How Cities Benefit from Citizenship

At the National Immigrant Integration Conference that took place last month, the New York City Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs released a new report that it commissioned on the benefits of naturalization to cities. The report reinforces previous research done by the Center for the Study of Immigrant Integration at the University of Southern California, which found that the additional earnings new citizens would experience after naturalizing would add billions of dollars over 10 years to the local economies of New York, Los Angeles and Chicago, and generate hundreds of millions of dollars in additional tax revenues. (We wrote about that report here.)

The December 2015 report, The Economic Impact of Naturalization on Immigrants and Cities, calculates the economic benefits of naturalization on naturalized immigrants and on the economies of 21 cities. The researchers estimated that 23 percent of the foreign-born population in these 21 cities is eligible to naturalize, and if all of the eligible naturalized, immigrant earnings in the 21 cities would increase by $5.7 billion, tax revenues would increase by more than $2 billion and homeownership would increase by 45,000.

The new report looks in more detail at San Francisco and New York to examine what is likely to happen to government benefits programs if eligible immigrants were to naturalize.

The report calculates an increase of 8.9 percent in earnings, on average, for immigrants who naturalize. The increased earnings lead to higher tax payments and lower reliance on public benefits.

For New York City, the researchers calculated that if all eligible immigrants naturalized there would be an increase in tax revenues of $789 million, which, along with a decrease in benefits use, would yield a net benefit to New York of $823 million.

For San Francisco, the picture is somewhat different. Tax revenues would increase, but so would total government expenditures. Nonetheless, the projected tax revenues increase of $90 million would translate into a net benefit of $86 million for San Francisco.

The calculations highlighted above are based on all eligible immigrants becoming citizens. The report also calculates costs and benefits if 60 percent of eligible immigrants were to naturalize, and if 25 percent were to naturalize. Not enough is known, the report concedes, about the most effective methods to promote naturalization. But we have insights to offer. Best practices in promoting naturalization and helping immigrants apply for citizenship are the centerpiece of the New Americans Campaign’s work throughout the United States. The good news is that there are substantial benefits to cities when immigrants become citizens, and more cities are willing to devote resources to encourage their immigrant residents to become citizens.

Posted on January 26, 2016

Our Impact

  • The Campaign has completed over 3,700 naturalization workshops and clinics.
  • Over 250,000 citizenship applications completed since July 2011.

    Saved aspiring citizens and their families over $206million in legal and application fees.
  • Adopted scalable technology. MP3 players, Google Voice, and Virtual Private Network (VPN) services are being used to enhance naturalization service delivery.
  • Expanded New American Workforce (an effort to provide naturalization assistance within corporations) which has partnered with over 100 businesses across the nation, ranging from hotels in Miami to American Apparel in Los Angeles.
  • Deployed Citizenshipworks, an online tool, across the Campaign in multiple settings and languages. A newly redesigned platform guides applicants through through their citizenship application from start to finish and connects applicants to legal help at partnering non-profits.
  • Were instrumental in inspiring the US Citizenship and Immigration Service to support the Citizenship Corners initiative.
  • Created innovative partnerships with public libraries, school districts, universities, social service agencies, and employers, all of which yield not only greater numbers of applicants but also greater awareness of the naturalization process.
  • Deployed a large-scale volunteer recruitment program through an e-learning course.

    Reached diverse communities. Local partners consistently outreach and provide culturally competent and language-appropriate services.
Learn more from our
Impact Report.

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Who We're Helping

People come to America from all over the world with dreams of achieving a better life for themselves and their families and calling this great nation home. Eight million people who live, work, and pay taxes in this country are eligible for citizenship, yet only about eight percent of them naturalize each year. Find out more about these individuals and the barriers they face.Read More