Punitiveness and Perceptions of Criminality: An Examination of Attitudes Toward Immigrant Offenders

Michael T Costelloe, Madeline Stenger, Christine Arazan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


This study examines the effect of the residency status (undocumented immigrant, refugee, or U.S. citizen) and the country of origin-ethnicity of an offender on perceptions of criminality and on the level of punitiveness expressed by a random sample of college seniors attending a southwestern university. A factorial survey design was administered asking respondents to apply a punishment (incarceration or no incarceration) and to rate the level of criminality of a hypothetical offender. Results showed that while there were no differences in perceptions of the degree of criminality across the various offenders, there was significant variation in the severity of punishments meted out by the respondent based on offender country of origin-ethnicity. Moreover, an interaction effect was discovered, whereby the effect of residency status on punitiveness was dependent on the country of origin-ethnicity of the offender. It appears, then, that punitiveness is not uniformly directed toward all immigrants but is reserved for ethnic “others.”

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)363-383
Number of pages21
JournalRace and Justice
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2021


  • country of origin
  • ethnicity
  • factorial survey
  • punitive attitudes
  • residency status

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anthropology
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Law


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