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My thanks to Matthew Roberts and Steve Burton (MR+SB) for publishing a detailed critique in Chronicles of my recent article on Hispanic crime rates. However, since I believe their analysis is largely mistaken, I’m providing a response:

(1) One major point which they and various others have criticized is my effort to exclude federal inmates when estimating Hispanic incarceration rates. Whether or not this should be done depends entirely upon what one is seeking to determine.

For example, since a large portion of federal inmates are held on immigration violations, if we were interested in determining the relative rate at which Hispanics and whites violate immigration laws, these figures would be absolutely crucial. However, I will gladly concede that Hispanics are perhaps 2,000% or even 3,000% more likely to be incarcerated for violating immigration laws than whites in America. In fact, when we consider that there are at least 12 million mostly Hispanic illegal immigrants in our country, and that a good fraction of these individuals have probably committed the felony of possessing false identity documents at one time or another, scrupulous enforcement of our immigration laws would produce an absolutely staggering rate of Hispanic incarceration, with total numbers dwarfing those of Stalin’s Gulag at its height.

On a more serious note, aside from immigration violations, the other major cause of federal imprisonment is drug smuggling across borders. Now regardless of one’s ideological preferences, illegal drug activity is certainly a crime, but including these numbers may also distort our estimates of ethnic crime rates. A clue why is provided if one visits the website of the anti-immigrationist Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) and notices their touted claim that one-third of all federal prison inmates are “criminal aliens,” a figure many times higher than the percentage for state and local prisoners. The obvious reason is that there exists a thriving drug-smuggling operation all along our southern border, with low-level Mexican “drug mules” being hired to evade border guards and bring their illicit cargo into the United States on a regular basis. If they succeed, they go back home for another load, but if they’re caught, they end up in federal prison. Now these individuals are obviously Hispanic, but since they actually live Mexico rather than in the U.S., it hardly makes sense to regard them as “American” criminals.

The main focus of my analysis is to attempt to estimate the relative criminality of America’s whites and Hispanics with regard to ordinary day-to-day “street crimes” such as robbery, rape, murder, theft, burglary, fraud, arson, and assault. Such crimes are almost always prosecuted in state courts and almost no federal inmates are currently held on such charges. Therefore, it seems reasonable to exclude federal incarceration rates lest the large numbers of immigration violators and border drug-smugglers generate a statistical artifact distorting the overall ethnic data. I’m not sure that I’ve ever heard of a single case in which an illegal immigrant who committed an ordinary “street crime” was prosecuted in federal court, so I think this approach is quite sensible.

(2) Once we have made the decision to focus our attention on state+local incarceration statistics, we encounter some difficulties in obtaining the data. Most of the BJS figures tend to provide only aggregate federal+state+local imprisonment totals, and the most recent BJS reports often exclude the one-third of American criminals held in local jails, presumably to make the overall national incarceration data “look better.” This forced me to rely upon the numbers in the 2005 BJS Report, which have similarly been widely used by most other analysts, whether Left, Right, or Center, ranging from the Ford-funded Sentencing Project to Jared Taylor to the Pew Hispanic Center.

Now Table 13 of the 2005 Report contains a very nice set of incarceration figures, stratified by age, ethnicity, and gender. However, these include federal inmates, so I instead used Table 14 of the same report, which restricts itself to state+local inmates and stratifies by ethnicity and state, the last category also being of considerable interest to me.

MR+SB have correctly pointed out that there appears to be a slight discrepancy between the aggregate white national incarceration statistics in Table 13 and those in Table 14, and they argue that this is a fatal flaw in the document. However, this difference is not entirely surprising. The text for Table 14 explains that missing data for each state was extrapolated from the data provided. Presumably some different correction method was used for the missing data in producing the Table 13 results, perhaps based on national extrapolations. I wish to emphasize that I am making no strong claims that this official government data is absolutely accurate. However, since it is the only data available to us, I have been forced to rely upon it, along with everyone else interested in the subject. I’d also concede that some of the textual explanations of the data tables are rather opaque, but given that the report was written by professional statisticians employed by the federal government, this is hardly surprising.

