New Report Looks at Immigrant Integration

Detroit Citizenship Ceremony 2The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine recently released a book-length report in which they look at immigrant integration in the U.S. The report, “The Integration of Immigrants into American Society,” contains interesting discussion and mixed news on naturalization.

The good news is that, in recent years, the level of citizenship acquisition rose. In 2002, 50 percent of eligible immigrants naturalized. By 2012, the proportion rose to 58 percent.

On the other hand, the report notes, the proportion of immigrants who have become citizens in the U.S. is lower than in some other immigrant-receiving countries. The level of citizenship among working-age immigrants who have lived in the U.S. 10 years or longer is 50 percent, compared with 61 percent on average among the 15 Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries.

Adjusting the statistic to exclude undocumented immigrants put the U.S. slightly above average, but still far below some countries. In Canada, 89 percent of immigrants residing 10 years or longer had become citizens. In Sweden, the figure is 82 percent; in Australia, 81 percent; and in the Netherlands, 78 percent.

While it is encouraging that naturalization rates have been going up, the report highlights a troubling trend regarding who is naturalizing. The report notes that the overall trend hides a “deepening divide” in the path to citizenship. Poorer, less educated immigrants are less likely to be citizens compared to their proportion of the eligible population, while immigrants with more education and means have become citizens at a higher rate than their proportion of the eligible population would indicate.

There is some evidence, the report says, that in the U.S. the probability that immigrants with low levels of education acquire citizenship has been going down in recent years. The same trend is not evident in Canada, according to the report.

Outside these demographic factors, however, the level of naturalization is still modest, compared to the percentage who, when asked, say they would like to become citizens. The research panel believes that the reasons so many immigrants fail to naturalize still has not been satisfactorily explained:

“Overall, moderate levels of naturalization in the United States appear to stem not from immigrants’ lack of interest or even primarily from the bureaucratic process of applying for citizenship. Instead the obstacle to naturalization lies somewhere in the process by which individuals translate their motivation to naturalize into action, and research has so far failed to clearly identify this obstacle.”

Translating this motivation into action is, of course, part of what the New Americans Campaign is about.

Stay tuned for more analysis of the National Academy of Sciences report.

Posted on October 7, 2015

Our Impact

  • The Campaign has completed over 3,700 naturalization workshops and clinics.
  • Over 250,000 citizenship applications completed since July 2011.

    Saved aspiring citizens and their families over $206million in legal and application fees.
  • Adopted scalable technology. MP3 players, Google Voice, and Virtual Private Network (VPN) services are being used to enhance naturalization service delivery.
  • Expanded New American Workforce (an effort to provide naturalization assistance within corporations) which has partnered with over 100 businesses across the nation, ranging from hotels in Miami to American Apparel in Los Angeles.
  • Deployed Citizenshipworks, an online tool, across the Campaign in multiple settings and languages. A newly redesigned platform guides applicants through through their citizenship application from start to finish and connects applicants to legal help at partnering non-profits.
  • Were instrumental in inspiring the US Citizenship and Immigration Service to support the Citizenship Corners initiative.
  • Created innovative partnerships with public libraries, school districts, universities, social service agencies, and employers, all of which yield not only greater numbers of applicants but also greater awareness of the naturalization process.
  • Deployed a large-scale volunteer recruitment program through an e-learning course.

    Reached diverse communities. Local partners consistently outreach and provide culturally competent and language-appropriate services.
Learn more from our
Impact Report.

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Who We're Helping

People come to America from all over the world with dreams of achieving a better life for themselves and their families and calling this great nation home. Eight million people who live, work, and pay taxes in this country are eligible for citizenship, yet only about eight percent of them naturalize each year. Find out more about these individuals and the barriers they face.Read More