Why are Immigrants' Incarceration Rates so Low? Evidence on Selective Immigration, Deterrence, and Deportation

44 Pages Posted: 9 Jul 2007 Last revised: 26 Aug 2010

See all articles by Kristin F. Butcher

Kristin F. Butcher

Wellesley College; NBER

Anne Morrison Piehl

Rutgers University - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Date Written: July 2007

Abstract

The perception that immigration adversely affects crime rates led to legislation in the 1990s that particularly increased punishment of criminal aliens. In fact, immigrants have much lower institutionalization (incarceration) rates than the native born - on the order of one-fifth the rate of natives. More recently arrived immigrants have the lowest relative incarceration rates, and this difference increased from 1980 to 2000. We examine whether the improvement in immigrants' relative incarceration rates over the last three decades is linked to increased deportation, immigrant self-selection, or deterrence. Our evidence suggests that deportation does not drive the results. Rather, the process of migration selects individuals who either have lower criminal propensities or are more responsive to deterrent effects than the average native. Immigrants who were already in the country reduced their relative institutionalization probability over the decades; and the newly arrived immigrants in the 1980s and 1990s seem to be particularly unlikely to be involved in criminal activity, consistent with increasingly positive selection along this dimension.

Suggested Citation

Butcher, Kristin Frances and Piehl, Anne Morrison, Why are Immigrants' Incarceration Rates so Low? Evidence on Selective Immigration, Deterrence, and Deportation (July 2007). NBER Working Paper No. w13229, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=999025

Kristin Frances Butcher (Contact Author)

Wellesley College ( email )

106 Central Street
Wellesley, MA 02181
United States
781-283-2179 (Phone)
781-283-2177 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://web.wellesley.edu/web/Acad/Economics

NBER ( email )

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.nber.org/people/kristin_butcher

Anne Morrison Piehl

Rutgers University - Department of Economics ( email )

New Brunswick, NJ 08901
United States
(732) 932-7363 (Phone)

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Here is the Coronavirus
related research on SSRN

Paper statistics

Downloads
39
Abstract Views
890
PlumX Metrics