Immigration and Crime: Assessing a Contentious Issues

Annu. Rev. Criminol. 2018. 1:1.1–1.22

41 Pages Posted: 31 Aug 2017

See all articles by Graham Ousey

Graham Ousey

College of William and Mary

Charis Kubrin

University of California, Irvine

Date Written: 2017


Are immigration and crime related? This review addresses this question in order to build a deeper understanding of the immigration-crime relationship. We synthesize the recent generation (1994 to 2014) of immigration-crime research focused on macrosocial (i.e., geospatial) units using a two-pronged approach that combines the qualitative method of narrative review with the quantitative strategy of systematic meta-analysis. After briefly reviewing contradictory theoretical arguments that scholars have invoked in efforts to explain the immigration-crime relationship, we present findings from our analysis, which (a) determined the average effect of immigration on crime rates across the body of literature and (b) assessed how variations in key aspects of research design have impacted results obtained in prior studies. Findings indicate that, overall, the immigration-crime association is negative—but very weak. At the same time, there is significant variation in findings across studies. Study design features, including measurement of the dependent variable, units of analysis, temporal design, and locational context, impact the immigration-crime association in varied ways. We conclude the review with a discussion of promising new directions and remaining challenges in research on the immigration-crime nexus.

Keywords: immigration, immigrants, crime, meta-analysis

Suggested Citation

Ousey, Graham and Kubrin, Charis, Immigration and Crime: Assessing a Contentious Issues (2017). Annu. Rev. Criminol. 2018. 1:1.1–1.22. Available at SSRN:

Graham Ousey

College of William and Mary ( email )

P.O. Box 8795
Williamsburg, VA 23185
United States

Charis Kubrin (Contact Author)

University of California, Irvine ( email )

Department of Criminiology, Law and Society
Social Ecology II, Rm 3379
Irvine, CA 62697-3125
United States

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