MR+SB also correctly note that the same 2005-Table 14 state+local incarceration data stratified by ethnicity and state had been previously provided as Table 16 in the 2001 BJS report, and that the numbers were slightly different. However, since the national imprisonment totals had risen by over 10% during that four year period, I don’t share their surprise and distrust at discovering that the white imprisonment rate had also risen by over 10% during that same time. For obvious reasons, I chose to base my analysis on the more recent 2005 figures.

(3) Since the BJS state+local incarceration data is unfortunately stratified neither by age nor gender, I was forced to develop a methodology to adjust these figures for the age and gender differences of the relevant ethnic populations, and this seems to have confused MR+SB. As I mentioned in my article, my approach was simply to divide the total number of inmates by the total high-crime-age male population for each ethnic group to produce an age-adjusted incarceration rate; given methodological uncertainties, I repeated the calculation for 18-29, 15-34, and 15-44 male age cohorts and displayed the differing results. Since the median age of white criminals and white inmates is considerably different than the median age of the white population in general, this adjustment is greatest for white incarceration rates, which was a central point of my entire article. Since I don’t claim that my methodological approach to age-normalization is perfect, I’d welcome MR+SB to suggest and implement a superior approach.

(4) Given these huge methodological uncertainties, all the MR+SB arguments about 10% here or there discussed in (2) above are largely irrelevant. Furthermore, as I emphasized in my article, there are actually vast differences in incarceration rates between the white populations of different states. For example, whether or not we apply age-adjustments whites in Texas are 200% or 300% more likely to be imprisoned than whites in Illinois or New York. So even if my national Hispanic imprisonment estimates are off by some small amount due to the arguments made by MR+SM, they still fall rather close to the center of the white distribution curve.

Admittedly, it seems quite plausible that the ethnic incarceration data gathered by many states is flawed, especially in those states such as Georgia which have only recently experienced a large influx of Hispanics, and might therefore tend to categorize many of these as “white” in their old black/white record keeping system.

But there are even larger potential factors on the other side. For example, as I noted in my article, Hispanics are almost 200% more likely to live in cities than whites, and since densely-populated urban centers have always had much higher crime rates than rural or suburban areas, adjusting for urbanization would massively shift the relative ethnic incarceration ratio. Also, there is a widespread belief, not least among “immigration skeptics,” that the official estimate of twelve million (mostly Hispanic) illegal immigrants is a severe undercount, and since this population is generally young and male, a much higher figure would also drastically reduce the relative Hispanic imprisonment rate. If anything, I’d guess that my estimate of the relative Hispanic/white incarceration rate is a rather conservative one.

(5) Next, MR+SM raise some doubts about my urban crime comparisons. For example, they argue that some of my Hispanic and white city-crime comparisons may be distorted by the size of the black populations. Although this might have some impact, there’s no obvious way to adjust for each and every urban parameter in individual city comparisons, and anyway the cases they cite are quite unpersuasive.

For example, I noted that Seattle and San Jose are very similar cities in most respects, and that although the former is among the whitest cities in America and the latter is one-third Hispanic, San Jose’s crime rates are actually much lower, with roughly half the rate of robberies or violent crime in general. MR+SM argue that the crucial underlying difference is that Seattle is 8.4% black while San Jose is only 3.5% black. But this doesn’t make any sense. If Hispanics actually had a much higher crime rate than whites, then a 4.9 point difference in the black population couldn’t possibly swamp the impact of a 30 point difference in the Hispanic population. They have cited an example which completely undercuts their entire case.

Or consider Los Angeles. Today’s crime rates are roughly the same as those in the early 1960s. Since that time, the Hispanic population has grown by 40 points while the black population has dropped by 4 points. This wouldn’t seem possible if Hispanics had high crime rates. And violent crime in Los Angeles today is approximately the same as in Portland, Oregon, America’s whitest major city, in which the Hispanic population is below 10% and the black population is actually much lower than in LA.

Similarly, El Paso and Santa Ana are each 80% Hispanic, the most heavily Hispanic cities in the country. Yet both of these cities have violent crime rates lower than 86% white Lincoln, Nebraska, the single whitest city in America. Since each of these three cities has black populations of just 3% or lower, I don’t see how MR+SM can be argue that blacks are the crucial factor here.

