Enclaves of opportunity or "ghettos of last resort?" Assessing the effects of immigrant segregation on violent crime rates

Soc Sci Res. 2015 Jul;52:1-17. doi: 10.1016/j.ssresearch.2015.01.003. Epub 2015 Jan 16.


A growing body of research indicates that immigration to the U.S. has crime-reducing effects on aggregate levels of violence, which researchers have often attributed to the protective and revitalizing effects of immigrants settling in spatially concentrated neighborhoods. However, recent scholarship suggests that growing shares of the foreign-born population are bypassing these segregated immigrant enclaves and are dispersing more widely to other urban neighborhoods. Moreover, some scholars suggest that spatially isolating immigrant populations may not always be protective, but could actually contribute to social problems like crime, particularly in disadvantaged contexts. The current study offers one of the first analyses exploring the way that segregation of immigrant populations (relative to the U.S.-born) is related to year 2000 violent crime rates for nearly 500 census places in California and New York. Results of our analysis reveal no direct link between immigrant segregation and macro-level violence, but instead show that these effects are highly contextualized and depend on the resources present in locales. Specifically, immigrant segregation contributes to violence in highly disadvantaged places but is linked to lower violence in areas with greater resources.

Keywords: Aggregate; Crime; Immigration; Macro-level; Segregation; Violence.

MeSH terms

  • California
  • Censuses
  • Crime
  • Emigrants and Immigrants*
  • Emigration and Immigration*
  • Ethnicity
  • Female
  • Hispanic or Latino
  • Humans
  • Male
  • New York
  • Poverty Areas*
  • Poverty*
  • Residence Characteristics*
  • Social Problems
  • Social Segregation*
  • Urban Population
  • Violence*