Sociological criminology and the mythology of Hispanic immigration and crime

John L Hagan*, Alberto Palloni

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

208 Scopus citations

Abstract

Our sociological knowledge of crime is fragmented and ineffective in challenging and correcting mistaken public perceptions, for example, linking immigration and crime. These misperceptions are perpetuated by government reports of growing numbers of Hispanic immigrants in U.S. prisons. However, Hispanic immigrants are disproportionately young males who regardless of citizenship are at greater risk of criminal involvement. They are also more vulnerable to restrictive treatment in the criminal justice system, especially at the pre-trial stage. When these differences are integrated into calculations using equations that begin with observed numbers of immigrants and citizens in state prisons, it is estimated that the involvement of Hispanic immigrants in crime is less than that of citizens. These results cast doubt on the hypothesis that immigration causes crime and make more transparent the immigration and criminal justice policies that inflate the rate of Hispanic incarceration. This transparency helps to resolve a paradox in the picture of Mexican immigration to the United States, since by most measures of well-being, Mexican immigrants are found to do as well and sometimes better than citizens.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)617-632
Number of pages16
JournalSocial Problems
Volume46
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 1999

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science

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