84th International Atlantic Economic Conference

October 05 - 08, 2017 | Montreal, Canada

Marriage as a pathway to United States citizenship

Friday, 6 October 2017: 9:40 AM
Eva Dziadula, Ph.D. , Economics, University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, IN
Marriage is one of the pathways to obtaining United States (US) citizenship by naturalization. I examine the association between the number of marriages and naturalization, as well as the association between the citizenship status of husbands and wives and naturalization. I find that among the foreign born, being married at least twice is associated with 50% increase in the odds of naturalization, relative to their otherwise comparable never married counterparts. Furthermore, the existing literature has examined the role of a spouse’s citizenship in determining naturalization, and showed that having a US born spouse is associated with an increase in the probability of naturalization. However, previous analyses were limited because the citizenship status of foreign born spouses was observed only at the time of survey. I use the American Community Survey (2008-2014) which now reports the year of naturalization, number of times married, and the year of last marriage. Furthermore, I improve the methodology used in previous studies of factors associated with naturalization by utilizing the year of naturalization in a hazard analysis. For married couples in which both partners are foreign born, I am able to identify whether the spouse was naturalized prior to or after getting married, as the year of last marriage is also known. I am the first to document an important stylized fact: I show that the largest increase in the odds of naturalization of approximately 70% for men and 35% for women is associated with having a foreign born spouse who was a noncitizen at the time of marriage but is a naturalized citizen at the time of the survey. Although marriage introduces complexity, this study makes a contribution towards an increased understanding of the citizenship process and provides new insights into the dynamics of marriage as a pathway to citizenship.