Citizenship Increases the Long-Term Earnings of Marginalized Immigrants

Jens Hainmueller | Dominik Hangartner | Dalston Ward
2019

We provide evidence that citizenship catalyzes the long-term economic integration of immigrants. Despite the relevance of citizenship policy to immigrant integration, we lack a reliable understanding of the economic consequences of acquiring citizenship. To overcome non-random selection into naturalization, we exploit the quasi-random assignment of citizenship in Swiss municipalities that held referendums to decide the outcome of individual naturalization applications. Our data combines individual-level referendum results with over 30 years of detailed social security records from the Swiss authorities. This allows us to compare the long-term earnings of otherwise similar immigrants who barely won or lost their referendum. We find that winning Swiss citizenship in the referendum increased annual earnings by an average of approximately 5,000 U.S. dollars over the subsequent 15 years. This effect is concentrated among more marginalized immigrants.