Immigration to the United States is a prominent contemporary social issue. Studies report that most recent immigrants are disproportionately of Latino (1) origin and live in urban areas (Bean and Tienda, 1987; Moore and Pinderhughes, 1993). Densely populated cities, in turn, are characterized by high rates of crime generally and homicide in particular (Muller, 1993).
Taken together, the relationships among immigration, urban violence, and Latinos have been commonly linked to "the national rise in crime," despite any systematic examination of immigrant violence (Muller, 1993).
Scholars have therefore advanced largely contradictory images of the effects of immigration by Latinos to urban areas. Wilson (1987:39), for instance, notes that Latino movement to urban areas has contributed to increased joblessness, violent crime, and welfare dependency. Other scholars, however, note that Latino immigrants are a positive force in many cities. For example, Moore and Pinderhughes (1993) assert that immigrant newcomers have revitalized areas, strengthened traditional social controls, and created new community institutions.
The present research examines the relationship between Latino immigration and rates of Latino homicide. Net of other important explanatory and control variables, the goal of this paper is to establish the relationship between the size of urban Latino immigrant populations and the frequency of specific types of Latino homicide victimization.
Urban Homicide Research. Studies on causes of overall homicide proliferated during the 1980s (Parker, 1989; Sampson, 1987). Especially influential was the largely contradictory work of Braithwaite (1979) and Blau and Blau (1982). Braithwaite (1979) examined 175 American cities and concluded that economic inequality between Whites and Blacks, net of other factors, did not contribute to increases in homicide rates. However, Blau and Blau (1982) examined homicides in the nation's 125 largest metropolitan areas and reported that economic inequality between races did increase the rate of homicide.
Although subsequent research since Braithwaite and Blau and BIau has also yielded conflicting results (see Peterson and Krivo, 1993; Shihadeh and Steffensmeier, 1994), the findings of the Blaus and Braithwaite help illustrate the potential relevance of inequality to the immigration experience of Latinos. Inequality proponents suggest that the lack of economic resources among ethnic minority groups is a prominent feature of an urban structure characterized by low income and high poverty (Parker and McCall, 1997). One central component of this argument is that inequality increases feelings of frustration and ultimately provokes violence, especially among minority groups (Blau and Blau, 1982; Shihadeh and Steffensmeier, 1994). For Latinos, economically disadvantaged immigrants anchor the lower income level of an already impoverished population and increase deprivation. Therefore, areas with large numbers of immigrant Latinos should be characterized by high rates of violence.
Common to virtually all of the inequality and violence research has been a ocus on total homicide rates. What has been largely ignored, therefore, is race- and ethnic-specific homicide rates (see Land, McCall, and Cohen, 1990; Parker, 1989). Further the limited research on race- and ethnic-specific homicide suggests that the focus on total homicide rates almost certainly masks important race and ethnic differences in the causal factors linked with homicide (Peterson and Krivo, 1993; Sampson, 1987). Recent work by Shihadeh and Steffensmeier (1994) points out that using aggregate measures of inequality and violent crime, in place of race-specific measures, could lead to spurious results in aggregate analysis based on totals for all race and ethnic groups.
Also ignored in most previous research is the relationship between homicide violators and victims. While work has long demonstrated the need to classify homicides based on the link between victim and offender (Parker and Smith, 1979), few scholars have attempted to address this issue in race and ethnic homicide research (see Peterson and Krivo, 1993). If, as Parker (1989:987-89) notes, determinants of homicide vary by types of killings, extending understanding of race and ethnic homicides must also take the link between victim and offender into account.
Immigration and Homicide. The thesis that immigration is linked with crime was established by the research of Shaw and McKay (1931, 1969). They reported that urban neighborhoods with high concentrations of foreign-born families (and African American families), were also places with the highest rates of urban juvenile crime. Shaw and McKay also argued that areas close to downtown were continuously populated by successive waves of recent immigrants. The result of this influx was a host of social problems, ranging from infant mortality to crime (for more recent work in the same tradition, see Bursik and Grasmick, 1993). …