Determinants of Naturalization: The Role of Dual Citizenship Laws (Working Paper #117)

Francesca Mazzolari, University of California – San Diego

Abstract: Dual citizenship is now tolerated under U.S. law and practice. As the granting of dual nationality by sending countries has spread, however, the relationship between dual citizenship and immigrant integration has emerged as an issue of debate. This paper explores whether or not recognition of dual nationality by sending countries positively a¤ects the U.S. naturalization rate of immigrants from those countries. The empirical analysis draws on data from the 1990 and 2000 U.S. Censuses and examines immigrants from the countries of Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Costa Rica and Mexico, all of which changed their laws to permit dual citizenship in the 1990s. A utility maximizing framework predicts that, everything else being equal, immigrants coming from a country that has recently allowed dual citizenship should be more likely to naturalize because of the decrease in a major cost of naturalization, speci…cally the need to forfeit rights in the country of origin. The analysis shows that older cohorts of immigrants from five of the six Latin American countries that have changed the law averaged higher naturalization rates in 2000 compared to other countries. Evidence for more recent immigrants is mixed and appears to be related to the rate of illegal immigration by the origin country.

Working Paper #117»