Are migrants more at risk of crime?

Recent crimes against Indian students have people of Indian appearance worried about their personal safety. But are migrants more generally at greater risk of crime?

As the chart below shows, migrants are less likely to have been victims of personal crime, defined as ‘robbery, assault or sexual assault’ in the previous twelve months, than people born in Australia. This holds for all age groups except those aged 60 years and over, for whom crime rates are very low in any case.

Source: ABS, Migrant Data Matrices 2008, derived from 2005 Crime and Safety survey

Nor is this figure distorted by migrants from Britain and other Anglo countries. People from non-English speaking backgrounds and Asian countries in particular are also less likely to be victims of crime (2006 General Social Survey data).

I’m not sure what explains this. Some theories:

* violent crime is more common among uneducated people, while migration criteria favours educated people
* other cultures don’t to the same extent have the moronic booze culture that young Australian men have and which is a factor in a lot of violence
* the appalling intra-communal violence within Aboriginal communities is pushing the Australian-born figure upwards, though I doubt they would have been a large enough part of the sample to have more than a minor effect

While I don’t doubt that there is a racist element in some of the attacks on Indian students, the bigger problem is that young men are prone to violence against other young men.

7 thoughts on “Are migrants more at risk of crime?

  1. Great post. It’s good to see the numbers. The other numbers that would be interesting and harder to get would be to compare Australia to other places where there are large numbers of foreign students.

    At Melbourne Uni and presumably other places sub-continent students are different from previous large groups of Asian students. They have less money. Many have scraped by to get to Australia to study. South East Asian students have more money and tend to live in the inner city. This makes them less vulnerable to being robbed and bashed on late night trains going out to low SES areas.


  2. I don’t think any Melbourne Uni students are caught up in this – there are relatively few Indian students at the U of M. I suspect that Indian students are on average poorer as you suggest, and also they tend to be highly focused on migration outcomes rather than the particular course, so it is not worth their while paying the relatively high fees at the U of M.


  3. Indeed that’s true about U of M (the one not in college park) not having that many Indian students. It’s just that I’ve spoken to someone from there about it.


  4. It might be that the native-born, second generation children of migrants might be more at risk of crime. But no one seems to keep adequate stats of ethnicity, as opposed to nativity.


  5. There’s probably a few incidents of racial hatred (I’m sure we all remember the shock jocks felt comfortable enough that it existed in quantity to encourage the Cronulla rioters), but, there’s also likely another factor: people new to the culture are less aware of the warning signs that trouble may be brewing in an area (we’re just talking run of the mill nightclub or bar violence here, not racial stuff) and also the areas that are known to be this sort of trouble-spot.

    Your cultural native knows there are some places you simply avoid because the bogans get on drinking binges and become dangerous to everyone around them. People who’ve moved here recently don’t really know about it It comes back to your closing point: “the bigger problem is that young men are prone to violence against other young men.”


  6. Interesting figures, but an objection is that they date from 4 years ago, and the profile may have changed in the interim.

    I don’t have the figures to hand, but occasional reports in The Age in recent months have said that while overall crime in Victoria has been falling in the last few years, violent crime has been growing; and with at least one bashing or stabbing reported every other weekend, these reports have a ring of credibility.

    Also, is the profile for Melbourne different from the national profile?


  7. It might be that the native-born, second generation children of migrants might be more at risk of crime. But no one seems to keep adequate stats of ethnicity, as opposed to nativity.

    Indeed. In cases like this, there is no excuse to allow the general to hide the specific.

    A question I have is whether the media should report it. I think that if there was a greater awareness of the trials these (african) people have come from, and what they face resettling, there will be less of a tendency to target them.

    But I think public pressure should be put on our immigration and resettlement authorities. If there are insufficient services available, damaged and physically distinct people should not be allowed in. It does no one any good to have a permanently ostracised and disadvantaged minority undermining our cohesion and sense of identity.


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