Sunday, July 3, 2011

Too busy hustlin'?

Violent crime in the US has been decreasing since the early ’90s, and finding the reason why hasn’t proven easy. Freakonomics famously argued it has to do with abortion being legalized (unwanted kids = criminals), but that can’t be the whole answer. 

Richard Florida (U of T) argues there's an increasingly strong link with the degree of diversity in an area. So more gays, for example, is linked with a decrease in violent crime. More surprising is that the percentage of first-generation immigrants in an area is also a strong predictor of reduced crime.

I haven’t looked at the data or the methods used (he doesn’t even give standard errors!), but that’s amazing. Would be worth comparing with other rich countries. Here in the UK there’s lots of hand-wringing about how immigrants are changing society (more than in the US I believe). One difference is the greater variety of immigrants here - in the US there's a heavy ratio of Mexicans, here the most visible immigrants are Eastern Europeans (Poles) and South Asians (Pakistanis and Indians). Also would be worth seeing in the US whether the origin of immigrants matters for this link. 

More importantly, is it a causal effect of having immigrants (as he implies)? Or is it that immigrants are attracted to places that are not in decline, and places in decline have increasing crime rates. In either case studies like this make me happy because they reinforce my worldview. Open borders and unrestricted immigration, that’s my cause. Obviously I’m wrong (social chaos would ensue) but we’re so far from the right level that we just need to push for more.

Gratuitous rap video: