Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Lowest Crime Cities Have Huge Immigrant Populations and Vice Versa

CQ Press came out with their annual ranking of US cities based on crime rate in the US on Monday. Just looking at the list, I got a hunch as to an interesting correlation; the safest cities seemed to be high-immigrant population centers, while the most dangerous were not. So I checked it out.

The following table lists the ten safest cities in the U.S. according to CQ, along with the percentage of their population which is foreign born, according to the Federation for American Immigration Reform (an anti-immigration lobby).

SAFEST CITIES

CITY FOREIGN BORN POPULATION
El Paso 26.1 %
Honolulu 25.3 %
New York 35.9 %
San Jose 40.5 %
San Diego 25.7 %
Austin 16.6 %
Portland 13.0 %
Los Angeles 40.9 %
Seattle 16.9 %
Fort Worth 16.3 %

And now for the

MOST DANGEROUS CITIES

CITY FOREIGN BORN POPULATION
Detroit 4.8 %
Baltimore 4.6 %
Memphis 4.0 %
Washington, DC 12.6 %
Atlanta 8.7 %
Indianapolis 4.6 %
Philadelphia 9.0 %
Milwaukee 7.7 %
Houston 26.4 %
Columbus 6.7 %

That’s a pretty strong correlation. Safe cities have a consistently high percentage of foreign born residents; 60 percent of those cities have more than a quarter of their population born overseas (to say nothing of the children of immigrants).

With the exception of Houston, none of the most crime ridden cities have an immigrant population higher than any of the safe cities; 80 percent of dangerous cities don’t even climb out of single digits for immigrant population.

The correlation doesn’t necessarily demonstrate a causation for high or low crime rates, but it certainly pokes a gaping hole in the meme that having a bunch of immigrants in your city makes for higher crime rates. If anything, the opposite is true.

Reason Magazine noticed this same correlation last year and in an article called the El Paso Miracle reported that:

There were just 18 murders in El Paso last year, in a city of 736,000 people. To compare, Baltimore, with 637,000 residents, had 234 killings.

In fact in the most recent full-year statistics, El Paso had only 13 murders, whereas Baltimore had 238.

Reason Mag goes on to ask:

So how has this city of poor immigrants become such an anomaly? Actually, it may not be an anomaly at all. Many criminologists say El Paso isn't safe despite its high proportion of immigrants, it's safe because of them.

"If you want to find a safe city, first determine the size of the immigrant population," says Jack Levin, a criminologist at Northeastern University in Massachusetts. "If the immigrant community represents a large proportion of the population, you're likely in one of the country's safer cities. San Diego, Laredo, El Paso—these cities are teeming with immigrants, and they're some of the safest places in the country."

Read the whole report.