2004 July 20 Tuesday
Immigrant Incarceration Rate Five Times Higher In Denmark

Eurosavant has a post on a report in the Danish language press about the much higher rate of incarceration (imprisonment) of immigrants in Denmark.

Results of a recently-released survey conducted last May 4 among the population of Denmark's jails by the Institute for Prisoner Welfare (Kriminalforsorgen) and the Danish State Statistical Bureau (Danmarks Statistik) have raised some eyebrows. That study found that a full one-quarter of Denmark's imprisoned criminals (specifically: 955 out of 3,741) are either of foreign nationality or the direct descendants of foreigners.

Eurosavant regularly reports on what is written in a number of different language presses in Europe (and presumably can read Danish, Czech, French, and German to take just 4 examples of languages found in articles he is linking to).

Sounds like immigrants are about 5% of Denmark's population. So this is a high relative rate of incarceration.

If that one-in-four figure seems to you to be a bit out of proportion to the general distribution of foreigners within the Danish population, your instincts are on-target: That rate is a full five times what it would otherwise be if the criminal population were proportionate to the general population.

With a population of 5.4 million Eurosavant points out that Denmark has a rather low rate of incarceration. The US incarceration rate is over an order of magnitude higher than the Danish rate. One reason for that difference is that in the United States the black incarceration rate is about 9.1 times that of the white rate (and high multiples of black-white incarceration ratios are found in Canada and Great Britain as well btw). Also, the Hispanic incarceration rate in the US is 3.7 times that of the white rate. East Asians (the "model minorities" who are ignored in most discussions of race in the United States) have a lower incarceration rate than whites in the US but I don't have any numbers for their incarceration rates.

At the risk of stating the incredibly obvious: demographic trends in the United States and in much of Europe point toward higher crime rates as ethnic groups which commit crime at higher rates become larger fractions of populations. At the same time, however, the overall aging of populations will tend to lower crime rates as older folks commit fewer crimes. Though as criminals there is also a shift away from murder, rape, and other violent crimes toward fraud and other non-violent crimes as criminals age. Also, reliance on aging to lower the crime rate is not a terribly smart strategy as the aging cirminals tend not to be high-skilled hard-working model citizens and good parents.

That any government should want to pursue an immigration policy that inflicts more crime upon its existing populace demonstrates that there are still major flaws in the mechanisms by which voting populaces exercise control over their governments..

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2004 July 20 11:01 AM  Immigration Societal Decay

John S Bolton said at July 20, 2004 8:10 PM:

In this connection, mightn't immigration explain the huge crest in crime rates, which occurred in this country in the early 90's, at the same time as the peak in immigration? Other explanations don't go up and down with that same timing. Higher rates of incarceration no doubt explain a good part of the reduction in crime since '91 or so, but the numbers imprisoned were also rising strongly from the 70's, all the way through. Suppose that the new gang on the drug-dealers' block, has to prove itself in terms of flagrant ruthlessness of violence, and that immigration supplies the new gangs. Once the main surge of immigration has resulted in the establishment of new gangs, and to the point of saturation of the possibilities, the ruthless violence should decline. Add to this the new policy started in the mid-nineties, of deporting convicts far outside the country at the end of their sentences. This number was at 50,000 during one year in the 90's, as I recall. HIV also killed off several hundred thousand of the central criminal elements. Another immigration-related effect is the pushing of the blacks out of the highest population-density areas by immigration, especially in the 90's and later. The black crime rate being several times higher than that of the immigrants, and the possibilities for street crime being lower in the outer districts, this should also cause overall crime rates to decline.

Perry de Havilland said at July 21, 2004 9:57 AM:

Seems to me that the problem is not immigration per se but rather the fact Western nations are actually subsidising the 'wrong kind' of immigration, which is to say, welfare is used to insulate people from foolish behaviour and in many ways actually reward it, which means rather than attracting folks looking to better themselves in a better functioning economy and society, we are attracting folks looking for hand outs. It does not take a genius to see that immigrants are usually exactly the sort of high initiative folks we should be rolling out red carpets for PROVIDED they are allowed to reap both the natural rewards *and* penalties of their actions. If that is *not* the case, the whole equation changes.

