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I am often confronted with statistics that show immigrants are much more involved in crime than the native citizens. This seems to be common in Western countries. Here are some examples, however, these might not be in English:

  • Netherlands : This one says that more than 50% of Moroccans between the ages of 16 and 24 have been in contact with the police, as the suspect of a crime. Under native citizens this is 18%. Under Surinamese and Antillian people from the city of Rotterdam, this is 40%.

  • Sweden : Immigrants in Sweden are four times more likely to be investigated for lethal violence and robbery than persons born in Sweden to Swedish parents.

  • Finland : 21% of rapes have been committed by foreigners, who comprise just 2.2% of the total population.

  • Germany : In Berlin, young male immigrants are three times more likely to commit violent crimes than their German peers.

I can go on and on with this list, if I tried I'm probably sure that I could find these shocking statistics for each country in Western Europe.

I myself however, believe this is not just because of failed integration/immigration, but mainly because immigrants tend to be less wealthly than the average native citizen.

Question: Are there studies/statistics which show a strong correlation between wealth and crime irrespective of immigration status, in Western European countries? In other words, studies/statistics showing that underpriviliged/less wealthy people are (much) more likely to commit a crime as opposed to immigrants?

  • I think this is an excellent question - but then I think most questions are excellent. :) Before getting to wealth and crime, I noticed that the examples are all related to immigration and crime. Is there a correlation between immigration and wealth? Are immigrants more likely to be poor in the example countries? Incidentally, as a matter of interest I believe you will find an abundance of data on sexual assault in Sweden that - although not directly on point - could shed some light on this issue. – Brian M. Hunt Apr 22 '13 at 18:20
  • There are 3 separate issues raised here: 1) claims about Muslim immigrant criminality, 2) whether these are significantly less wealthy than average, 3) whether there is negative correlation between wealth and criminality. Each should be separate question, there is just too much going on in this one. – vartec Apr 22 '13 at 20:02
  • @vartec 1) isn't an issue in this question, those were examples of what I meant, we assume these to be true. 2) Isn't really needed, since answering 3) would also answer 2). So no, the only question is 3). The rest is my motivation behind the question. Immigrants are more often involved in criminal activities, and they are less wealthy than native citizens. As exemplified by for example these, official numbers: statline.cbs.nl/StatWeb/publication/… (it's Dutch, but so are you) – OmnipresentAbsence Apr 22 '13 at 22:00
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    Your examples are great illustrations of 'research' attributing correlation to causation. In the first and second cases, "contact wvith the police" is synonymous with racial profiling. The third case, victims are slow to report sexual crimes however if the perpetrator were of a minority the victim could be much more likely to formally report. The last case sounds similar to situations in the U.S. in which violent crimes are disproportionately attributed to minorities due to biases in the criminal justice system. – Daniel Apr 23 '13 at 1:15
  • I tried to perform an edit to put this question in line with what the asker's intent is (even though the notoriety of the claim is in question). I also removed irrelevant text. Unfortunately I think this is a disagreement (or opinion) looking for data to support a specific worldview. Okay, see if more/better edits can be done now. – Larian LeQuella Apr 23 '13 at 22:08
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It is difficult to find the required numbers to answer your question as asked, but I've made an attempt. The raw data I've used is from the statistical database from "Statistics Norway". The charts and numbers are not deep-linkable but available in the sections "Immigration and immigrants", "Population", "Labour market and earnings" and "Social conditions, welfare and crime".