Anyway, my cross-correlations showed that across all cities, Hispanic percentage and White+Asian percentage are almost indistinguishable in their relation to urban crime rates. This result would be extremely implausible if Hispanics actually had much higher crime rates than whites.

And as I also noted in my article, all my urban crime correlations were based on the total ethnic percentages, rather than being adjusted for high-crime age males. The latter adjustment would actually reduce the Hispanic urban crime rate correlation to significantly below the White+Asian rate.

(6) Finally, there is the question of ideology. MR+SB correctly claim that I generally support immigration combined with ethnic assimilation, and that I have been sharply critical of policies such as bilingual education and affirmative action partly for this reason. They even go so far as to characterize my set of positions as “Unzism,” adopting a term coined in 2000 by Steve Sailer. This leads them to boldly entitle their entire article “Unzism – A Dangerous Doctrine,” and actually devote nearly half the space to denouncing what they regard as this harmful “ideology.”

Although I am certainly gratified to have my name enshrined as the appellation of a rather sensible set of positions, I can hardly claim to be the first American individual to share these views. As near as I can tell, President Ronald Reagan and every other prominent conservative of his era believed in exactly the same thing. And indeed the roots of “Unzism” seem to stretch back much further than that, to an era before I was even born. In fact, I would go so far as to argue that nearly every prominent American political leader during our two centuries of history more or less followed what MR+SB now denounce as “Unzism.” Certainly, this includes Benjamin Franklin, whose well-known fears about the looming threat of German immigration were focused primarily on concerns that the German immigrants were not learning English nor assimilating into mainstream American society. I would obviously be quite pleased if our high-school history textbooks began identifying Benjamin Franklin as an early adherent of “Unzism,” but I suspect this is too much to ask. Although I am not a specialist in American history, my impression is that what MR+SB now label “Unzism” is pretty similar to elements of what was often in the past called “Americanism.”

I must admit I find it a bit odd that a publication such as Chronicles would devote so much space to such a blistering attack upon views seemingly shared by nearly all of America’s historical leaders across the last couple of centuries. But I suppose that we live in strange times…

(Republished from The American Conservative by permission of author or representative)
• Category: Race/Ethnicity • Tags: Hispanic Crime, Immigration, Race/Crime 
The Hispanic Crime Series
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  1. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    After reading Mr. Unz’s first article, then the Chronicle’s response, and now this, it seems that I may be an “Unzist”.

    Both on facts, and on tone, Mr. Unz comes out on top in this exchange.

    Well done!

  2. “In fact, when we consider that there are at least 12 million mostly Hispanic illegal immigrants in our country, and that a good fraction of these individuals have probably committed the felony of possessing false identity documents at one time or another, scrupulous enforcement of our immigration laws would produce an absolutely staggering rate of Hispanic incarceration, with total numbers dwarfing those of Stalin’s Gulag at its height.”

    Actually, the height of Stalin’s Gulag was 12 million in about 1952, so rounding up all the Hispanics would only equal it.

  3. I was sure that was the figure Robert Conquest gave, but after a check I can’t find a basis for it, so please remove my comments from this article.

  4. With all due respect Mr. Unz, you are reaching mightily re. Ben Franklin. Today Franklin would be denounced as a vile nativist bigot by the PC thought police. He was not primarily concerned with the Germans assimilating. That is a generous reading at best. He was worried about them being here at all and particularly in such large numbers in his native Pennsylvania. He was worried about keeping America English and it not being transformed into Germany across the sea. Today he would firmly be in the enforcement only restrictionist camp

  5. Old Rebel says: • Website

    So Roberts and Burton are wrong to exclude Federal inmates in estimating Hispanic incarceration rates because that would include Mexicans, not Americans. Hmmm ….

    Problem is, illegal aliens, by definition, are not Americans. Therefore, we’re supposed to ignore the very root of the problem, open borders. And thus Mr. Unz has eliminated the problem of crimes committed by illegal immigrants — which even he acknowledges is predominantly Hispanic — by defining it away.

