Yesterday we had a long exchange on the national origins of criminals. Commenter Blake van Buren (a pseudonym, so please don’t harrass that nice gentleman from the US with the same name and no privacy controls on his facebook account) made three claims.
The legitimate concerns of Australians about the strong criminal element amongst recent waves of refugees is well founded and solidly based in reality.
By no means is the refugee intake the only source of criminal immigrants. We have made huge mistakes with people from the Pacific Islands as well.
Claim Three – although this is really a conclusion:
The policy prescription is obvious, cut the refugee intake to zero and abolish the ability of re-settled refugees to sponsor their relatives under the family program. If we can find someway to encourage those that remain to leave voluntarily then I’m all for that too.
Then we saw this challenge.
I look forward to Sinclair Davidson lining up the prisoner population by country of birth statistics with the demographic data available elsewhere from the ABS. Just remember you will need to carve out the indigenous offenders from the Australian born figures to arrive at a non-indigenous Australia born crime rate for use as the numeraire. I’ve done the work, it might take you about an hour. These figures dramatically understate ethnic crime because they are based on country of birth, second and third generation criminals show up in these figures as Australian born.
It will be interesting to watch people’s reaction to the figures when you present them at your next forum arguing for open borders.
At which point I asked BvB to send through the data and I would have a look at it. After a very long run around the data arrived this morning and, as I expected, the data do not support the claims that have been made.
What BvB has done is as follows: He took the ABS prisoner characteristics data for 2009 and compared that to population data for 2007. He also segmented the Australian-born sample into indigenous and non-indigenous groups. He then created a crime rate (per offence) per 100,000 of population, set the non-indigenous Australian-born population equal to one and then calculated the crime rate per offence per country of origin rates relative to the non-indigenous Australian-born population.
He then interprets the results. For example, for Sudanese migrants we were told
– are 4.5 times more likely than non-indigenous Australian born to be convicted of homicide;
– almost 8 times more likely than non-indigenous Australian born to be convicted of violent assault;
– are 3 times more likely than non-indigenous Australian born to be convicted of sexual assault;
– more than 3 times more likely than non-indigenous Australian born to be convicted of robbery/extortion.
That is not how I would describe the results. For a start most people, including Sudanese, are not likely to be convicted of any crime let alone homicide, violent assault, and so on. I might say, given their share of the population there are 4.5 times as many Sudanese in prison for homicide than non-indigenous Australian-born individuals. That sounds very bad, until you consider how few Sudanese there are in Australia. 11 Sudanese out of 2718 individuals convicted of homicide and related offences, or 11 out of 23,100 Sudanese is not a big number. So there is no evidence of a ‘strong criminal element amongst recent waves of refugees’.
That doesn’t really support claims one or three but maybe claim two. Let’s have a look at a far more damning statistic. Nearly 80 percent of all individuals convicted of homicide and related offences are Australian-born.
The overwhelming majority of individuals in prison for homicide and related offences are Australian born individuals – even breaking that down, as BvB does, into indigenous and non-indigenous Australian-born, non-indigenous Australian born are a clear majority.
But what of other offences? BvB does the same analysis for all crime categories and generally finds that the most over-represented group on a population weighted basis relative to non-indigenous Australian-born individuals are indigenous Australian-born individuals. This, to my mind, is inconsistent with claims one, two and three.
The crime rates per 100,000 of population relative to the crime rate for Australian-born non-indigenous per 100,000 looks very high for some groups – but there is a perception bias in reporting the stats like that. It is not reasonable to believe that any foreign born group would have no individuals in prison for any crime and the smaller that group the higher the population weight is going to be (everything else being equal). So when we look at the BvB stats we see a lot of small population groups over-represented. But without some form of statistical control, this is just as likely to be a statistical artefact than an enhanced propensity for criminality. To be clear, BvB is quite correct is suggesting that Australians should be concerned about crime, and law and order. But he has not presented the evidence to support his claims as set out above. More importantly a liberal society does not concern itself with the ethnicity of criminals. Criminal behaviour is related to opportunity cost and that would be weakly related to ethnicity, if at all.