EL PASO — A trio of UTEP faculty has received an award of $124,998 from the National Science Foundation for work focusing on the relationship between neighborhood levels of immigration and crime.
This project, titled "Why are Immigrant Neighborhoods Low Crime Neighborhoods? Testing Immigrant Revitalization Theory and Cultural Explanations," is under the direction of Theodore R. Curry, Ph.D., associate professor in sociology and anthropology; Harmon M. Hosch, Ph.D., assistant director of UTEP’s Center for Law and Human Behavior and retired Helen M. C. and J. Edward Stern Professor of Psychology; and Maria C. Morales, Ph.D., associate professor of sociology. The award covers the project for almost two years. “This investigation is designed to explain what social, psychological and cultural factors protect immigrants and their neighborhoods from crime. We expect the results to inform policymakers, social scientists and the public in general,” Hosch said.
According to the professors, a large body of research shows that, for homicide, higher levels of neighborhood immigration means less crime. The newly funded project will assess whether immigration reduces other types of crime and test theories as to why crime might be lower in immigrant neighborhoods. “We will gather data from El Paso neighborhoods in spring 2014 using trained student-researchers from UTEP and begin analyzing the results that summer,” Curry explained. “The results will inject an important array of facts into the highly politicized debate over immigration, which hopefully can be used to inform policy decisions as well as the public.”
Historically, immigrants are associated with low crime rates, Morales said, although the popular media might lead people to think otherwise. "In particular, regions with a high percentage of immigrants have lower crime rates,” she said. “This is the case in El Paso as it has been ranked among the safest cities in the U.S. for several years now. Our study will advance our knowledge on the association with immigrant neighborhoods and low crime that is important for both the social sciences and policymakers."
Curry said receiving this grant is very exciting. “The National Science Foundation is the premiere funding agency for basic, investigator-initiated research and funds very few proposals,” he said. “Thus, receiving funding from NSF is a validation of creating high-quality, cutting-edge research. Being able to incorporate and mentor UTEP students as part of the research effort is also deeply satisfying.”