Post # 173

550 words; 3 minutes to read

Voice summary thanks to volunteer Averi Brailey.

Most Canadians understand that immigration is good for our country and indeed essential to maintain our current level of prosperity.  But one of the persistent concerns is that immigrants may not adapt well to Canadian society and may be more likely to be involved in crime.  “Particularly during times of increases in immigration or after exceptional events when the social, economic, and political context is more volatile, negative views about immigration as it relates to crime seem to be emphasized, particularly by conservative politicians.

A new study by Dr Maria Jung of Ryerson University (where there is a controversy currently about renaming the institution) looks at many years of data and concludes that increased immigration is, if anything, associated with less crime.

More immigration correlated with less crime

Jung cites several previous studies that found either no relationship between immigration and crime or, in some cases, a correlation between increased immigration numbers and lower crime rates, using a variety of measures of population and of crime.  Her study looks at 32 census metropolitan areas (cities) across Canada over 35 years.

Her main conclusion is: “After controlling for demographic and socio-economic factors, increases in the index measure for immigration were associated with decreases in the total and violent crime rates within Canadian cities for the 1976–2011 period.”

Far from more immigrants being related to more crime, “… in cities where the proportion of immigrants in the population grew, crime rates dropped; and in cities where the proportion of immigrants decreased, crime rates went up.”  In other words, more immigrants seem to mean less crime.

Other factors affect the picture too

However the picture is not quite that simple.  Virtually all social phenomena are multi-causal.  That is, many factors are involved and are interrelated.  For example, bigger cities attract more immigrants in Canada but growing cities with more population density also tend to have higher crime rates.

Similarly, “… the proportion of the population living under the low-income mark is positively and significantly associated with changes in the rates of total, property, and violent crimes.”  And some Canadian cities have particularly large low-income populations.

Cities differ

So the picture looks different in different cities.  Some cities, such as Regina, showed a pattern for years of low immigration and increasing crime, but as immigration numbers rose in those cities more recently, crime rates dropped.  On the other hand, Toronto has had a fairly steady pattern of high immigration and decreasing crime rates.  Overall, the largest cities in Canada – Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver – have attracted the most (and also increasing flows of) immigrants, have high population density, and have grown significantly over the study period.  They are also the cities that exhibit increasing immigration coupled with decreasing crime rates.

The study does not examine how or why immigration seems to result in less crime. One possibility is that “immigrants may bring in pro-social values, foster new forms of social control, and stimulate urban renewal and revitalization”.  It is also the case that higher education levels are connected to less crime, and immigrants to Canada generally are well educated.

What is very clear from Jung’s work is that significant levels of immigration are linked to less crime, not more – yet another reason to support a positive immigration policy for this country.




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