Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Does Immigration Increase Crime?

By Alex Nowrasteh

It’s important to understand how immigrants affect crime in their new countries. However, crime data across countries are hard to come by and even harder to compare as laws vary significantly between jurisdictions, different countries have radically different criminal justice systems, and many countries don’t systematically publish incarceration data that identify the foreign‐​born population.
Fortunately, a wonderful new book entitled Does Immigration Increase Crime? By Francesco Fasani, Giovanni Mastrobuoni, Emily G. Owens, and Paolo Pinotti includes a figure that helps tremendously. Figure 1 below is an updated version of their figure 1.7 on page 18 of their book. It shows the foreign‐​born share of the population across 20 OECD countries compared to the foreign‐​born share of the prison populations in those countries. The prisoner data come from the Centre for Prison Studies and the population data from the OECD. Figure 1 uses the most updated data for both with no other controls.

Figure 1 shows a wide range in foreign‐​born shares of the incarcerated population and shares of the total population. In 13 of the 20 OECD countries listed, the foreign‐​born share of prisoners is higher than their share of the population – often multiple‐​times higher. This is evidence that the foreign‐​born population of those countries has a disproportionately higher crime rate. In seven OECD countries, the foreign‐​born share of the prison population is below their share of the total population, suggesting that they have a disproportionately lower crime rate.

Figure 2 is the difference between the foreign‐​born share of the prison population and the foreign‐​born share of the total population. Bars that are above zero show that foreign‐​born people have a higher incarceration share than their share of the population. Bars that are below zero show that the foreign‐​born have an incarceration share below their share of the population.
Poland, Hungary, the United Kingdom, the United States, Australia, and New Zealand all have foreign‐​born shares of their prison populations that are below their shares of the total population.
If the 20 OECD countries analyzed here were considered as a single country, the foreign‐​born share of the total population would be 13.5 percent and the foreign‐​born share of the prison population would be 8.2 percent. That result is driven by the United States, which accounts for 40 percent of the total population of those 20 countries, 40 percent of the foreign‐​born population, 80 percent of the prisoners, and a very low foreign‐​born incarceration rate.
My biggest concern with these numbers is data quality. The Centre for Prison Studies gathers the data from multiple different sources in different countries, so I can’t verify whether they are of good quality. Additionally, the share of the population incarcerated is just one measure of criminality and should be considered alongside others. Regardless, the figures above, inspired by Does Immigration Increase Crime?, shed some light on this important topic.
The above originally appeared at Cato.org.


  1. I think that in the States, the foreign prison population is SWAMPED by the native born. It's not that there are so few foreign, but so many native born. It might be useful for comparison in the States to compare URBAN vs. RURAL populations.

    1. And there are 20+ million criminals working for the various levels of government who are not in prison, a fair number of which would be native born. Forget immigration, statism increases crime.

  2. The only thing this article tells us is the weakness of statistics without a theory of understanding.

  3. Another crap article presented by RW to instill the moronic belief that more people from turd world countries are libertardian. We desperately need more white Europeans and less from other turd world cultures. Even those that profess intelligence like Asians and Indians are bunch of Marxist when it comes time to vote. And let us not forget the endemic stupidity of the African continent and which race created many of their own problems. And I'm still looking for all those Latins that supposedly vote for limited government. Of course, I'll be derided as a 'da rasis' by moron critics here.

    And yes, immigrants do cause crime especially the non-vetted ones known as illegals.

  4. Lots of criminals apprehended. But I guess libertarians are okay with rapist child molesting immigrants.


  5. The NAPster nailed it. What the state has stolen from me (not to mention other violations that I have endured from the state) in both value and occurrences dwarfs all violations from all other entities put together many times over.

    The state is a promoter of crime by example (the state is the biggest thief and murder) and by funneling prosperity to cronies and those that are adept at playing their system. The prosperity of honest hard working people is diminished by state obstacles and manipulations. Those that end up on the margin due to these obstacles and manipulations are more likely to be enticed into criminal acts.

    Eliminating the state will not eliminate crime but it will eliminate most of it.