The Importance of Race, Gender, and Religion in Naturalization Adjudication in the United States

119 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences e2114430119 (2022)

USC CLASS Research Paper No. CLASS22-16

USC Law Legal Studies Paper No. 22-16

32 Pages Posted: 18 Jul 2022

See all articles by Emily Ryo

Emily Ryo

University of Southern California Gould School of Law

Reed Humphrey

University of Washington, Daniel J. Evans School of Public Policy and Governance

Date Written: February 23, 2022

Abstract

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

Suggested Citation

Ryo, Emily and Humphrey, Reed, The Importance of Race, Gender, and Religion in Naturalization Adjudication in the United States (February 23, 2022). 119 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences e2114430119 (2022), USC CLASS Research Paper No. CLASS22-16, USC Law Legal Studies Paper No. 22-16, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4153812

Emily Ryo (Contact Author)

University of Southern California Gould School of Law ( email )

699 Exposition Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90089
United States

Reed Humphrey

University of Washington, Daniel J. Evans School of Public Policy and Governance ( email )

United States

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