Speaking the Same Language? English Language Fluency and Violent Crime at the Neighborhood Level

Feodor A. Gostjev, Amie L. Nielsen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


In this article, we seek to extend knowledge of the relationship between immigration and crime. We synthesize existing theories and literatures and argue that one largely overlooked aspect of immigration—language use—may play critical roles in how and why immigration is related to macro-level violence rates. Specifically, there are theoretical reasons to expect that levels of lack of English fluency and of bilinguals in neighborhoods will be associated with violent crime rates. We test these relationships using data from the National Neighborhood Crime Study (NNCS). The multivariate results reveal that lack of English fluency has a nonlinear relationship with homicide and robbery, such that when lack of fluency is low, crime rates increase, but the positive effect diminishes as English nonfluent individuals come to represent a greater proportion of neighborhood population. In addition, levels of bilingualism moderate the effects of lack of English-language fluency for homicide but less so for robbery. This finding applies to the total sample as well as in traditional immigrant destinations, but not in new destinations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)111-139
Number of pages29
JournalSociological Quarterly
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2 2017


  • Community
  • crime
  • immigration
  • law and deviance
  • urban sociology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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