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Refuting Fear: Immigration, Youth, and CA’s Stunning Declines in Crime and Violence

A new CJCJ report finds crime and violence have decreased as racial and ethnic diversity and immigration increased in California, particularly among young people.

As California’s population moved from two-thirds white in 1980 to over 60 percent people of color today, the state has seen dramatic reductions in crime in each category. Additionally, indicators of social health and safety—such as violence, violent death and school dropouts—have decreased significantly, and California has weathered the national opioid epidemic better than elsewhere in the country. Since 1980, two demographic events have occurred alongside California’s decrease in crime that are important to explore:

  • Racial and ethnic diversity driven by foreign immigration has increased sharply;
  • Among young people (California’s most diverse population), crime and violence trends have diverged sharply from those of older populations, led by a 72 percent decrease in youth violent crime rates and a 92 percent drop in homicide arrests of urban youth from 1980 to 2015.

Violent crime rates and population by race/ethnicity among youth ages 10-17, 1980-2015

 California’s positive trends and lower levels of crime, particularly among young people, occurred alongside its transition to an all-minority state. These findings refute claims that increasing immigration will negatively impact society, or that “sanctuary cities,” such as those found in California, cause increased crime.

Once a state with unusually high rates of drug overdose, gun violence, and crime, California has demonstrated substantial gains in health and safety as its demographic composition has become more diverse and immigration has increased. The state’s experience shows that racial transition can accompany greater public safety and well-being, a reality that should impact the national discussion over immigration.

Read the full report "Refuting Fear: Immigration, Youth and California's Stunning Declines in Crime and Violence" >> 

For more information about this report or to schedule an interview with the author, please contact the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice at or (415) 621-5661 x 121.

Posted in Publications, Juvenile Justice, Social Justice

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