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Law-Abiding Immigrants: The Incarceration Gap Between Immigrants and the US-born, 1870–2020

We provide the first nationally representative long-run series (1870–2020) of incarceration rates for immigrants and the US-born. As a group, immigrants have had lower incarceration rates than the US-born for 150 years. Moreover, relative to the US-born, immigrants’ incarceration rates have declined since 1960: immigrants today are 60% less likely to be incarcerated (30% relative to US-born whites). This relative decline occurred among immigrants from all regions and cannot be explained by changes in immigrants’ observable characteristics or immigration policy. Instead, the decline is part of a broader divergence of outcomes between less-educated immigrants and their US-born counterparts.

wp2055.pdf (4.94 MB)
Ran Abramitzky
Leah Boustan
Elisa Jácome
Santiago Pérez
Juan David Torres
Publication Date
January, 2024