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Literature Review on Crime and Migrants

United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (2011) defines a migrant as a person who lives temporarily or permanently in a country where he or she was not born and has established social ties there. The long-term trends in Australia (and worldwide) show that migrants will continue to have an increasing contribution to population growth (Australia Bureau of Statistics 2010). This literature review will look to prove and understand if there is any correlation between crimes and migrants, this will be demonstrated through exploring current literature and trends suggesting there is no connection between migrants and crimes. This literature will also prove that it is not migrants responsible for the crime, but more likely that it is second and third-generation children of migrants raised in the country that participate in criminal activity because of marginalization.

Resident populations of countries typically presume that there is a higher likelihood of migrants committing crimes rather than native-born counterparts (Kingsbury 2008; Press 2006; Yeager 1997). Yet recent statistics generally conclude that this is not the case, except when a group’s culture can legitimize illegal acts, in their adopted country (Tunick 2004; Yeager 1997) An example of this may include marrying young girls to middle-aged males, as is the norm in many middle eastern countries but is a punishable offense in many western countries (Tunick 2004). Migrants are usually older (working age group) than those aged 15-24 years who are most likely to commit crimes (Yeager 1997). Migrants make the decision to come to a new country and have a fresh start; this is not something they are willing to risk, by committing crimes (Yeager 1997; Kingsbury 2008).

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In America, California, migrants make up 35% of the adult population yet they account for only 17% of the prison population. Statistics show that those born in America are ten times more likely than their foreign-born counterparts, to be incarcerated (Kingsbury 2008; Sampson 2008). Many also argue that migrants make for a safer community (Sampson 2008; Kingsbury 2008; Press 2006; & Dickey 2010) based on statistics in America in the 1990s when crime fell and migrant numbers rose. Sampson (2008) explains this phenomenon stating that migrants often move into suburbs/areas that are deserted and less desirable and bring new life into them, often saving these places from becoming urban wastelands. Migrants also have strong family links, religious affiliations, and support networks, which stabilize urban environments (Sampson 2008; Press 2006).

Despite all this, the only factor that suggests that migrants might not correlate to crime is the statistics. There could also be a number of other factors as to why crime dropped so dramatically in America in the 1990s. Many academics argue that the drop in crime is because of the legitimization of abortion in 1973 which reduced unwanted children, who could have potentially grown up to be criminals (Wadsworth 2010; Dickey 2010). Also considered responsible for the decrease in crime are the growing incarceration rate, strong economic market, the aging population, and changes in the drug market (Wadsworth 2010; Dickey 2010). While migrants may be less likely than their native-born counterparts to commit a crime (Kingsbury 2008; Press 2006; Yeager 1997), this is not the case for second or third-generation children of migrants (Sampson 2008; Kingsbury 2008). What Sampson (2008) calls the ‘Latino Paradox’, discovered that a migrant of Mexican background in America was 45% less likely to commit a violent crime than third-generation Americans.

Kingsbury (2008) also argues, that statistics indicate that every six Hispanic males born in America, can expect to be incarcerated during their lifetime, which is double the rate for non-Hispanic whites. Herzog (2009) and Warner (2003) explain this trend by arguing that areas with large migrant populations are often characterized by multiple ideals regarding norms, and values, which in turn, limit the effectiveness of social control structures. Therefore children of migrants are exposed to a variety of contradictory norms through both family and school (Herzog 2009; Warner 2003). This makes it harder for second or third-generation children to conform to one set of standards, as they face assimilation and acculturation difficulties (Herzog 2009). Therefore migrant children may feel increasingly singled out and marginalized from society instead of being integrated into it, resulting in criminal behaviors.

While there are no direct correlations between crime and migrants in recent literature (Kingsbury 2008; Press 2006; Yeager 1997) and a strong pitch from academics indicating migrants and a safer community, better research needs to be undertaken to greater understand this phenomenon. Although all these sources are genuine and widely research, there are limitations to how well they can inform a reader, because most of the studies conducted are from the United States of America only. They also fail to distinguish from their studies, migrants and illegal immigrants, often interchanging the two. Most valuably taken from this research (that will be useful to the final report) is the indication that migrants aren’t responsible for the crime but rather the second/third generations, or their offspring, particularly in low socioeconomic areas (Sampson 2008; Herzog 2009; Warner 2003).

This allows us to draw accurate conclusions as to why there is such a high crime level in Mt Druitt, NSW. The said problem should also indicate to governments that this group of second-generation migrants need to be identified in the community and assisted. If this group was provided with higher education and skills training it could improve their social mobility and reduce the likelihood of resorting to criminal activities, because they feel singled out of society. Governments need to embrace this problem group, and further understand them, instead of letting them become a marginalized group in the community and resorting to gangs, drugs, and violence. Migrants will continue to contribute to population growth in many countries, and it is important that they assimilate into their new society’s norms, values, and legal systems, while still retaining their own cultural worth.


  • Australian Bureau of Statistics 2010, Migration, Australia, 2008-09, Australia, cat. no. 3412.0, July, viewed 8 May 2011, AusStats Database.
  • Dickey, C 2010, “Reading, Ranting, and Arithmetic”, Newsweek, 27 May, viewed 7 May 2011.
  • Herzog, S 2009, “Ethnic and immigrant residential concentration, and crime rates”, Journal of Criminal Justice, vol. 37, no. 5, pp. 427-434
  • Kingsbury, K 2008, ‘Immigration: No Correlation with Crime’, New York Times Magazine, 27 February, viewed 7 May 2011.
  • Press, E 2006, ‘THE WAY WE LIVE NOW: 12-03-06: IDEA LAB; Do Immigrants Make Us Safer?’, New York Times Magazine, 12 March, viewed 7 May 2011.
  • Sampson, R, J 2008, “Rethinking crime and immigration”, Contexts, vol. 7, no. 1, pp. 28-33.
  • Tunick, M 2004, ‘Can culture excuse crime?: Evaluating the inability thesis’, Punishment & Society, vol. 6, no. 4, pp. 395-409
  • United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (2011), Migrant/Migration, viewed May 8, 2011,
  • Wadsworth, T 2010, ‘Is Immigration Responsible for the Crime Drop? An Assessment of the Influence of Immigration on Changes in Violent Crime Between 1990 and 2000’, Social Science Quarterly, vol. 91, no. 2, pp. 531-553.
  • Warner, B, D 2003, “The Role of Attenuated Culture in Social Disorganization Theory”, Criminology, vol. 41, no. 1, pp. 73-98.
  • Yeager, M, G 1997, ‘Immigrants and Criminality: A Cross-National Review’, Criminal Justice Abstracts, vol. 29, no. 1, pp. 143-17.

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Literature Review on Crime and Migrants. (2021, Mar 27). Retrieved April 17, 2021, from