Monday, June 18, 2012

Fantasy and reality about immigrants

WXYZ found a local angle on President Obama's announcement Friday about young undocumented immigrants.

family fighting deportation

After all this time, I don't think this serves much of a useful purpose anymore, at least in objective terms. In subjective ones, it reinforces a fear that runs counter to the evidence. Continue over the jump for two studies showing that immigrants do not contribute to crime and do contribute to thriving neighborhoods.

Arizona State University: Why people believe undocumented immigrants cause more crime
Paul Atkinson
Posted: June 06, 2012
Xia Wang wanted to find out why so many Americans believe undocumented immigrants commit more crime.

“The weight of evidence suggests that immigration is not related to more crime,” said Wang, an assistant professor in the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Arizona State University. “But this body of scholarship doesn’t seem to affect the public’s perception. The public consistently perceives immigrants, especially undocumented immigrants, as criminal.”

To better understand why that perception exists, Wang used data from a poll of more than 1,000 people in Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, and Texas. She applied the minority threat perspective, a theory that seeks to explain why minorities are treated differently by law enforcement. The results were published last month in an article that appeared online in the journal Criminology.

Wang found the belief that undocumented immigrants cause crime was due in part to the perceived population size of the immigrant community overall.

“If somebody is perceiving undocumented immigrants as a larger proportion in the population, they are going to perceive undocumented immigrants at a higher level of criminal threat,” Wang said. “And what’s interesting is a lot of people have very distorted and exaggerated views of the population size of undocumented immigrants.”

The data show a large proportion of respondents estimated the undocumented population to be more than half of the overall foreign born population, far greater than recognized statistics. In 2011, the Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey listed the U.S. immigrant population at 39.6 million, while the Pew Hispanic Center estimated 28%, or 11.2 million, were unauthorized immigrants.

“As for why people have very distorted, exaggerated views, what I found is that individual factors such as your level of education and your victimization experience shape your views,” said Wang. “It’s a bit surprising to me because I would think that people would form their perceptions of undocumented immigrant population size based on the conditions their neighborhood is in, such as the actual size of the immigrant population.”

Wang tested to see if the economic condition, or unemployment rate of respondents’ communities played a role in believing undocumented immigrants were more involved in crime. It didn’t for the general population, but it did for the native born.

“Those neighborhood conditions don’t matter as much,” Wang said. “It is largely the individual characteristics that shape people’s perceptions of undocumented immigrants population size and perceptions of undocumented immigrants as more criminal.”

Wang said that for criminologists her analysis shows the minority threat perspective could be applied to undocumented immigrants. For members of the public, she hoped it may lead them to ask why undocumented immigrants are perceived as causing more crime.

“They actually commit less crime than the native born. But why do we consistently believe they are more criminal?” asked Wang. “We can ask ourselves and be more critical of our views. Are we being reasonable? Are we being rational?”
Included in Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday (First female Taikonaut edition) on Daily Kos.

University of California: SoCal immigrants build stronger, safer communities
June 6, 2012
IRVINE — Contrary to some perceptions, the large influx of Asian and Latino immigrants into Southern California over the past 50 years has resulted in stronger and safer multicultural communities, according to a report to be released next week by UC Irvine.

High levels of ethnic mixing were found to be associated with increased property values, lower joblessness and less crime in many areas throughout the five counties.

The inaugural Southern California Regional Progress Report was prepared by researchers with the School of Social Ecology's Metropolitan Futures Initiative, which aims to build a base of knowledge to guide policymakers in improving the overall quality of life in the Southland.

Five faculty members, 10 graduate students and six undergraduates collected data from 14 sources on the region's demographic, social and economic landscape. It allows for systematic statistical analyses at the county, city, neighborhood and street-block levels.

The report draws on this unprecedented data set to examine the interrelationships among such community factors as racial/ethnic demographics, employment and economic welfare, housing density and availability, crime and public safety, and land use.

It's intended to serve as a catalyst for evidence-based dialogue that will inform planning for the future. Subsequent biennial reports will continue to monitor trends and expand the domain of coverage to include, for example, health and welfare.

UC Irvine Chancellor Michael Drake will host a breakfast event to release and discuss the Metropolitan Futures Initiative report on June 14 at the Student Center.

"This inaugural study provides a wealth of findings on the area's changing landscape — findings that constitute crucial considerations for successfully planning a future with healthy, sustainable, affordable, safe, economically vibrant and just communities in which residents enjoy the many benefits of Southern California," said Valerie Jenness, dean of UC Irvine's School of Social Ecology.

"These reports will provide policymakers, businesses, residents and others with essential information and thoughtful analyses about our region for years to come."

