Response to Rubenstein by Ron Unz
The American Conservative, February 26, 2010
My thanks to Ed Rubenstein for producing a fine rejoinder (Ron Unz Vanishes Hispanic Criminality … Not!) to my own recent analysis of Hispanic crime rates (His-Panic). Most of the previous rebuttals to my original article seemed either utterly risible (Statsholic) or ideologically shrill and analytically weak (Unzism, a Dangerous Doctrine). Although I certainly disagree with the slant of Rubenstein’s interpretations, he raises some strong and quantitatively interesting issues which provide an important contribution to the ongoing debate. This tends to confirm VDare.com’s reputation as the premier “hardcore” anti-Immigrationist webzine.
First of all, I appreciate his willingness to excerpt numerous paragraphs from my article, some of which he endorses and some of which he disputes; this allows his readers to obtain a sense of my claims without being forced to endlessly click between the two pieces. I’m also glad that he seems to accept many important aspects of my own suggested methodology, including the complete unreliability of nominal ethnic crime statistics, the importance of normalizing crime rates to the high-crime cohort of the relevant ethnic population, and the use of BJS incarceration statistics as among the most reliable, if highly imperfect, indicators of ethnic criminality. He also concedes the need to exclude Federal inmates, since the massive over-representation of Hispanics for immigration-violations and (non-resident) Hispanics in border-smuggling would severely skew the crime statistics.
The most important new point he makes — which I had completely missed in my own analysis of the data — is that between 2000 and 2006 the violent crime rates of whites and Hispanics seemed to sharply diverge.
According to the 2008 BJS report, during that half-decade, the number of whites incarcerated in state prison for violent offenses rose by just 7% while the number of Hispanics increased by a whopping 62%. Since violent crime is both the most damaging to society and also the most likely to be reported, this is a telling point. I had primarily focused upon the total number of non-federal inmates, and that data, which did not separate out violent from non-violent offenders, had shown no strong trend.
However, there are several strong caveats to Rubenstein’s finding. First, the data cited excludes the one-third of American inmates held in local jails (which was why I paid little attention to that particular table); however, since state convicts tend to be guilty of the more serious offenses, it seems unlikely that adding the jail inmates would substantially alter the violent offender ratios. We must also be cautious in placing too much weight on the short term trends of just a few years, which may be anomalous for various reasons.
Much more importantly, a central argument of my article had been that ethnic criminality is best inferred not from raw incarceration statistics but from incarceration rates relative to the size of the high-crime age ethnic population; and even just during the few years from 2000-2006, there was actually a substantial change in the relative numbers of Hispanic and white males aged 15-44 (a demographic trend which should come as no great surprise to regular VDare readers!).
Based on the Census/ACS data, the number of white males in that age range dropped by almost 10% during those years, while the corresponding number of Hispanics increased by around 15%. Thus, the age-adjusted increase in violent white inmates was actually between 15 and 20% and for Hispanics was about 40%. Although we still find a significant divergence in white/Hispanic violent criminals, simply adjusting for age cuts the nominal gap in half.
If Hispanics did indeed increase their age-adjusted rate of violent crime relative to whites by over 20% between 2000 and 2006, one explanation might be the ongoing shift of the Hispanic population from (low crime) immigrants to their (higher crime) American-born children. Although the rise in criminality is nothing close to the absurd 700% difference claimed by Rumbaut, all studies have shown that it does seem to exist, and could certainly account for a portion of the 20% increase.
However, since highest-crime age Hispanics are already two-thirds American-born, most of this increase has already occurred, and we would not expect relative violent crime rates to increase much more from this particular cause.
There are other, more empirical reasons to doubt that this apparent Hispanic increase in violent criminality continued past 2006. Consider Los Angeles, America’s most heavily Hispanic megalopolis, and a reasonably crude proxy for Mexican-Americans throughout the rest of California and perhaps even the country as a whole. As I pointed out in my article, both homicides and violent crime rates in LA dropped by about one-half between 2000 and 2009, with crime now having reached roughly the levels of Portland, Oregon, America’s whitest major city.
I’d hardly be surprised if this huge drop in LA crime rates were directly connected with the sharp simultaneous rise in Hispanic imprisonment rates we have been discussing. But with most of the violent Hispanic criminals now safely in prison and current crime rates fairly low, I suspect that future BJS reports will reveal far smaller increases in Hispanic imprisonment.
In fact, it is quite possible that even the apparent 20% or more relative increase in Hispanic violent criminality during 2000-2006 is actually just a statistical artifact. Over the years, VDare columnists have repeatedly argued that the official figure of 12 million (overwhelmingly Hispanic) illegal immigrants is a severe underestimate, and the true figure is vastly higher. Most illegal immigrants are males 15-44, and if these numbers had increased by just 2 million between 2000 and 2006—exactly the years when the housing boom was drawing so many illegal construction workers from Mexico—the BJS imprisonment totals would actually represent no net increase in violent criminality among Hispanics.
But whether or not Hispanic violent crime rates did rise by an amount in the 20-25% range, I must once again emphasize that this figure is completely dwarfed by the 200% or 300% difference in imprisonment rates between (say) white Texans and white New Jerseyans.
Finally, Rubenstein claims, much as did the Chronicles authors, that differences in the size of the local black populations are the primary factor responsible for the similar crime rates between heavily white and heavily Hispanic cities. In effect, he argues that the statistical impact of high-crime Hispanics is being masked by the presence or absence of even higher-crime blacks. Unfortunately, I find this claim completely unpersuasive, and see no evidence for it either in the comparisons of individual cities or in the overall cross-correlations. I suggest that interested readers consult Section (5) of my Chronicles response (Immigration: Facts vs. Ideology), where I refute this argument at some length. Since this rebuttal was released almost simultaneously with the VDare article, I certainly do not fault Rubenstein for failing to consider my arguments.
One additional point. Numerous critics have disputed my original suggestion that much of America’s endlessly-touted “Hispanic gang problem” appears to be a hoax, merely serving as an easy means for local elected officials to solicit media headlines and federal gang-prevention funding. But this morning’s San Jose Mercury News carried a front-page metro story which perfectly illustrates my claim (“Councilwoman proposes more ‘no gang’ zones“).
Nora Campos, a Hispanic city councilwoman who had considered a run for mayor but instead decided to seek an Assembly seat, has proposed a major expansion of anti-gang measures through San Jose in order to reduce “street gang bloodshed” among the “4,000 to 5,000 validated gang members” belonging to “140 gangs.” The local television stations quickly picked up her proposal, and heavily broadcast Campos’s “tough on crime” image over the airwaves.
Naturally, none of the reporters bothered mentioning that one-third Hispanic San Jose already has about the lowest homicide and violent-crime rates of any major city in the continental United States, with levels being close to those of Japan. I’d imagine that many American film-goers similarly believe that Yakuza gang violence has produced an
ongoing reign of terror in Toyko and Kyoto…