Officials at the University of Texas at El Paso announced this week that three faculty members received a $124,998 award from the National Science Foundation to study the relationship between neighborhood levels of immigration and crime.
The project titled "Why are Immigrant Neighborhoods Low Crime Neighborhoods? Testing Immigrant Revitalization Theory and Cultural Explanations," will be led by Theodore R. Curry, Ph.D., associate professor of sociology and anthropology; Harmon M. Hosch, Ph.D., assistant director of UTEP’s Center for Law and Human Behavior; and Maria C. Morales, Ph.D., associate professor of sociology.
The award covers the project for almost two years, UTEP said in the announcement.
“This investigation is designed to explain what social, psychological and cultural factors protect immigrants and their neighborhoods from crime. We expect the results to inform policymakers, social scientists and the public in general,” Hosch said.
The academics said research shows that, for homicide, higher levels of neighborhood immigration means less crime.
UTEP officials said the project will evaluate whether immigration reduces other types of crime, and test theories as to why crime might be lower in immigrant neighborhoods.
“We will gather data from El Paso neighborhoods in spring 2014 using trained student-researchers from UTEP and begin analyzing the results that summer,” Curry said. "The results will inject an important array of facts into the highly politicized debate over immigration, which hopefully can be used to inform policy decisions as well as the public.”
Historically, immigrants are associated with low crime rates, Morales said, although the popular media might lead people to think otherwise.
"In particular, regions with a high percentage of immigrants have lower crime rates,” Morales said in the announcement. “This is the case in El Paso as it has been ranked among the safest cities in the U.S. for several years now. Our study will advance our knowledge on the association with immigrant neighborhoods and low crime that is important for both the social sciences and policymakers."