There are 8.8 million immigrants in the United States who are eligible to become citizens through naturalization. Fewer than 10 percent of that group go through the process each year, even though, according to a new study, naturalization economically benefits both the immigrants themselves and the cities they choose to settle in.
The research, provided to Quartz by the New York City mayor’s office as an English-language exclusive (its results were also published by Spanish-language publication El Diario), reveals that cities can reduce their spending by encouraging immigrants to apply for citizenship.
“Immigrants represent a major source of economic power for the United States, and our collective economic wellbeing depends in large part on successful integration of immigrants,” Nisha Agarwal, the commissioner of the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs, told Quartz in an email.
The study, which was commissioned by the city and published by the Urban Institute in conjunction with Citibank’s Citi Community Development program, estimates that 23 percent of the foreign population it studied in 21 big U.S. cities is eligible for naturalization. Using econometric models and simulations, the researchers established that when immigrants become citizens, their earnings increase by an average of 8.9 percent, or $3,200. After naturalization, the immigrants’ employment rate would rise 2.2 percentage points, and they would be more than 6 percentage points more likely to buy a home, which translates to 45,000 new homeowners in the cities studied. Revenue from federal, state, and city income tax, as well as from federal payroll tax, would yield an additional $2 billion.