"Statistics Norway" offer a lot of raw data from their database, but not all numbers are broken down by citizenship. I've tried to find a few datasources, from which at least a partial conclution can be drawn (all numbers from 2010):

  • Population count broken down by citizenship. These numbers do not account for immigrants, which have obtained a Norwegian citizenship.
  • Number of persons charged with at least one criminal offence, broken down by citizenship. The number only includes more serious crimes and not less serious delicts. As already pointed out, these numbers may be skewed if the law enforcement tend to pursuit crimes committed by specific ethnic groups more eagerly than crimes committed by the native population. They also include criminal charges against foreigners, which are not permanent residents of Norway.
  • The absolute number of unemployed persons broken down by citizenship. This is the closest I can get to a measurement of wealth, but I think it is pretty safe to assume a correlation between unemployment ratio and wealth. However, only the total number of unemployed is counted and not the fraction of the relevant labour force. I would assume that the age distribution varies between different groups of immigrants and hence also the labour force ratio may differ.
  • The numbers are only available for 44 different citizenships. For the rest of the origin countries, either the population, number of criminal charges or number of unemployments is too low for these to be accounted for separately.

Based on these numbers, I've calculated the following ratios by citizenship:

  • Number of charged persons per population count, scaled so that Norway = 1. In the following text, I'll refer to this number as "crime ratio".
  • Number of unemployed persons per population count, scaled so that Norway = 1. In the following text, I'll refer to this number as "unemployment ratio".

6 of the 44 countries have rather extreme ratios and fall outside this diagram, but plotting the crime ratio on the X axis and the unemployment ratio on the Y axis gives the following plot:

data plot

Looking at the crime and unemployment ratios separately, there is a very large variance in the numbers. Here is a list of countries, where at least one of the ratios are >10:

          crime unemployment
Romania     14   4
Algeria     54  19
Gambia      23  18
Morocco     12  21
Nigeria     35   8
Sri Lanka    3  15
Iraq         4  10
Iran         5  14
Pakistan     2  10
Vietnam      4  36
Chile        4  13

Yes, these ratios are actually correct. The number of Algerians charged with a criminal offence is relative to the population count 54 times higher than the number of charged Norwegians. 29,516 of roughly 4.5 million Norwegian citizens were charged with a criminal offence in 2010, while 128 Algerians faced the same faith of a population of 362. Likewise, 700 of the 1561 Vietnamese citizens living in Norway were reported unemployed, making the unemployment ratio 36 times higher than among the Norwegian citizens.

Worth to notice is perhaps also, that only immigrants from three countries show a crime ratio <1:

Thailand   0.75
Germany    0.90
USA        0.95

All countries show an unemployment ratio >1.

The crime ratios may also contradict the early assumption that the law enforcement may more strictly pursuit crimes committed by specific ethnic groups. The crime rates for immigrants from Sweden and UK are e.g. higher than for the immigrants from Poland, Turkey, Ukraine, Bosnia, Eritrea, Ethiopia and Pakistan - immigrant groups which undoubtedly have a reputation of being "more criminal" than other foreigners.

If I now try to correlate these ratios (crime ratio divided by unemployment ratio, Norway still being fixed to 1), we get a number where a high value indicate a high criminal ratio despite low unemployment, while a low number indicate a low criminal ratio, despite high unemployment.

Immigrants from only six countries score a crime per unemployment ratio >1.5:

Netherlands  1.52
Lithuania    1.58
Liberia      1.66
Algeria      2.83
Romania      3.47
Nigeria      4.18

I've made all the data used in these calculations available in an unfortunately rather chaotic OO Calc Spreadsheet. Source of the data: Statistisk Sentralbyrå, Statistics Norway.

Feel free to draw your own conclusions.

  • Nice job, but I wondered if there is a caveat when I read, e.g. : "29,516 of roughly 4.5 million Norwegian citizens were charged with a criminal offence in 2010, while 128 Algerians faced the same faith of a population of 362." : Is breaking immigration laws a criminal offense in Norway ? If yes, what is the weight of immigration laws among the criminal offenses commited by immigrant ? (I appreciate that the relevant figure may not be available) – Evargalo Aug 30 '18 at 13:51
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    @Evargalo I am not sure if immigration related crimes are included in the statistics and the raw data seems not to be available anymore. I don't know if the data contained any information about the type of crime. My answer is after all more than 5 years old now. – Tor-Einar Jarnbjo Aug 30 '18 at 16:48

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