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America is Home: How Individuals, Families, Cities & Counties Benefit by Investing in Citizenship

Cities for Citizenship (C4C) is a major national initiative aimed at increasing citizenship among eligible U.S. Lawful Permanent Residents and encouraging cities across the country to invest in citizenship programs.

    It is chaired by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, with support from the Center for Popular Democracy and the National Partnership for New Americans. Citi Community Development is the Founding Corporate Partner. C4C is premised on the idea that when municipal leaders develop and invest in naturalization efforts, it produces substantial economic and civic benefits for all of their constituents. In addition to a host of civic benefits—including the ability to vote in elections, serve on a jury, and run for elected office—the process of naturalizing brings significant economic benefits to individuals and local communities. When someone becomes a U.S. citizen, she is more likely to secure employment. The employment rate not only rises by 2.2 percentage points for naturalized citizens, but naturalized citizens are newly eligible for jobs in sectors like public administration. Naturalized citizens also access higher paying jobs, earning 8-11 percent more than individuals who are eligible to naturalize but haven’t yet done so. In fact, if every working age person who is eligible to naturalize became a U.S. citizen, by some estimates, this would result in $9 billion in total additional income at their current jobs. 

    Census data shows that naturalized citizens are almost twice as likely as non-citizens to be homeowners (they own homes at rates of 66 percent and 34 percent respectively). In addition to a host of benefits for individuals, naturalization can have important macroeconomic benefits for local communities. These include a growth in spending power, higher GDP, and increased tax revenues, all of which can boost local economies. Finally, investing in naturalization can advance financial inclusion for immigrant families. Immigrants are 13 percentage points less likely to have bank accounts, compared to U.S. born individuals. This is due to a host of barriers ranging from low or unstable incomes, a lack of a credit rating, and high fees and hurdles to opening accounts. As a result of these barriers, many immigrant communities rely more heavily on alternative financial services which are often costly and predatory. Lawful Permanent Residents who become U.S. citizens are much more likely to access formal banking services which can have important economic benefits for families. Recognizing these benefits, the more than 65 participating cities and counties in C4C are working to increase citizenship among eligible U.S. Lawful Permanent Residents; these local efforts are highlighted throughout the report.