Project Category: New Citizens

Social media companies are keenly focused on ridding their platforms of hateful speech and harassment. But content moderation can only capture a small fraction of it, and automatic filters can risk censoring ordinary users. Another approach is to counter these messages with opposing points. IPL researchers tested various kinds of counterspeech on Twitter, and they found that messages invoking empathy worked better than any other—they led authors of hate speech to discontinue their posts and even delete old ones.
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Plenty of media coverage and policymaking in the West has focused on African migration to Europe, fueling a widespread perception that Europe is the destination of choice for Africans seeking economic opportunity. But the reality differs widely from this narrative, according to an IPL analysis of data collected at transit hubs across West and Central Africa. Only a small share of migrants surveyed want to reach Europe, and their motivations are complex.
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Immigration Policy Lab researchers at ETH Zurich leveraged big data from recruitment platforms and machine learning to study discrimination in hiring. After analyzing anonymized data on recruiter decision-making and which candidates were contacted, they showed that immigrant job seekers were 6.5 percent less likely to be contacted as compared with Swiss job seekers with otherwise identical characteristics.
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Two immigrants apply for citizenship, and one is narrowly approved while the other just barely misses out. How does this chance decision affect their lives more than a decade later? According to IPL research, the immigrant who became a citizen is likely to earn more money than the one who remained a permanent resident. And for immigrants who work in lower-skill jobs or who face discrimination in the job market, citizenship delivers an even bigger boost to their earnings over the long term.
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The United States has seen a rise in political rhetoric and federal policy based on the “welfare magnet” idea that immigrants pose a fiscal challenge to social safety net programs, especially publicly funded health coverage. But is there any evidence of this? IPL studied the state-by-state expansion of Medicaid to include recently arrived immigrants, and the results suggest that immigrants don’t strategically move to other states to claim these benefits.
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Public benefits often come with complicated eligibility requirements and application processes, which end up deterring the people who need them most. A federal fee waiver program allows low-income immigrants to apply for citizenship at no cost, but it's surprisingly underused. When USCIS streamlined the process to request a fee waiver, naturalization rates rose among people who usually face the greatest barriers to citizenship.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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