February 11, 2015

Better access to citizenship improves economic success of immigrants

Better access to citizenship improves economic success of immigrants

Studies show that naturalization and citizenship can:

  • reduce unemployment rates and boost wages for migrants
  • increase tax revenue and reduce social spending in host countries
  • significantly improve opportunities for female immigrants and immigrants from  poorer countries

Across Europe, many countries struggle with the challenge of integrating immigrants into the labor market. Recent immigrants are more likely to be unemployed and often earn less than native workers.

However, a new article by Christina Gathmann for IZA World of Labor shows that integration policies can successfully counter this. Many studies demonstrate how modernizing citizenship laws can improve labor market prospects for immigrants.


Countries that allow naturalization sooner, like Germany, document higher wages and more stable employment for immigrants. These workers also stand a higher chance of working in better-paid occupations and industries, while wage growth is particularly strong amongst immigrants from poorer countries.

In Germany, women and more recent immigrants, who are often particularly disadvantaged if they are not granted citizenship, see more economic benefit than men and migrants who have been resident for a longer time.

Furthermore, it’s not just the migrants who benefit: host countries benefit from increased tax revenue and reduced social spending, leading to greater social cohesion.

Though this is not the case for all countries, relaxing citizenship regulations can play a key role in improving the economic integration of migrant populations. However, these success stories may be somewhat “self-selecting”: while in many cases acquiring citizenship is the key to improving the likelihood of success in the labor market, better-integrated migrants are often more prepared to consider citizenship.  For these workers, a new passport will not be their first step towards a successful working life.

Naturalization and citizenship by Christina Gathmann is published by IZA World of Labor

11th February 2015.  http://wol.iza.org/naturalization-and-citizenship-who-benefits


Christina Gathmann is a Professor in Labor Economics and Political Economy at the Alfred Weber Institute – University of Heidelberg (Germany).  After having obtained her Ph.D. from the University of Chicago in 2004, she moved on to become a Postdoctoral Fellow at Stanford University and a National Fellow at the Hoover Institution.  She joined IZA as a Research Affiliate in 2003, and became a Research Fellow in 2008.