For low-income immigrants, the path to U.S. citizenship can be full of obstacles, starting with high cost of applying. A federal fee waiver program allows some of them to apply for free, yet their application rates remain low. IPL researchers found that providing them with information at an opportune moment can make a big difference in encouraging them to apply.
How well are immigrants integrating in the United States? Are they doing better or worse than in Germany or France? Under what conditions have immigrants most successfully integrated into their host societies? Despite great advances in social science, the answers to these important questions remain contested. IPL is working to support solutions through a new immigrant integration index.
Many countries require asylum seekers to wait for months or years before entering the local labor market. How does this period of forced unemployment affect their ability to integrate later on? A natural experiment in Germany reveals that asylum seekers who face longer wait times are less likely to be employed, even after a decade in the country.
Countries receiving refugees could pave the way for integration by sending them to the place where it would be easiest for them to find employment. Using historical data from the United States and Switzerland, IPL designed an algorithm that matches refugees to their optimal city or town. It’s a policy innovation that could be easily implemented anywhere in the world and at virtually no cost.
Gaining citizenship can bring profound, lifelong benefits, but this door to opportunity remains closed to many low-income immigrants. What forms of assistance and encouragement lift the barriers to naturalization? To find out, we’ve partnered with local government in developing an innovative program offering vouchers and other incentives to citizenship-eligible residents of New York, home to the nation’s second-largest immigrant population.
In a classic immigration debate, one side argues that citizenship should be a reward for integration, available only after many years of residency; the other says it makes immigrants more likely to integrate and should happen soon after they arrive. Three decades of data from Switzerland, IPL researchers found, strongly support the second camp. The earlier one receives citizenship, the greater the benefits for both the immigrant and society—especially for the most marginalized groups.