough for them to enter in the first place?

    If you want to wipe out illegal immigration, make it an extremely easy, cheap and quick undertaking to enter the country legally, regardless of country of origin, education level, or social status. Repeal all quotas. Illegal immigration will evaporate.

    My guess is that most people who "like immigrants, just not illegal immigrants" wouldn't favor that plan, and wouldn't be so crazy about immigrants in general at that point, either.

  • ||

    Please prove me wrong, by the way.

  • ||

    "Are we talking legal or illegal immigrants? Illegal immigrants, by definition, are lawbreakers and are committing a crime by their presence here."

    Wrong. While it is a crime to enter without authorization (8 USC 1325), it isn't a crime to remain. It's also not a crime to overstay one's visa, which is how many aliens get here.

  • ||

    It would be a crime to enter on a visa knowing that you intend to overstay it at the time you are entering.

  • Aethelred the Unready||

    I am totally in favor of legal immigrants, provided reduce the number down to a more manageable number and only allow them to come from places like England and Denmark...



    England? OK

    Denmark? No way.

  • ||

    Brian-You're right, I stand corrected. The working paper does not mention illegal immigrants at all. That struck me, and I guess several other posters as odd and I jumped to the wrong conclusion that they were up to some pc crap of only using legal immigrants and aliens.
    The Census defines foriegn born very literally, anyone who self-reports as being born in another nation. It asks whether you are a citizen or not but does not go into details. So Borjas has a point that lumping illegals in with student visas and such would make their illegality look to be far less. And then of course the Census Bureau itself acknowledges the limitations of using a self-report measure like this (if you were an illegal and an identified government employee asked you "are you a citizen of this nation?" and "are you foriegn born" you may not give the most honest answer). However, even with these limitations the findings suggest such sharply lower rates for immigrants that the point still stands.
    http://www.census.gov/prod/2002pubs/p23-206.pdf

  • ||

    "If you want to wipe out illegal immigration, make it an extremely easy, cheap and quick undertaking to enter the country legally, regardless of country of origin, education level, or social status. Repeal all quotas. Illegal immigration will evaporate."
    Smacky-I may be wrong again, but I don't think those opposed to "illegal immigration" are so opposed because the people happen to be classified illegally, in fact they argue that the complex system of legal immigration ensures that a "better quality" of immigrant gets in than if the doors were just thrown open. For example, currently we tend not to let those with criminal records in. And then the person has to have the wherewithal to navigate the bureaucracy, so that selects again. In fact, this is the argument that Borjas and several posters above are making against this paper, that you are throwing in illegals with those who have to be very upstanding citizens just to get in, because if they were not we would not have let them in.

  • ||

    If you want to wipe out illegal immigration, make it an extremely easy, cheap and quick undertaking to enter the country legally, regardless of country of origin, education level, or social status. Repeal all quotas. Illegal immigration will evaporate.



    As one of the Evil Anti-Immigrant Bigots, that's exactly my position. I want an open door immigration policy. I want easy to obtain visas. Let anyone in who has a job here, who has been accepted to a college or university, etc. Let employers interview [i]at[/i] the border. But demand they come here legally, through the front door.

    Our current policy of looking the other way is broken. My friend recently got married to a lady from the Philipines. The process to get her here was so convoluted, that he was seriously tempted to sneak her in across the border. It would be been easier, cheaper, and if caught, they would have been in LESS legal trouble than if they had filled out the visa paperwork incorrectly. This is the situation which many in the "pro-immigration" camp want to enshrine.

  • FLAPPY THE EAGLE||

    URKOBOLD: THE FAMILY IS WELL, BUT THE KIDS ARE GETTING BIG AND ITS HARD TO FEED THEM OFF OF JUST ONE LIVER A DAY NOW. WE KEEP GIVING PROMETHEUS GRAIN ALCOHOL AND FORCE FEEDING HIM CEREAL GRAINS, BUT HIS LIVER REFUSES TO SWELL UP.

    WE MAY NOT MAKE THE REUNION ON ACCOUNT OF THIS PESKY LIVER SHORTAGE, BUT I WILL GIVE MY BEST TO THE KIDS FOR YOU. HOW ARE THE MINIKOBOLDS?

  • shecky||

    The process to get her here was so convoluted, that he was seriously tempted to sneak her in across the border. It would be been easier, cheaper, and if caught, they would have been in LESS legal trouble than if they had filled out the visa paperwork incorrectly. This is the situation which many in the "pro-immigration" camp want to enshrine.

    If it's easier, cheaper, and causes less trouble, ignoring immigration procedure really is perfectly reasonable, and even more reason to advocate open borders. It seems ridiculous to crack down on illegal immigration, just as it's ridiculous to crack down on drug use, or alcohol use in the 20s.

  • Urkobold™||

    I...ER...THAT IS...WELL...UH...THEY WERE TASTY.

    WE CAN MOVE THE REUNION OUT OF CHICAGO IF THAT IS BETTER FOR YOU. I'VE BEEN DRINKING HEAVILY IF THAT HELPS, TOO.

  • More on Caplan||

    Adam: The issue, of course, is that IllegalAliens almost always are involved in some way with follow-on activities that are in fact crimes, and crimes that most citizens are too scared to commit: IdentityTheft, using a FakeSSN, being EmployedIllegally, etc. etc.

