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Catalyst or Crown: Does Naturalization Promote the Long-Term Social Integration of Immigrants?


We study the impact of naturalization on the long-term social integration of immigrants into the host country society. Despite ongoing debates about citizenship policy, we lack reliable evidence that isolates the causal effect of naturalization from the nonrandom selection into naturalization. We exploit the quasi-random assignment of citizenship in Swiss municipalities that used referendums to decide on naturalization applications of immigrants. Comparing otherwise similar immigrants who narrowly won or lost their naturalization referendums, we find that receiving Swiss citizenship strongly improved long-term social integration. We also find that the integration returns to naturalization are larger for more marginalized immigrant groups and when naturalization occurs earlier, rather than later in the residency period. Overall, our findings support the policy paradigm arguing that naturalization is a catalyst for improving the social integration of immigrants rather than merely the crown on the completed integration process.

Corresponding author
Jens Hainmueller is Professor, Department of Political Science and Graduate School of Business, Stanford University, 616 Serra Street, Stanford, CA 94305, and Immigration Policy Lab, Stanford University, 616 Serra Street, Stanford, CA 94305, and University of Zurich, Affolternstrasse 56, 8050 Zurich (
Dominik Hangartner is Associate Professor, Department of Government, London School of Economics, Houghton Street, London WC2A 2AE, and Faculty Co-Director, Immigration Policy Lab, Stanford University, 616 Serra Street, Stanford, CA 94305, and University of Zurich, Affolternstrasse 56, 8050 Zurich (
Giuseppe Pietrantuono is Postdoc, Immigration Policy Lab, Stanford University, 616 Serra Street, Stanford, CA 94305, and University of Zurich, Affolternstrasse 56, 8050 Zurich (
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Funding for this research was generously provided by Swiss National Science Grant No. 100017_143534 and the Ford Foundation generously provided operational support for the Immigration Policy Lab. We thank Murat Aktas, Dejan Balaban, and Selina Kurer for excellent research assistance, Marc Helbing, David Laitin, and Duncan Lawrence for helpful comments, and our respondents for answering our survey. The usual disclaimer applies.

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