The Refugee Wave to Germany and its Impact on Crime

Fabian T. Dehos

Ruhr Economic Papers, No. 737, December 2017


This paper provides empirical evidence on the crime impacts of the recent refugee influx to Germany from 2010 to 2015. The author considers asylum seekers and recognized refugees separately, since asylum seekers are subject to dispersal policies and locational restrictions, while recognized refugees can freely choose where they want to live. Additionally, the literature suggests that asylum seekers and refugees may face different incentives to engage in crime due to different expected benefits, sanctions and legal options. The author finds that asylum seekers have no impact on crime except for migration specific offenses (i.e. violations against the residence act, the asylum procedure act or the law on free movement). For recognized refugees, who may endogenously choose their location, the author uses a shift-share instrument and finds a positive association between the share of recognized refugees and local crime, driven by non-violent property crimes and frauds. The author postulates that the different results for asylum seekers and recognized refugees are explained by a subset of recognized refugees (“compliers”) whose choice of location is based on the presence of communities from the same country of origin. Earlier studies suggest that ethnic networks tend to attract low-skilled migrants and, according to the Becker model, lower educational attainment has a crime enhancing impact because it translates into inferior labor market characteristics and poorer legitimate earning opportunities. The author does not detect interactions with preexisting ethnic networks, nor an indirect crime response of German residents.