Determinants of Refugee Naturalization in the United States: 2000–2015

Nadwa Mossaad , U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS)
Jeremy Ferwerda, IPL
Duncan Lawrence, IPL
Jeremy Weinstein, IPL
Jens Hainmueller, IPL

The U.S. operates the world’s largest refugee resettlement program. However, there is no systematic evidence on whether refugees successfully integrate into American society over the long run. We address this gap by drawing on linked administrative data to directly measure a key long-term integration outcome: naturalization. Assessing the population of refugees resettled between 2000-2010, we find that refugees naturalize at high rates: 65% achieved citizenship by 2015. We also find significant heterogeneity in naturalization rates. Refugees with longer residency, higher education levels, and those from Iran, Iraq, and Somalia naturalize at elevated rates. We also find naturalization success is significantly shaped by the initial resettlement location. Placing refugees in areas that are urban, have lower rates of unemployment, and a larger share of co-nationals increases the likelihood of acquiring citizenship. These findings suggest important pathways to promote refugee integration by targeting interventions and by optimizing the geographic placement of refugees.

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 Presented in Session 30. Forced Migration