Study: Immigration has decreased crime, upped home values in Southern California

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A new study of Southern California trends to be released next week shows immigration has meant less crime and stable home values in the region.

The finding is one of many from a new University of California Irvine report.

The first Southern California Regional Progress Report looks at how different issues move together – such as housing density, crime, employment and ethnic/racial changes in population. The study covers five counties: Ventura, Los Angeles, San Bernardino, Riverside and Orange.

Professor John Hipp, with UCI’s school of social ecology, led the researcher team. He said there was no evidence over a 50-year period that immigration caused an increase in crime.

“Whether we looked at the 1970, 1980, 1990, 2000 or now, there was never evidence that cities with more immigrants have more crime at all, or any evidence that cities seeing an influx of immigrants saw increases in crime," said Hipp. "Just no evidence across any of those decades.”

Hipp said the year-long study did not make a distinction between legal or illegal immigration.

Other highlights from the study show:

• Southern California’s ethnic makeup has changed radically over the past 50 years, with the percentage of whites slowly decreasing, African-Americans becoming concentrated within fewer communities, and Latino and Asian populations growing significantly;

• Orange County is no longer dominated by whites and has an increasing population of Latinos and Asians in all its cities. Santa Ana and Anaheim are now majority Latino;

• Air quality in the five-county region is improving despite an increasing population.

• Nearly all of Orange County has enjoyed lower unemployment levels than the regional average. The Irvine cluster, for instance, has had the highest jobs per capita in the region for the past 20 years, surpassing the Santa Monica cluster.

• The foreclosure crisis has begun to abate but has had a sizeable impact on home values. Hardest hit were residents of San Bernardino and Riverside counties. Foreclosure rates also correlated strongly to falling home values throughout the region.

• With a few notable exceptions, commute times rose steadily throughout Southern California over the last 30 years.

Hipp said the report will be used to analyze the trends.

"Policymakers and planners can use the analysis to improve the quality of life for people living in the Southland," said Hipp, who added researchers plan to update the study every other year.

The complete report will be released next Thursday, June 14.

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