Randall Parker said at July 21, 2004 10:52 AM:


East Asian immigrants do not react to the US welfare state by becoming criminals, having children out of wedlock, dropping out of high school, and all the rest. How come?

Also, as I've argued in a previous post Welfare Costs Not The Only Costs Of Immigrants, the libertarian argument that the costs of low-skilled immigrants can be avoided by pruning back the welfare state is false.

As I've also previously argued, libertarianism is not a solution to the problems of immigration.

The beginning of wisdom is to understand that the welfare state can not be eliminated or even drastically scaled back. I oppose it. I argue against it. But decades have gone by and it has only grown. The welfare reform of 1995 or 1996 did not stop the growth of Medicaid or other parts of the welfare state. It is bigger than ever. The more people we have coming here who are poor then the more there will be who will vote for transfer payments and Robin Hood politics.

Your problem is that the majority do not think like you do. The option you prefer is not achievable because a substantial majority can not be convinced to support it.

Immigration from Latin America is increasing the size of the lower class much more rapidly than it is increasing the size of the upper middle and upper classes. The number of people who make lower incomes and who can not afford medical insurance or other stuff is growing faster than the fraction who can. The obvious result will be a growth in the welfare state.

Hispanics in later generations do not rise in academic achievement and so this growth of the lower class is going to be with us for generations to come.

When faced with empirical evidence that is not consistent with open borders libertarianism I abandoned open borders libertarianism. Empirical evidence trumps ideology with me. I no longer consider myself a libertarian as a result.

Perry de Havilland said at July 21, 2004 7:26 PM:

As far as I am concerned there is no 'problem' of immigration... there are just problems related to state kleptocracy and all manner of consequences that flow from that (such as the 'wrong' type of immigration). But as for immigration itself, I could not care less if in 100 years 90% of the population of the USA have Mexican surnames. As for welfare 'reform', that will take care of itself in the long run when the economic bubble bursts, as it most certainly will regardless of how the majority want to vote for it today, so I am not overly concerned if my anti-welfare statism positions put me on the fringe at the moment. If any group is going to get radicalised, it is going to be the middle classes who are getting soaked to pay for all the nonsence, and they will vote with their feet, moving to wherever their money is predated less. I can wait.

John S Bolton said at July 21, 2004 9:30 PM:

Above is another example of the quality of immigrationist reasoning: immigrants are, by definition, people with initiative. That wasn't even true in the laissez-faire period. Today we have family recruitment, refugee resettlements, and other draws for the most passive and dependent. Next we will have visas for arranged marriages of juvenile first cousins, the better to advertise our multiculturalistic tolerance and compassion. Even if the usual quality selected for were initiative, that is not the same as merit or minimal acceptability. After all, do we want opennness to criminal initative, as on 9-11? Libertarian anarchists want freedom for aggression, and a complete absence of freedom from aggression. Aggression is a way of taking the initiative.

Randall Parker said at July 21, 2004 9:51 PM:


You are not hearing me. I would abolish the welfare state if it was up to me. I am just as strongly for the scaling back of the size of the state as you are. But you and most ideological libertarians are ignoring the cause of the welfare state: human nature and its expression in the ballot box and in the halls of government. Libertarianism can not be achieved for the same reason that communism couldn't be achieved: Libertarian man, like New Soviet Man, is contrary to human nature.

As for letting economic bubbles burst: What do you have in mind? A depression? You want the economy to collapse in order to scale back the size of the state? The last Depression left individuals feeling so helpless that they eagerly supported the expansion of the state in the hopes of putting an end to and preventing future depressions. Be careful what you wish for.

Economic downturns are no fun. The deep mid 1970s recession was obviously not enough to bring an uprising against the welfare state. People demanded more unemployment benefits and government jobs creation instead. Do you pine for an economic Gotterdammerung that will usher in the collapse of the welfare state and usher in the new libertarian age?

Middle classes getting radicalized: This brings back memories of the radicalization of the workers who were supposed to rise up in revolt against the capitalists to usher in a communist utopia. The libertarian dream is just as unrealistic and based on assumptions of human nature that are just as false as the communist dream.

Middle classes moving with their feet: How can they? Any country that has open borders will get not just the middle class but also the people who will vote for Robin Hood taxes and transfer payments.

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