First Advisor

Melissa Thompson

Date of Publication

Fall 9-13-2019

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Sociology






Crime and age, Immigrant youth -- United States, Juvenile delinquency -- Age factors, Criminal behavior -- Age factors, Immigrants -- Cultural assimilation



Physical Description

1 online resource (vii, 136 pages)


Domestic and international events -- such as the recent migrant caravans from Central and South America, and the records number of migrant children detained at the border -- have brought renewed attention to the adaptation of immigrants in the United States. More specifically, questions regarding whether the population of immigrants is driving the "crime problem," have taken center stage. Immigrants vary significantly in terms of when they migrate into the country. According to the Current Population Survey (CPS), the population of approximately 12 million foreign-born immigrant children living in the United States is split in terms of their age and developmental stage at arrival (40% arrived during early childhood; 30% during middle childhood; 30% during adolescence). Although previous research has found support for the influential nature of age at migration in explaining other adaptation outcomes such as mental health, language acquisition, educational attainment, and occupational attainment, age at migration in the context of criminal offending has received little attention. It is important to understand how age at migration increases or decreases the likelihood for immigrants to engage in crime. A better understanding of the relationship between age at migration and offending can inform not only immigration policies and policies related to the control of crime, but also policies related to immigrant-receiving institutions such as schools and social services.

Using data from The National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1997, the current dissertation aims to fill this gap by exploring the influence of age at migration on criminal offending among foreign-born immigrants who migrated prior to adulthood. Using binary logistic regression, the analysis compares the effect of age at migration (i.e. early childhood, middle childhood, or adolescence) on "any crime," after controlling for theoretically important criminological covariates. Supplemental analyses also consider this effect on specific types of self-reported offending (property, violent, and drug offenses), and among Hispanic foreign-born immigrants--the largest and fastest growing immigrant group in the United States. Given previous research findings pointing to influential nature of age at migration (e.g., those who arrive at young age are more likely to do well in terms of educational and occupational outcomes) and theoretical notions pointing to the salience of age at migration, I hypothesized that statistically significant differences would exist in offending among the age at migration groups.

The overall results of the analysis did not provide support for my hypothesis. More specifically, migrating during early childhood or middle childhood did not differentially affect the odds of offending, relative to migrating in adolescence (the group reporting the lowest level of offending). However, supplemental analyses revealed that age at migration was significant in predicting drug offending (but not property or violent offenses). Compared to those who migrate during adolescence, migrating during early childhood or middle childhood was negatively associated with the odds of drug offending, all other variables constant. In addition to a full discussion of the results, implications of the findings, study limitations, and suggestions for future research are also provided. Lastly, a note is offered on the value of incorporating null results in our understanding of the immigration-crime nexus, and our overall sociological knowledge.


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