Paths to Citizenship: Using Data to Understand and Promote Naturalization

Thai V. Le, Manuel Pastor, Justin Scoggins, Dalia Gonzalez, Blanca Ramirez
Date of Publication: 
January, 2019
Source Organization: 
University of Southern California

In Paths to Citizenship, the authors offer a data-driven approach to encouraging naturalization. Understanding the characteristics most associated with naturalized citizens can aid public and private organizations to best direct resources in ways to boost naturalization rates. The authors utilize data from the 2012-2016 American Community Survey and the 2014 Survey of Income and Program Participation to generate estimates of who is eligible and who is likely to naturalize. Results indicate that the strongest predictors of naturalization are English fluency and educational attainment (adults with high levels of fluency and education are more likely to naturalize than those without). An inhibiting factor is membership in a mixed status family (an otherwise eligible person is less likely to naturalize if a family member is undocumented). The authors find that providing language instruction and education are two ways in which to encourage naturalization, as is ensuring immigrants of their safety and security. Place-based characteristics, such as red state/blue state voting patterns, state unemployment rates, and ethnicity, also play an important role in determining naturalization rates. The authors also assign low, medium, and high probabilities of naturalization to individuals displaying a range of demographic characteristics. The report highlights the naturalization services of organizations across the country and offers a helpful interactive mapping tool that identifies how eligible adults with different probabilities of naturalization are geographically distributed at state, congressional and local levels. The question of encouraging naturalization in immigrant communities does not have a one-size-fits-all answer, but the analysis and recommendations offered in this work can help target efforts and resources to best encourage naturalization. (Sam Jones for The Immigrant Learning Center's Public Education Institute)

Download now or view online


Le, T., Pastor, M.,  Scoggins, J., Gonzalez, D., & Ramirez, B. (2019). Paths to Citizenship: Using Data to Understand and Promote Naturalization. Los Angeles, CA: USC Dornsife Center for the Study of Immigrant Integration. Retrieved from