The Faster, the Better? Speed of Naturalisation and Socio-Economic Integration of Immigrants in Europe

Wednesday, June 26, 2013
2.22 (Binnengasthuis)
Tijana Prokic-Breuer , Maastricht University
Citizenship acquisition is often seen as a crucial step in the process of immigrant integration in migrant receiving societies. The relationship between naturalization and immigrants’ socio-economic integration, in particular at employment and occupational status, has received abundant attention in the scholarly literature, also in Europe. The general conclusion from that body of literature is that citizenship matters and positively relates to labour market participation and occupation status.

One of these crucial aspects, that have not yet been studied, is whether it matters how long it takes for immigrants to naturalize. In Europe, where citizenship acquisition is traditionally not seen as an inherent part of the immigration process, as opposed how this is viewed in classic migration settler states. While currently naturalization has received more public attention in Europe and generally has become more accessible, we also observe that state introduce additional requirements, such as language requirements and knowledge of society tests. Such additional requirements may serve as an obstacle to citizenship acquisition and therefore potentially deter immigrants from naturalization or, at the minimum, postpone their moment of acquiring citizenship. However, these additional requirements might also increase to need of a higher level of integration in the destination countries and therefore indirectly increase their socio-economic integration.

This paper explores the question whether the ‘speed of naturalization’ actually matters, in terms of the labour market participation. The answer is not self-evident. While on the one hand one might assume that the quicker immigrants naturalize, the quicker they are able to capitalize on the ‘citizenship bonus’ for the following socio-economic integration. This hypothesis would imply that the level of socio-economic integration is higher among those who have been naturalized early. We term this ‘the faster, the better’ hypothesis.

On the other hand, however, one could assume that only immigrants who have lived longer in their destination countries can capitalize on this ‘citizenship bonus’ for their socio-economic integration. Another mechanism might be that immigrants in destination countries with a more difficult naturalization process will invest more in their integration process in order to obtain this ‘citizenship bonus’. Both mechanisms imply that immigrants who naturalized late (more than 10 years after arrival) have a higher socio-economic integration.  We term this the ‘not so fast’ hypothesis.

Our analyses has a strong comparative perspective (covering 25 European states), as we will examine if the role of citizenship differs: 1) across European countries of destination, 2) across immigrant groups from different regions of origin countries and 3) across arrival cohorts of immigrants (1981 until 2001). We use data from the Labour Force Survey ad hoc module 2008 on the labour market situation of migrants and their descendants.

  • Prokic Dronkers Vink male employment-4.pdf (432.3 kB)