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Charis Elizabeth Kubrin

Professor of Criminology, Law & Society, University of California-Irvine
Chapter Member: Los Angeles Unified SSN
Areas of Expertise:

About Charis

Kubrin's research focuses on neighborhood correlates of crime, with an emphasis on race and violent crime. Recent work in this area examines the immigration-crime nexus across neighborhoods and cities, as well as assesses the impact of criminal justice reform on crime rates. Another line of research explores the intersection of music, culture, and social identity, particularly as it applies to hip hop and minority youth in disadvantaged communities. Kubrin has testified before Congress about her research on criminal justice reform. She has presented her research on the immigration-crime nexus for a special panel of the National Academy of Sciences. She is a frequent media contributor whose writing has been featured in the The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, Forbes, and CNN. She is co-author of two amicus briefs on rap music that were filed with the U.S. Supreme Court and has served as an expert witness and consultant in many criminal cases involving rap music as evidence of alleged underlying criminal activity.

In the News

Opinion: "Decarceration and Crime Do Not Go Hand in Hand," Charis Elizabeth Kubrin (with Bradley J. Bartos), Scientific American, September 14, 2023.
Opinion: "Convicted for Rap Lyrics," Charis Elizabeth Kubrin, Los Angeles Daily Journal, February 14, 2019.
Opinion: "The Myth That Crime Rises as Prisons Shrink," Charis Elizabeth Kubrin (with Bradley J. Bartos), Governing, September 11, 2018.
Opinion: "California Sanctuary Cities Bill is Humane and Effective," Charis Elizabeth Kubrin (with Benjamin Leffel), The Hill, December 15, 2017.
Opinion: "Immigration and Crime: What Does the Research Say?," Charis Elizabeth Kubrin (with Graham C. Ousey, Lesley Reid, and Robert Adelman), The Conversation, February 1, 2017.
Opinion: "Releasing Low-Level Offenders Did not Unleash a Crime Wave in California," Charis Elizabeth Kubrin (with Carroll Seron and Joan Petersilia), Washington Post, March 17, 2016.
Opinion: "Is the Ferguson Effect a Myth?," Charis Elizabeth Kubrin (with Tracy Sohoni), Baltimore Sun, September 10, 2015.
Opinion: "A Potential Censorship or Criminalization of Rap Music," Charis Elizabeth Kubrin, New York Times, December 3, 2014.
Opinion: "Rap Lyrics on Trial," Charis Elizabeth Kubrin (with Erik Nielson), New York Times, January 13, 2014.
Opinion: "Prison Shift Raises Crucial, Unresolved Questions," Charis Elizabeth Kubrin, Orange County Register, April 22, 2013.


"Imagining Violent Criminals: An Experimental Investigation of Music Stereotypes and Character Judgments" (with Adam Dunbar). Journal of Experimental Criminology 14, no. 4 (December 2018): 507-528.

Replicates and extends previous research to address whether negative stereotypes about rap music affect jurors' view of defendants. Finds that writers of violent “rap” lyrics are perceived more negatively than writers who pen identical country and heavy metal lyrics. Finds that songwriter race matters; no differences in judgments were detected between the White and Black songwriters. Finds when race information was not provided, participants who inferred the songwriter was Black judged him more negatively than participants who inferred he was White.

"Can We Downsize Our Prisons and Jails Without Compromising Public Safety?" (with Bradley J. Bartos). Criminology & Public Policy 17, no. 3 (August 2018): 693-715.

Represents the first effort to evaluate systematically Proposition 47’s impact on California’s crime rates. Suggests that Prop 47 had no effect on homicide, rape, aggravated assault, robbery, or burglary. Finds larceny and motor vehicle thefts seem to have increased moderately after Prop 47, but these results were both sensitive to alternative specifications of our synthetic control group and small enough that placebo testing cannot rule out spuriousness.

"Immigration and Crime: Assessing a Contentious Issue" (with Graham C. Ousey). Annual Review of Criminology 1 (January 2018): 63-84.

Uses a narrative review and meta-analysis to address the question of whether immigration and crime are related, in order to build a deeper understanding of the immigration-crime relationship. Finds that, overall, the immigration-crime association is negative—but very weak. Finds significant variation in findings across studies. Notes that design features, including measurement of the dependent variable, units of analysis, temporal design, and locational context, impact the immigration-crime association in varied ways.

"The Threatening Nature of “Rap” Music" (with Adam Dunbar and Nicholas Scurich). Psychology, Public Policy, and Law 22, no. 3 (2016): 280-292.

Notes that rap lyrics have been introduced by prosecutors to establish guilt in criminal trials. Presents 3 experiments that examine the impact of genre-specific stereotypes on the evaluation of violent song lyrics by manipulating the musical genre (rap vs. country) while holding constant the actual lyrics. Detects a main effect for the genre, with rap evaluated more negatively than country or a control condition with no label. Finds no effect of the lyrics’ author.

"Secure or Insecure Communities?" Criminology & Public Policy 13, no. 2 (May 2014): 323-338.

Examines the Secure Communities initiative, which provides a system that automatically transmits and checks fingerprints against the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Automated Biometric Identification System (IDENT), which contains information on known immigration violators, known and suspected terrorists, and “criminal aliens,” among others. Identifies 7 reasons why the U.S. should abandon the the Secure Communities Program.