Crime and migration: Three essays examining causes and consequences of two urban social challenges

Julie A Phillips, University of Pennsylvania


This dissertation is comprised of three essays which examine two important social challenges facing U.S. urban areas today, crime and migration. The first chapter analyzes inter-metropolitan variation in African-American homicide rates to assess three potential explanations for high rates of African-American homicide: namely social control, structural inequality and rational choice theories. 1990 census data are used to create empirical indicators that permit investigation of these three theories, which are tested individually and simultaneously using weighted least squares regression. While all three approaches contribute to explaining high African-American homicide rates, the study finds the greatest support for the social control explanation. The second chapter investigates the effect of the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) on migrants' wages using data gathered in 39 Mexican communities and their U.S. destination areas. The findings suggest that migrants' wages deteriorated steadily between 1970 and 1995, but that IRCA did not foment discrimination against Mexican workers per se. Rather, the legislation appears to have encouraged greater discrimination against undocumented migrants, with employers passing on the costs and risks of unauthorized hiring to the workers themselves. Limited controls included in the study suggest that the post-IRCA wage penalty against undocumented migrants did not stem from an expansion of the immigrant labor supply, an increase in the use of labor subcontracting, or a deterioration of the U.S. labor market. The third chapter utilizes longitudinal U.S. county-level data and demographic and statistical approaches to examine whether there is variation over time and space in age-specific homicide rates and in the temporal effect of age composition on homicide levels over space. The findings refute the age invariance thesis, discovering that a substantial proportion of variation in crude homicide rates can be explained by variation in age-specific rates over time and place. Analyses also reveal spatial differences in the temporal effect of age composition on homicide levels. Although a strong positive relationship between age and homicide is found across all counties, the effect of the relative size of the young population is mitigated by the character of homicide. The age effect is bigger in counties where stranger homicide is more common.

Subject Area

Demographics|Sociology|Criminology|Minority & ethnic groups|Sociology

Recommended Citation

Phillips, Julie A, "Crime and migration: Three essays examining causes and consequences of two urban social challenges" (1998). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI9913511.