Crime and duration of residency among immigrants in Norway
This analysis explores the association between duration of stay/time since immigration and offending among immigrants to Norway. We restrict the sample to immigrants granted a permanent residence permit at the age of 18 or older, between 1993 and 2014. The purpose of the analysis is to improve our knowledge of the factors that may drive the observed variation in offending rates between various immigrant groups in Norway, in order to increase our understanding of the processes whereby some immigrants commit crimes while others do not.
The analysis shows that, on average, the proportion of individuals who commit at least one offense for which they are charged increases every year until about five years after immigration, before it decreases gradually over time until 22 years have passed. This concave association does, however, vary substantially depending on both the country of origin and reason for immigration. For country of origin we find two main patterns. Among immigrants from the Nordic countries, as well as from Western and Eastern Europe, the proportion of offenders increases only from the first to the second year before it begins to decrease over time. Among immigrants from Asia, Africa and Latin America, however, we observe a more gradual increase that lasts for four, seven and eight years, respectively. The association between duration of stay and offending varies also by reason for immigration. Among work immigrants, there is a weak increase until three years have passed. Among refugees, the increase persists until the fourth year, but the proportion of offenders is substantially higher than for work immigrants. For family immigrants, the annual increase is more gradual, and begins to decline only after nine years. Taken together there are several similarities in the associations between duration of stay and offending among immigrants from Eastern and Western Europe, as well as for work migrants. This suggests that individuals who have a more immediate and direct access to the Norwegian labor market have other trajectories into (or away from) crime that those who do not.
An important explanation for the observed concave association between duration of stay and offending can be found in the socio-demographic composition of immigrants who have lived in Norway for shorter and longer periods of time. A substantial part of the decrease in offending by duration of stay is, for instance, driven by the collinearity between age and duration of stay, as well as increases in both educational and income levels associated with an increased duration of stay. A decline can, however, still be observed in most groups when changes in age, sex, place of residence, educational level and income are accounted for. The increase in offending during the first years in Norway can, on the other hand, not be attributed to changes in these socio-demographic characteristics. This suggests that it is not only integration into conventional societal institutions, such as the labor market, that takes time; the same might be valid also for integration into criminal opportunity structures. The gradual increase during the first years in Norway for immigrants from non-European countries, as well as for refugees and family immigrants, further highlights the potential role of time following the permanent settlement as a potentially important time period during which effective crime prevention efforts could substantially decrease the proportion of future offenders.
Finally, the analysis shows that the association between duration of stay and offending differs for different types of offenses. For the four largest offense types (theft, violent, drug and traffic offenses) the proportion of offenders increases during the first years in Norway, and peaks after five years for traffic offenses and theft and after nine years for drug offenses and violent offenses. As previously described a substantial part of this decline can be attributed to compositional effects driven by age and – for some but not all offense types – educational and income Levels.