Foreign-Born Teens Less Likely to Commit Crimes Than Those Born in U.S., Study Suggests

Sep 3, 2015

We’ve been hearing a lot lately from politicians and public figures about crimes committed by immigrants to the U.S., but a new study by a group of researchers, including a University of Texas at Austin professor, suggests foreign-born teens are actually much less likely to commit crimes than those born in the U.S.

The study found this group is also less likely than U.S.-born youths to get involved in bad behavior like fighting, drug selling, gun carrying, use of alcohol and illicit drugs. 

"We also found in our study that immigrant youths tended to have more cohesive parental relationships, more positive school engagement and to be more disapproving with regard to adolescent substance use," says Christopher Salas-Wright, a professor at UT Austin’s School of Social Work.

Youths who immigrated later on, at 12 or older, however, were less likely to get into trouble, he says.

"The longer youths were here in this country, their behavior tended to more resemble U.S.-born youths," Salas-Wright adds.

The researchers want to be in touch with youths before they come to the U.S. and then again once they’re here to understand what happens that makes them more likely to change their behavior.

The study has just been published online in the journal Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology.