Naturalization fosters the long-term political integration of immigrants
Does naturalization cause better political integration of immigrants into the host society? Despite heated debates about citizenship policy, there exists almost no evidence that isolates the independent effect of naturalization from the nonrandom selection into naturalization. We provide new evidence from a natural experiment in Switzerland, where some municipalities used referendums as the mechanism to decide naturalization requests. Balance checks suggest that for close naturalization referendums, which are decided by just a few votes, the naturalization decision is as good as random, so that narrowly rejected and narrowly approved immigrant applicants are similar on all confounding characteristics. This allows us to remove selection effects and obtain unbiased estimates of the long-term impacts of citizenship. Our study shows that for the immigrants who faced close referendums, naturalization considerably improved their political integration, including increases in formal political participation, political knowledge, and political efficacy.