Study: Undocumented immigrants don’t tank home prices

by Timothy Inklebarger

A new study released by the online listing service Clever Real Estate challenges the notion that illegal immigration leads to increased crime and lower home values.

Indeed, it seems the opposite is true, according to Clever Real Estate research associate Francesca Ortegren, who notes that immigrants – undocumented or not – each account for a 14-cent increase in metro area home values.

The study, which analyzes data from the Pew Research Center, the U.S. Department of Justice and Department of Homeland Security, is based on information collected in 2007 and 2016. The data shows that crime rates are not significantly affected by undocumented immigrants. In fact, while residents without official legal status commit crimes at the same rate as the national average, legal immigrants are 91 percent less likely to commit crimes that those born in the country, according to the report.

Ortegren noted that there are many reasons for a correlation between economic growth and an influx of immigrants. “A reason for the relationship is difficult to pin down. Additional immigrants may simply increase the demand for housing, which in turn increases prices,” she said, noting that foreign-born citizens are just as likely to own a home as natives. “It’s also possible that the increase in home prices is a reflection of larger economic changes in areas that have an influx of immigrants. If this is the case, immigrants could have a direct impact on the local economy or booming economies might attract immigrants.”

In Atlanta, the number of undocumented immigrants living in the city decreased by 16 percent, similar to the national decrease of 18 percent, while the documented population decreased by 2 percent. During that same period, home values in Atlanta decreased by 7 percent.

From 2007 to 2016, the murder rate in Atlanta decreased by 22 percent; rape increased 19 percent; robbery decreased by 38 percent; overall property crimes decreased 22 percent; burglary dropped 42 percent; and larceny decreased 10 percent.

Of course, since the study period started at the beginning of the housing crisis, a downturn in real estate prices and the number of immigrants may not seem that surprising. However, the opposite trend was seen in other cities, such as Boston. In that city, undocumented immigrants increased by 8 percent, while the authorized population decreased by 7 percent. During that same period, home values in Boston increased 10 percent.