The soon-to-be-released study examines data from the past 50 years to paint a broad yet incisive picture of Southern California. Researchers compiled the data in metropolitan clusters by grouping together cities that are geographically close and socially similar. Among the findings:
  • The ethnic makeup of Southern California has changed dramatically during the past five decades: Latino and Asian populations have grown substantially; the African American population has become concentrated within fewer communities; and the proportion of whites has steadily decreased.
  • South Central Los Angeles provides a glimpse of the changing landscape: African Americans made up the majority of residents in 1960, with Latinos accounting for 8.5 percent of the population. In 2007, the area was 80 percent Latino and just 15 percent African American.
  • The burgeoning immigrant population in Southern California communities has contributed to increases in property values and decreases in crime rates.
  • Neighborhoods with 10 percent more Latinos than surrounding areas at the beginning of the 2000s experienced a 1.3 percent greater increase in home values over the decade.
  • Similarly, ethnically mixed neighborhoods in Southern California today are more likely to have higher property values than homogenous neighborhoods, reversing a trend from earlier decades. In the 1980s and 1990s, neighborhoods with higher levels of racial/ethnic mixing at the beginning of the decade experienced lower home value appreciation over the following 10 years.
  • There is evidence of a revival in downtown Los Angeles, as the inner city has become a hub of mixed land uses and a 24-hour lifestyle. Violent crime downtown fell from 350 percent higher than the region average in 1990 to just 67 percent above the average in 2010 — during a period in which crime rates in general were trending downward. Meanwhile, rates for both the northeast San Fernando Valley and Hollywood Hills dropped from double or triple the average in 1990 to average levels in 2010. Rates for the Westside and Westwood/Beverly Hills areas fell from about average in 1990 to half the average in 2010.
  • The foreclosure crisis has begun to abate but has had a sizeable impact on home values throughout affected areas. Hardest hit were residents of San Bernardino and Riverside counties. Foreclosure rates also correlated strongly to falling home values throughout the region.
  • Home ownership corresponds to lower crime rates; a higher number of vacant units equates to higher crime rates.
  • Southern California air quality has improved dramatically over the past three decades.
  • In the city clusters within Los Angeles County, a large proportion of areas (17 of 24) showed year-over-year increases in average commute time between 1980 and 2007. The Claremont cluster had the lowest average commute time (25.4 minutes) in 2007, with the Glendale cluster close behind (25.7 minutes). The Lancaster cluster, an exurban area with comparatively low home values and fewer available jobs, had the highest average commute time in the county (36.4 minutes) in 2007.
  • Los Angeles County had 6.6 million vehicles registered in 2007. Only six states — Florida, Illinois, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Texas — had more vehicles registered. It should be no surprise that the Los Angeles-Long Beach-Santa Ana metropolitan area is the nation's most traffic-congested.
  • A 10 percent increase in nearby job density reduces a given household's annual vehicle miles traveled by an average of 1.58 percent.

"A number of findings took us by surprise," said John Hipp, associate professor of criminology, law & society who led the team of researchers behind the Southern California Regional Progress Report. "We're looking forward to more extensively analyzing the data to better understand many of the changes that have shaped the region over time."
Included in Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday (Global Tipping Point edition).

So, immigration can be a net positive for the community. That's something that I wish the xenophobes and bigots who held a severed pig's head aloft at the Arab International Festival would realize. Until then, I have this to say to them. Get your intolerant asses out of Michigan and leave my neighbors alone!


  1. There is an awful lot of hedging in that verbiage. Example: words like "many" and "more likely."

    I am not aware of any immigrant group that settled into an urban area that did not generate some sort of ethnic based street gangs. The insularity of first generation immigrant communities makes them hard to police even if the amount of crime created is not greater than the background level. At times, they also make good press.

    Using the Hispanic population in California as an argument for immigration is problematic. They have been around forever. It would be better to look at the Hispanic population of New Orleans, or North Carolina. You would likely see some positive results there. But the study ignores the interplay between the incoming Hispanics and the in-place lower income populations: in particular African-Americans.

    Immigrants have been used by businesses to keep in check the costs of labor. The open frontier, 3%-economic expansion of the US through most of its history has generally meant local labor shortages. That some of the 3% growth has been fueled by bringing in more folks is very likely true. But it is simplistic to say that that is a universal blessing to all. They didn't call it the gilded age because everything was golden.

    Now that the US is stuck at a 1.5% growth rate with no open frontier, the dynamics of immigration, particularly in lower wage industries/locations is very likely to change.

    1. "I am not aware of any immigrant group that settled into an urban area that did not generate some sort of ethnic based street gangs."

      So far, the Indians who have emigrated here haven't, but they're all upper-middle-class professionals. And, yes, there are enough Indians in the suburbs of Detroit to create two enclaves of them, one in Troy and another in Canton. I haven't heard anything about the Pakistanis in Hamtramck or the Yemenis in Dearborn forming street gangs, either.

      Just the same, you're generally correct, although the history has been that legal immigrants more than illegal ones formed gangs and engaged in organized crime. The undocumented ones didn't want to attract the attention.

    2. Make that Bangladeshis in Hamtramck, not Pakistanis. I needed more coffee before writing that comment.