The Importance of Race, Gender, and Religion in Naturalization Adjudication in the United States
119 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences e2114430119 (2022)
32 Pages Posted: 18 Jul 2022
Date Written: February 23, 2022
This study presents an empirical investigation of naturalization adjudication in the United States using new administrative data on naturalization applications decided by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) between October 2014 and March 2018. We find significant group disparities in naturalization approvals based on applicants’ race/ethnicity, gender, and religion, controlling for individual applicant characteristics, adjudication years, and variation between field offices. Non-White applicants and Hispanic applicants are less likely to be approved than non-Hispanic White applicants, male applicants are less likely to be approved than female applicants, and applicants from Muslim-majority countries are less likely to be approved than applicants from other countries. In addition, race/ethnicity, gender, and religion interact to produce a certain group hierarchy in naturalization approvals. For example, the probability of approval for Black males is 5 percentage points smaller than that of White females. The probability of approval for Blacks from Muslim-majority countries is 9 percentage points smaller than that of Whites from other countries. The probability of approval for females from Muslim-majority countries is 6 percentage points smaller than that of females from other countries. This study contributes to our understanding of the nature of inequalities present in agency decisionmaking in the naturalization process.
Keywords: citizenship, naturalization, administrative adjudication, immigration
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