The Naturalization of U.S. Immigrants: Why Citizenship Rates Differ by State
Keywords:Citizenship rates, Mexican immigrants, Naturalization, U.S. immigration, Undocumented immigration.
AbstractThis paper investigates the extent to which the geographic region in which an immigrant resides influences the propensity to naturalize, by specifically analyzing the variation in U.S. immigrant citizenship rates across states. By merging Census data with other forms of publically available state level data, we are able to better understand why state naturalization rates in the U.S. vary so dramatically, from a low of about 30% to a high of almost 60%. We utilize composite variables in a simple OLS framework to maximize sample size and test to ensure our estimates are unbiased and valid for statistical inference. We find that while applying for citizenship is an individual decision, both institutional and group variables influence this decision. Consistent with prior research, our results indicate that a more favorable economic environment is correlated with higher naturalization rates and that the clustering of Mexicans discourages naturalization. Our results also indicate that states that are more socially and politically welcoming to immigrants have statistically higher rates of naturalization, and that there are no significant negative effects on naturalization rates in states with larger numbers of undocumented immigrants. Our research contributes to the growing body of literature on naturalization decisions and supports the proposition that attitudes towards immigrants, be they authorized or undocumented, influence the extent to which the foreign born will choose to become fuller participants in U.S. society.
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