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The Naturalization of U.S. Immigrants: Why Citizenship Rates Differ by State


  • Tamara M. Woroby

    (Department of Economics, Towson University)

  • Melissa A. Osborne Groves

    (Department of Economics, Towson University)


This 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 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. Unique to the literature, 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 become fuller participants in U.S. society.

Suggested Citation

  • Tamara M. Woroby & Melissa A. Osborne Groves, 2015. "The Naturalization of U.S. Immigrants: Why Citizenship Rates Differ by State," Working Papers 2015-03, Towson University, Department of Economics, revised Oct 2015.
  • Handle: RePEc:tow:wpaper:2015-03

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Chiswick, Barry R, 1978. "The Effect of Americanization on the Earnings of Foreign-born Men," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 86(5), pages 897-921, October.
    2. Bernt Bratsberg & James F. Ragan & Zafar M. Nasir, 2002. "The Effect of Naturalization on Wage Growth: A Panel Study of Young Male Immigrants," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 20(3), pages 568-597, July.
    3. Nathan J. Ashby, 2007. "Economic Freedom and Migration Flows between U.S. States," Southern Economic Journal, John Wiley & Sons, vol. 73(3), pages 677-697, January.
    4. Peridy Nicolas J, 2006. "Welfare Magnets, Border Effects or Policy Regulations: What Determinants Drive Migration Flows into the EU?," Global Economy Journal, De Gruyter, vol. 6(4), pages 1-34, November.
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    More about this item


    Mexican Immigration; Citizenship; Naturalization.;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • J61 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers - - - Geographic Labor Mobility; Immigrant Workers

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    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:


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