    This goes beyond anything medieval scholastics conjured up. It’s closer to the kind of tricks performed on New York sidewalks with three cards.

    On a more serious note, Third-World immigration will only increase once the 20 million illegals already here are granted amnesty — and there are no reasons for conservatives to support demographic revolution, which will radically alter our cultural and political traditions.

  6. Bryan says:

    The crime rate of those of latin origin are significantly higher in Texas cities Houston, and Dallas. The politicians that run the cities and open borde, neo-con advocates won’t admit to it and delilberately ignore demographics when it comes to reporting crime. The unchecked Latin immigration to Houston and Dallas has reduced once fledging middle income neighborhoods to the squaller and trashiness of Mexican border towns. In October 1993 and the following months with the implementation of Operation Hold the Line crime rates fell by forty percent in El Paso. Ronald Reagan regretted signing the 1986 immigration reform into law.

  7. Bruce says:

    Using the FBI’s UCR (uniform crime report) for 2008 I calculated rates of murder (per 100000) for the cities you listed: LA:10.0, Portland:4.7, Santa Anna:8.8, El Paso:2.8, Lincoln:1.6. LA and Santa Anna look bad but El Paso doesn’t. I wonder if El Paso’s population is more of the old Tejano stock. I’d think most illegals don’t even bother stopping there and bypass it altogether. Does anyone have any insight on this?

    Tuscon’s been heavily Mexicanized by recent illegals and looks awfully bad at 12.3 (nearly 8 times that of Lincoln-neither are very black).

  8. Jeff says:

    Ahh, didn’t Pat Buchanan establish this magazine? What happened????

  9. Louis2 says:

    Thing is that this analysis of crime rates for hispanics does NOT make any difference because my opposition to immigration stems from 2 priorities:

    1) with unemployment at 10%, black unemployment at 20% (higher for each if using unofficial statistics of those who stopped looking) the answer begs a moratorium on immigration until we return to full employment.

    2) we are fighting 2 international foreign wars and we have been attacked multiple times here and on foreign soil. It sends a terrible message to the citizenry when asked to pay the taxes for those foreign wars, to send our citizen soldiers to die and be disabled in those wars and to pass Patriot Act style survelliance on its citizens without keeping track of the location and expiration of all visitors and visa entrances, legal and illegal immigration, etc. Open borders for immigration also means open borders for drugs, drug gangs, weapons, biological, chemical, radiological, etc.

    Yes there are other factors like crime, like stressing social service programs, assimilation, etc and those could certainly be argued but those arguments would be valid in times of full employment and peace. You simply cannot justify foreign wars, open borders, immigration, terrorist watch lists, surveillance and searches while maintaining immigration and open borders.


  10. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    Assimilation may or may not be the key thing in the immigration debate, but it is unquestionably important. And for various reasons–such as the nearby recrossable border and historic Mexican grievances regarding the Southwest– illegal immigrants from Mexico have insufficient interest or incentive in being assimilated. That automatically squashes any moral claim they MIGHT have with respect to American citizenship. And since such claims are highly contestable anyway, a first step, along the lines of a modus vivendi, should be to make sure any immigrants will be fully assimilated within a generation before they are even considered for citizenship. Mexico doesn’t fill the bill. This is the common sense of ordinary America, and it’s safe to say most of the Founders would have agreed with it.

  11. The Chronicles article is almost assuredly correct that Unz is cherry picking his data and analyses. Let’s take the rhetoric. As the Chronicles authors note, Unz states incarceration rates as,for example, ‘150% above’ . No social scientist or criminologist would do that — its misleading because the casual reader would read that as 150% ‘of’ the rate of incarceration (half again) — because that it normal english. I certainly read it that way until reading the Chronicles article. The actual rate would be 2.5 times times. Unz’s use of such unusual phrasing points to a polemic, rather than an honest attempt at analysis.

    Some thing with his city comparisons. Let’s take two of his cities, but not in his paring: Santa Ana with Lincoln, here is a handy way using 2006 data

    86% white lincoln has 2.1 murders per 100,000 people, 80% Mexican has 7.6 murders per 100,000. Lincoln has 67.4 robberies, Santa Ana has 229 (both per 100,000 people). Santa Ana does have a lower rate of forcible rape, but given Mexican culture, I’ll bet that can be put down to rape going unreported.

