Catalyst or Crown: Does Naturalization Promote the Long-Term Social Integration of Immigrants?
by Jens Hainmueller, Stanford University, Dominik Hangartner, London School of Economics and University of Zurich, and Giuseppe Pietrantuono, University of Zurich
Successful integration of immigrants is an urgent and fundamental policy challenge for countries in Europe and the Americas, given large increases in the size and diversity of their immigrant populations. This study examines the impact of naturalization on the long-term social integration of immigrants into the host country society. Despite ongoing debates about citizenship policy, we lack reliable evidence that isolates the causal effect of citizenship from the nonrandom selection into naturalization. We leverage the quasi-random assignment of citizenship in Swiss municipalities that used referendums to decide on naturalization applications of immigrants. Comparing otherwise similar immigrants who narrowly won or lost their naturalization referendums, we find that receiving Swiss citizenship strongly improved long-term social integration. We also find that the positive effects of naturalization are larger for more marginalized immigrant groups and when naturalization occurs earlier, rather than later in the residency period. Overall, our findings support the policy paradigm arguing that naturalization is a catalyst for improving the social integration of immigrants rather than merely the crown on the completed integration process.
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