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Immigration and Crime in an Era of Transformation: A Longitudinal Analysis of Homicides in San Diego Neighborhoods, 1980-2000

NCJ Number
Criminology Volume: 48 Issue: 3 Dated: August 2010 Pages: 797-830
Date Published
August 2010
34 pages

This study explored the effects of immigration on neighborhood-level homicide trends in the city of San Diego, CA.


Emerging research associated with the "immigration revitalization" perspective suggests that immigration has been labeled inaccurately as a cause of crime in contemporary society. In fact, crime seems to be unexpectedly low in many communities that exhibit high levels of the following classic indicators of social disorganization: residential instability, ethnic heterogeneity, and immigration. But virtually all research conducted to date has been cross-sectional in nature and therefore unable to demonstrate how the relationship between immigration and crime might covary over time. This limitation is significant, especially because current versions of social disorganization theory posit a dynamic relationship between structural factors and crime that unfolds over time. The current study addresses this issue by exploring the effects of immigration on neighborhood-level homicide trends in the city of San Diego, CA, using a combination of racially/ethnically disaggregated homicide victim data and community structural indicators collected for three decennial census periods. Consistent with the revitalization thesis, results show that the increased size of the foreign-born population reduces lethal violence over time. Specifically, the authors find that neighborhoods with a larger share of immigrants have fewer total, non-Latino White, and Latino homicide victims. More broadly, the findings suggest that social disorganization in heavily immigrant cities might be largely a function of economic deprivation rather than forms of "neighborhood" or "system" stability. Tables, figures, and references (Published Abstract)

Date Published: August 1, 2010