    Roberts and Burton are also correct to take Unz to task, obliquely, for his ‘controlling’ for age. After all, there age profile is part of Hispanic immigration — a younger population may have benefits in some things, but obviously crime rate isn’t one of them. They are what they are, so ‘controlling’ for age, or urban residence, is simply beside the point.

    Finally, Unz is simply being untruthful in comparing himself to Reagan. Reagan did sign the 1986 Simpson-Mazzoli amnesty, but that law also had provisions to end employment of illegals — which unfortunately have not been enforced. Reagan’s INS deputy commissioner in the West (i.e. the hot spot) was Harold Ezell, who was quite energetic in carrying out immigration sweeps. Reagan gave his tacit consent to these measures. Finally, no it is simply not conservative, as this magazine pointed out under different management, to want the make over of your country’s population. It is a shame that Unz has taken over this publication, it is a safe bet to say that those who continue here (Larison, etc) are not conservatives.

  12. Mercer says:

    On 2/28/2008 the Pew Center of the States (hardly a right wing outfit) released a report titled “One in 100: Behind Bars in America”.

    On page 34 the report had a detailed breakdown of prison rates.
    For men in their early twenties the incarceration rates were one in 60 for whites, one in 9 for blacks and one in 24 for hispanics.

  13. I hope everyone criticizing this article is WASP – or you should go back to your motherland.

  14. Weaver says:

    Mr. Unz,

    are you a victim of the public schools, or do you believe the rest of us to be? Franklin viewed the Germans as “swarthy”.

    Which “American leaders” are adherents of Unzism?

  15. Weaver says:

    Mad Doc,

    how about devolution or even secession? There’s no way to absorb so many immigrants who are so vastly different from the founding stock. Some immigration is very different from mass immigration.

  16. Bruce says:

    “I must admit I find it a bit odd that a publication such as Chronicles would devote so much space to such a blistering attack upon views seemingly shared by nearly all of America’s historical leaders across the last couple of centuries.”

    America’s historic leaders never allowed mass Latino immigration even though they could have (they’ve been our neighbors for a very long time). So I don’t know what you’re talking about. What views? That mass Latino immigration is good or even acceptable? They didn’t hold those views.

  17. Tom says:

    Ron Unz’s article and his response sound off like neoconservative talking points — a reminder how this magazine’s degenerated in recent years. Probably won’t be renewing subscription.

  18. David says:

    Can’t Ron Unz find a job working for The Weekly Standard or The New Republic? What’s happened to my beloved TAC? Maybe we will get lucky and LaRaza will give him something to do.

  19. MattSwartz says: • Website

    Mass illegal immigration from Latin America is an effect, not a cause. Over the years, we’ve artificially inflated our economy with fiat currency while not having enough children to keep up with the growing demand for labor we created by spending our (debt-based) dollars.

    Our poor but sensible neighbors to the south saw in our profligacy an opportunity, and we should be thankful that they did. Yes, their presence here is bringing about social change, but any society that doesn’t reproduce is doomed to undergo such changes in any case, and the excess visitors will return south as soon as we lose our ability to overspend.

    We should expend a lot more energy to keep illegal immigrants from voting, we should keep ensuring that crossing the border is at least somewhat arduous, and we should (drastically) lower the total number of visas allotted to the Islamosphere, but otherwise, I think we need stay the course and stop acting as if this whole thing is the end of the world.

    Immigrants don’t bring with them any sort of national existential crisis, and thank goodness, too, since we seem to produce enough of those on our own.

  20. Matt,

    Much of that spending was precisely because of immigration — see Steve Sailer’s work on the push, under both Clinton and Bush, — banks to loan to ‘minorities’, primarily hispanic, in order to make homeownership more ‘equitable’. This pushed up housing prices, and yes a lot of dumb Americans borrowed on their equity, but at least half the blame goes to immigraiton.

