At the National Immigrant Integration Conference that took place last month, the New York City Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs released a new report that it commissioned on the benefits of naturalization to cities. The report reinforces previous research done by the Center for the Study of Immigrant Integration at the University of Southern California, which found that the additional earnings new citizens would experience after naturalizing would add billions of dollars over 10 years to the local economies of New York, Los Angeles and Chicago, and generate hundreds of millions of dollars in additional tax revenues. (We wrote about that report here.)
The December 2015 report, The Economic Impact of Naturalization on Immigrants and Cities, calculates the economic benefits of naturalization on naturalized immigrants and on the economies of 21 cities. The researchers estimated that 23 percent of the foreign-born population in these 21 cities is eligible to naturalize, and if all of the eligible naturalized, immigrant earnings in the 21 cities would increase by $5.7 billion, tax revenues would increase by more than $2 billion and homeownership would increase by 45,000.
The new report looks in more detail at San Francisco and New York to examine what is likely to happen to government benefits programs if eligible immigrants were to naturalize.
The report calculates an increase of 8.9 percent in earnings, on average, for immigrants who naturalize. The increased earnings lead to higher tax payments and lower reliance on public benefits.
For New York City, the researchers calculated that if all eligible immigrants naturalized there would be an increase in tax revenues of $789 million, which, along with a decrease in benefits use, would yield a net benefit to New York of $823 million.
For San Francisco, the picture is somewhat different. Tax revenues would increase, but so would total government expenditures. Nonetheless, the projected tax revenues increase of $90 million would translate into a net benefit of $86 million for San Francisco.
The calculations highlighted above are based on all eligible immigrants becoming citizens. The report also calculates costs and benefits if 60 percent of eligible immigrants were to naturalize, and if 25 percent were to naturalize. Not enough is known, the report concedes, about the most effective methods to promote naturalization. But we have insights to offer. Best practices in promoting naturalization and helping immigrants apply for citizenship are the centerpiece of the New Americans Campaign’s work throughout the United States. The good news is that there are substantial benefits to cities when immigrants become citizens, and more cities are willing to devote resources to encourage their immigrant residents to become citizens.