Second-order crime

The argument here is that immigration increases crime through the following indirect mechanism:

  • Immigrants compete with natives for jobs, pushing them out of well-paying jobs. Natives move to lower pay and/or become unemployed. See also suppression of wages of natives.
  • The reduced quality of lives for natives makes them more likely to commit crime.

A version of this argument was made in the paper Immigration and African-American Employment Opportunities: The Response of Wages, Employment, and Incarceration to Labor Supply Shocks (NBER page) by George J. Borjas, Jeffrey Grogger, and Gordon H. Hanson.

In an article for VDARE titled Black Crime: The Immigration Dimension, Steve Sailer refers to this research and offers his own causal hypothesis:

So today black men are killing each other in reduced numbers. But they are still going to jail at horrific rates. And their labor force participation remains very bad. In the boom year 1999, 30 percent of younger black men were out of the labor force.

This is where immigration has an effect. It may not have set off the black behavioral decline—but it has made it harder for blacks to recover.

If a young black man of below-average intellect is wavering between a career as a laborer or as a criminal, the wage he would earn doing honest work can play a role in this crucial decision. And, according to the law of supply and demand, that wage must be driven down by the increased supply of labor caused by immigration.

The weaker rebound by black men may well stem from the greater competition suffered by black men at the hands of Hispanic illegal immigrants. First, there are more male than female illegal aliens. Second, lots of black women go into clerical jobs where literacy in English is a prerequisite. Many get government jobs reserved for citizens.

In contrast, black men have more trouble than black women getting high school degrees and learning to read and write adequately, so they are more vulnerable to displacement from blue-collar jobs by illegal alien men.

George Borjas also has a blog post titled Blacks and Immigration here. In response, Bryan Caplan writes a blog post titled Borjas: What’s His Problem? where he writes:

Borjas’ latest post just reinforces my puzzlement. He blogs his research showing that immigration increases black crime by reducing black wages. In other words, “The immigrants made me do it.” I’m not surprised by the result, but I’d think the obvious solution (drug legalization aside) is harsher punishments for a few thousand murderers, not exile for millions of hard-working immigrants.

When I read Borjas’ work, it brings to mind the old saying, “If your only tool is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” If your only policy reform is reducing immigration, then everything looks like it’s immigrants fault – even native-born Americans murdering each other.

"The Efficient, Egalitarian, Libertarian, Utilitarian Way to Double World GDP" — Bryan Caplan