    Also, it might just be that immigration is acause of low native reproduction. American couples usuually want a house before spawning.Immigration undoubtedly pushes up demand for housing, and thus prices, and thus it takes couples longer to save to afford a house. What could have been three kids becomes two or one, because immigration pushing up housing prices.

  21. Weaver says:

    “any society that doesn’t reproduce is doomed to undergo such changes in any case”

    Who is the originator of this absurd claim, and what is its basis?

    Americans are still reproducing, and there’s no need to fill every inch of this land. Were Americans to produce 6 children each, just where would this surplus go – invasion of Mexico perhaps? Or must we crowd together like in the Third World?

    Here’s a revolutionary idea: Keep out foreigners, and mind our own domestic matters. Such is far more in line with America’s founding and past 200 years of leaders than any of this fast talking BS.

  22. I can smell the straw from here, people! My first cousin, Rita, has been living and working in Ohio for nearly a decade. She’s an illegal. She is white. She has never been asked to produce documentation.

    Excellent article, Mr. Unz.

  23. icr says:

    I suppose we’ll get “they live in cities” excuse for the results shown below:
    The data closest to the act is self-report data. The National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health) is a longitudinal study of a nationally representative sample of adolescents in grades 7-12. In the study, 3,911 whites and 719 Hispanics answered if they had committed the crimes listed in the table below. Percentages are displayed as well as the ratio of the Hispanic to white rates.


    Of the 15 delinquent acts listed, Hispanics have the higher rate 14 times. Ratios range from 0.95 to 2.33.

    Critics might respond that surveying adolescents captures minor crimes, while data on prisoners, for example, captures serious criminality. But you can see that respondents were asked about very serious crimes as well as about less serious ones. For example, Hispanics are 2.33 times more likely than whites to have stabbed or shot someone

    Now, if only non-SWPL white families had not been ethnically cleansed from America’s cities-then we could have some fair comparisons.

  24. NJguy says:

    Standard of living in countries outside of the West, specifically places such as Central America,Africa and the Middle East aren’t very high don’t control the borders and eventually we will have the same third world status.

  25. Perhaps Mr. Unz should do a study on the effects of importation of mass poverty. No country sees this as a benefit; it this were true then why aren’t the most developed and successful countries in the world opening their borders to cheap Mexican labor???

  26. Terry says:

    The pairing of Santa Anna against Seattle is cheery picking: Santa Anna is very affluent compared to Seattle, which really overides the other factors, as the rich tend to buy what they want. Both cities have large minority populations compared to the US as a whole, so this is statistically meaningless.
    Has Mr. Unz been compiling temperature data for the global warming crowd, they do a lot more statistical tricks than this guy, and they are only now being acknowledged.

  27. flenser says:

    I’m looking at the 2005 BJS report which Mr Unz mentioned. it says this right on the first page:

    “An estimated 12.6% of black males, 3.6% of Hispanic males, and 1.7% of white males in their late twenties were in prison or jail.”

    Which means that Hispanics are incarcerated for crime at just over double the rate of whites, after correcting for age. Yet Unz made some corrections of his own which supposedly lowered the Hispanic crime rate to the same level as that of whites. I say “supposedly” because the data in the BJS report was already adjusted for age, and because Unz did not show his work.

  28. flenser says:

    “there exists a thriving drug-smuggling operation all along our southern border, with low-level Mexican “drug mules” being hired to evade border guards and bring their illicit cargo into the United States on a regular basis. If they succeed, they go back home for another load, but if they’re caught, they end up in federal prison. Now these individuals are obviously Hispanic, but since they actually live Mexico rather than in the U.S., it hardly makes sense to regard them as “American” criminals.”

    That’s sort of the point. It makes them Hispanic criminals. Yet you don’t count them as such.

  29. Eileen says:

    How can we even rely on ANY of the official statistics when Hispanics are, apparently, regularly being characterized as White by the authorities?!:

    Hispanic Sex Offenders Listed As “White” In Wisconsin. Why?

  30. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    Thanks for sharing. I think I’m in need of a Dallas immigration attorney. I lived in Mexico for a few years. I was married to by beautiful life there. She is not a US citizen and I need some advice what to do next. My job is moving me back to the US and I need to take my family with me.

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