Central Data Catalog

Citation Information

Type Report
Title Immigrant Assimilation: Do Neighborhoods Matter?
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2008
URL http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=
The United States provides a path to citizenship for its newcomers. Unlike other immigration
countries, however, the United States does not have policies that ease assimilation or directly
promote naturalization such as easily accessible and widely advertised language and civic
instruction courses. Immigrants are by and large left on their own when facing legal and financial
barriers or seeking instruction to pass the citizenship test. Not surprisingly, thus, we find that
immigrants’ attributes such as educational attainment, English language proficiency, and income
affect naturalization rates. This paper analyzes whether naturalization rates are also affected by
neighborhood characteristics and informal networks for assistance and information. Towards that
end, we estimate a binary model of immigrants’ citizenship status specifying the size of the
immigrant enclave and its level of assimilation as key explanatory variables. The study uses
2005 ACS data, and focuses on immigrants from the Caribbean islands in the New York area.
The results suggest that who they are and where they live has substantial impacts on immigrants’
propensities to have acquired US citizenship. Citizenship is unlikely for recent arrivals, those
who do not speak English well, are poorly educated, and have a low income. Moreover, living in
a neighborhood with a well assimilated immigrant enclave enhances the chance of acquiring US
citizenship. This effect is stronger for highly educated than for poorly educated immigrants and
thus misses the more vulnerable segments of the immigrant population.

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