Out of Control Policy Blog

You know the deal with those immigrants ...

So many of them are illegal, so they've already shown that they have no respect for our laws. Plus they're
young, poor, and can barely read--you just know they're out their stealing stereos or worse.

We've heard that before, and it is true that being young, poor and uneducated is usually associated with higher levels of crime. But a new paper by Kristin Butcher and Anne Piehl finds that immigrants are actually much more law abiding than the native born:

    We have shown that immigrants have substantially lower institutionalization rates than natives, and that this differential has grown over the timer period that institutionalization expanded. In 2000, male young adult immigrants are institutionalized at one-fifth the rate of comparable native-born Americans. Although immigrants continue to be much more likely than natives to have low levels of education, this has not caused institutionalization rates to rise. In fact, when we predict the institutionalization rate for immigrants based on the experience of natives, we find that the observed rate is one-tenth of the predicted one.

Bryan Caplan puts it like this: "[I]f immigrants acted like otherwise similar natives, they were be ten times as criminal as they actually are."

Free version of paper here; newer NBER version here.

Can we at least harangue immigrants for stealing our jobs and depressing our wages? A recent PPIC paper says no:

    This issue of California Counts examines the effects of the arrival of immigrants between 1960 and 2004 on the employment, population, and wages of U.S. natives in California. Among the study's principal findings: 1) There is no evidence that the influx of immigrants over the past four decades has worsened the employment opportunities of natives with similar education and experience, 2) There is no association between the influx of immigrants and the out-migration of natives within the same education and age group, 3) Immigration induced a 4 percent real wage increase for the average native worker between 1990 and 2004, 4) Recent immigrants did lower the wages of previous immigrants.

PPIC study available here.

Related: How immigration boosts wages

Related: Queueless on Immigration

Ted Balaker is Producer


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