Do immigrants increase crime? Spatial analysis in a middle-income country

Peer Reviewed
1 February 2020

Mauricio Leiva, Felipe Vasquez-Lavín, Roberto D. Ponce Oliva

The last decade has seen a significant global increase in immigration. This large growth has caused an increasing opposition to immigration in local populations in many parts of the world, partly because of a commonly held belief that immigration increases crime. Using data from Chile, spanning 10 years, from 2005 to 2015, we analyze the relationship between immigration and crime through a dynamic Spatial Durbin Model (SDM), which accounts for the possible bias for omitted variables. As the spatial model is dynamic and based on panel data, it is possible to identify direct and indirect effects on both the short- (the same period) and long-term (next period) bases. Our results show that there is no statistical evidence to link an increase in the number of immigrants to a rise in the rate of any type of crime. If any, we found a negative relationship between the number of immigrants and crime for only one out of the eight crime types analyzed.


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Leiva, M., Vasquez-Lavín, F., & Ponce Oliva, R. D. (2020). Do immigrants increase crime? Spatial analysis in a middle-income country. World Development, 126, 104728. doi:10.1016/j.worlddev.2019.104728

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Publication | 8 May 2020