Demographers Frank. D. Bean and Susan K. Brown found that love, not money, fuels immigrants desire to migrate and undergo the naturalization process to become U.S. citizens.
After the 1996 Welfare Reform Act restricted benefits to only American citizens, naturalization rates increased and, in turn, speculation arose that immigrants wished to become citizens for the sole purpose of obtaining those restricted benefits.
However, Bean and Brown discovered through their research study that increased naturalization rates stem from the desire of immigrants to assimilate into a welcoming community, as opposed to only receiving monetary benefits.
‘Legal immigrants are twice as likely to naturalize when they live in states with a warm, welcoming attitude toward immigrants,’ said Brown, an assistant professor of sociology, in a UC Irvine press release dated Feb. 8.
The researchers used data from the General Social Survey, which is a part of the Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Science Research, and determined that ‘welcoming’ attitudes toward immigrants subsisted in communities where local citizens believe immigrants are hardworking and beneficial and are more open to the immigrants’ use of languages other than English.
Researchers also used other data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Survey of Program Dynamics, which is a demographic survey of the economic, household and social attributes of the U.S. population.
The study, co-authored by associate professor of sociology at Bowling Green State University Jennifer Van Hook and funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Development, appears in the current issue of ‘Social Forces.’
‘There’s no doubt that welfare reform has contributed to increased rates of naturalization
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