Rational Choice Theory and The Effects of Illegal Immigrants on Crime

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About this sample


Words: 1134 |

Pages: 2|

6 min read

Published: Apr 11, 2022

Words: 1134|Pages: 2|6 min read

Published: Apr 11, 2022

The rational choice hypothesis is portrayed as the conviction that guilty criminals take an interest in illegal behaviors with information on the law and plausibility of apprehension. They measure the favorable circumstances and inconveniences before they participate in criminal conduct and if they feel that they can viably partake in illegal behaviors without being caught, at that point they will settle on the decision to carry out the crime. Within this theory is the deterrence theory which is the thought that a person will not commit a crime if they are afraid of the consequences, but this can only be effective if the punishment is swift, certain, and has enough severity. This theory can be used to explain why there is not significant connection between crime rates and illegal immigrants in the United States. It can be assumed that these undocumented citizens do not get involved with crimes because of the fear of certain deportation.

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Before the start of the classical school of thought, those who studied crime believed that demonic possessions and witchery were the reasons for crime and deviant behavior. The punishments for those accused of demonic possessions or witchery was trail by ordeal. They would be asked to publicly prove their innocence by participating in a harmful act and expecting God to intervene if they are in fact innocent. If God did not intervene then they were considered guilty and would be punished by death. They believed they had to use these forms of punishment for the good of their society. Although after the introduction of classical criminology, those ideas that crime was fueled by demonic and satanic beings died down and free will and rational thinking began to become the main explanations for crime. The advocates for the classical school of thought in criminology were Cesare Beccaria and Jeremy Bentham. Beccaria believed that using punishment was acceptable in the justice system if it had a deterrent effect; Bentham thought that if the punishment was swift, certain, and severe enough, that it would deter people from committing crimes. These thoughts make up the rational choice theory. The rational choice theory is described as the belief that guilty parties participate in wrongdoings with knowledge of the law and possibility of discipline. They gauge the advantages and disadvantages before they take part in criminal behavior. In the event that they feel that they can effectively take part in wrongdoings without being caught, then they will make the choice to commit the crime. Within the rational theory is the deterrence theory. Deterrence theory is the thought that sureness of discipline or knowing that apprehension is highly likely will deter crime. For deterrence to be effective the criminal must be punished in a timely manner after being caught and there has to be certainty that this punishment will be happening. If the punishment is not severe enough, it will not deter criminals but punishments that are too severe, like the ones earlier described from the Middle Ages, are unreasonable; there has to be a happy medium (Hobbes). The classical theorist moved away from torture as a punishment for crime or as a way to obtain confessions but found the death penalty was acceptable for serious crimes and creates deterrence (Hobbes). There are two types of deterrence, referred to as general and specific. General deterrence is meant to stop people from possibly participating in crimes and specific deterrence is meant to keep previously punished offenders from committing crimes again.  In this paper, I will research the connection between illegal immigrants and the rational choice theory.

After everything we hear and read in the news, many people would assume that illegal immigrants coming to the United States would cause a rise in the crime rate. But something like this is hard to prove or disprove because there is little research done on undocumented immigrants because the situation makes it hard to obtain data. Although, Pew Research Center, as of late, have gathered and released appraisals of undocumented immigrant population arranged by metro region, which The Marshall Project, and only journalism site, has contrasted with neighborhood crime rates distributed by the FBI. In this study, journalist from The Marshall Project had the chance to uncover the connection between crime rates and undocumented immigrants since 2007. It was found that the violent crime rate decreased from 2007 to 2016 regardless of the rise of undocumented immigrants in the that area. Territories with progressively unapproved immigration seemed to have bigger drops in crime rates, despite the fact that the difference was little and unsure. They divided the general violent and property crimes into larceny, murder, burglary, and robbery. Even after getting specific with the types of crimes, there was still no significant connection between the rates of these crimes and the undocumented immigrant population rates. Murder was the main sort of crime that seemed to show an ascent, however once more, the difference had little significance and was uncertain. Another source, the Governing Magazine, detailed that metropolitan regions with progressively undocumented immigrants had comparative paces of violet wrongdoings, and essentially lower paces of property crimes, than regions with littler quantities of such inhabitants in 2014. After taking into account various financial components, the creator of the examination found that for each one percent increment in a territory's populace that was undocumented there were ninety-four less property violations for each one hundred thousand inhabitants. There is no precise number of unapproved migrators living in the United States. To guesstimate, specialists at Pew Research Center subtracted Department of Homeland Security tallies of settlers with legitimate status from the quantity of outside conceived individuals checked by the Census Bureau. Numerous associations and offices, including the Department of Health Services, utilize this estimation strategy. The strategy is commonly viewed as the best one accessible. Starting at 2016, there were an expected 10.7 million undocumented migrants across the country, which is down a million and a half since 2007. More research is in progress about the potential impacts of undocumented immigration population on crimes.

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But why is it that there is no significant connection? For undocumented immigrants, being caught for committing a crime, under any circumstances, would mean certain deportation. Also, the possibility of returning home likely means returning to whatever peril or hardship they'd tried to escape from in the first place. It can be rightfully assumed that illegal immigrants do not involve themselves with crime because of the possibility of being caught and deported. This is a perfect example of deterrence. These immigrants use rational choice to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of committing a crime, and because they found that the disadvantages grossly outweigh the advantages, the chose not to be involved with illegal acts; the certain and severe consequences deferred them from the potential of committing crimes.  


  1. Anderson, J. F. (2002). Criminological Theories: Understanding Crime in America.
  2. Flagg, A. (2019). Is There a Connection Between Undocumented Immigrants and Crime? The Marshall Project.
  3. Hobbes, T. (n.d.). Deterrence Theory. 233-236.
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Rational Choice Theory And The Effects Of Illegal Immigrants On Crime. (2022, April 11). GradesFixer. Retrieved May 21, 2024, from
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