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Institutional Completeness and Crime Rates in Immigrant Neighborhoods


Objectives: A growing body of research finds that immigration has a null or negative association with neighborhood crime rates. We build on this important literature by investigating the extent to which one theory, institutional completeness theory, may help explain lower crime rates in immigrant communities across the Southern California region. Specifically, we test whether two key measures of institutional completeness—the presence of immigrant/ethnic voluntary organizations in the community and the presence and diversity of immigrant/ethnic businesses in the community—account for lower crime rates in some immigrant communities. Method: Compiling a tract-level data set utilizing various data sources, we estimate negative binomial regression models predicting violent and property crime levels that include measures of institutional completeness while controlling for a range of neighborhood correlates of crime. We also account for possible endogeneity by estimating instrumental variable models. Results: The results reveal very limited support for institutional completeness theory. Conclusions: Several possible explanations for these findings are discussed.

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