    Side note: One of the funnier things I've ever heard in this whole debate is a chant from pinkos: "The CopsTheCourtsTheMinutemen, all PartOfTheBossesPlan". In actual fact, those pinkos, Reason Magazine, and others are part of the real "BossesPlan".

  • ||

    The big distortion, as mentioned previously, is the difference in repeat offenders. Alien criminals get deported at the end of their sentence, while citizen criminals are released to the streets of the U.S. Since the best predictor of future incarceration for crime is prior convictions, immigrant crime rates should be lower, because the subset of immigrants most likely to commit a crime are deported instead of racking up multiple convictions.

    This becomes even more distorted by "first time" leniency; an alien convicted and given no jail time for a first offense still is deported, while the citizen is released on the U.S. street under probation. The alien accordingly never shows up in the incarceration statistics; the native will if and when he violates probation or is convicted of his second offense.

    To properly measure criminal tendencies among immigrants as compared to natives, then, the study would have to focus only on convictions for first-time offenses (excluding illegal entry), because aliens with a propensity to get incarcerated are actively removed from the country while natives are not.

  • ||

    When I support and welcome things, I want to expand them, and remove barriers to them. Maybe even provide resources to support them.

    Ever met an "anti-illegal" type, like the people above who just looooooooooove legal immigrants, who want to expand legal immigration, remove barriers to it, or provide more resources to help immigrants or immigration?

    But I have to say, as eye-rolling right wing race cards go, claiming that someone is biased because they don't discuss legal and undocumented immigrants as if they were two different species is right up there with accusing Ted Kennedy and Pat Leahy of hating Catholics.

  • ||

    Mistah Niceguy,

    The Census does indeed count Undocumented America-Joiners. In fact, the Census Bureau if forbidden by law from ratting people out to La Migra, as it would endanger their mission of conducting an accurate count.

  • ||

    Come on, now. When the descendants of Northern Europeans kvetch about "illegal immigrants", they are not speaking of white Canadians.

    Maybe this century's ideological heirs of Orval Faubus and Lester Maddox should revive the descriptive, pejorative term "darkies" when referring to light brown people, just as the rabid segregationists used the term in reference to dark brown people.

    If George Wallace were alive and healthy* today, he would be bloviating: xenophobia now; xenophobia tomorrow; XENOPHOBIA FOREVAH!!
    _________________________

    *Governor Wallace did not repent of his racist past until his health failed. Had Samuel Johnson known George Wallace and George W. Bush,he might well have written that born again religiosity is the last refuge of a scoundrel.

  • ||

    "But I have to say, as eye-rolling right wing race cards go, claiming that someone is biased because they don't discuss legal and undocumented immigrants as if they were two different species is right up there with accusing Ted Kennedy and Pat Leahy of hating Catholics."
    Joe, I think implying that those opposed to illegal immigration (or even legal) are necessarily engaged in right wing race cards is right up there with accusing Ted Kennedy and Pat Leahy of hating Catholics.
    In my posts I said I thought, from a social science view, that it was weird to not break down, or at least mention, in an analysis, the differences between legal aliens and illegals. I mean, the paper takes time to discuss possible effects of being, say, a permanent legal vs. having a student visa. Why not discuss legal vs. illegal? It certainly strikes me as having some possible bearing on willingness to break the law (which is the variable the paper focuses on). Is only a racist capable of thining that it is possible that one who is willing to break border laws may also be more likely to break others, at least theoretically possible so it should be discussed in an analytical paper (if only to then refute with data)?
    Think of the crappy ads Handgun Control used to put out that said something to the effect of "1 child dies every x hours from a handgun." It is of course meant to conjure visions of toddlers walking wobbily towards a 44 magnum. Of course "child" is defined as anyone under 18 (not unreasonable mind you), and a lot of these shootings involve teen-agers, including many gang bangers. It's not that this is not an unreasonable operationalization, nor that teen agers dying is not tragic, it's just that a good analysis breaks down these kinds of things. A 17 year old crip dying by handgun and a 2 year old who finds an unwatched handgun and shoots himself are both bad, but are still different enough to warrant a mention. Of course, if you want people to have the most deeply felt bad opinion of handguns, conflate the two. And if you want people to not dwell on illegal immigrant crime, add them to students and folks who have gone through a rigorous background check/bureaucratic process and give average numbers across the group. I think social science should be as disinterested as possible; let goofballs like us argue over the ethical conclusions. We need the premises that inform our conclusions to be the result of research as non-political as possible.
    Interestingly, these institutional rate numbers are so low that the point would be well taken even if they did the analysis a little more, well, honestly by seperating the two (just as in the handgun case mentioned above). By the way, I'm using the handgun thing as an analogy, I'm not sure about the particulars.

  • ||

    MNG,

    Joe, I think implying that those opposed to illegal immigration (or even legal) are necessarily engaged in right wing race cards is right up there with accusing Ted Kennedy and Pat Leahy of hating Catholics.

    I agree, not necessarily. But surely you'll acknowledge that many of them are.

    Anyway, my point wasn't to broadly denounce people who brought up that distinction i/r/t this report, but to denounce those posters, like Brandybuck, who accused Caplan and Doherty of bias for not drawing the distinction.

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