(credit: flickr user: Elvert Barnes)

In the midst of a heated global debate about immigration policies, a natural population-level experiment from Switzerland may provide some timely and relevant data for policymakers. It suggests that immigrants who gain citizenship in their new countries go on to have improved integration into the fabric of that country.
Obviously, establishing cause and effect here is very tricky: what if immigrants are only likely to apply for citizenship if they’re already well-integrated into society? Or what if only those immigrants who are well-integrated have their applications accepted? That makes it challenging to tell whether it’s the citizenship causing the integration, rather than the better integration encouraging to citizenship.
It’s an important issue to resolve, because it helps to clarify the question of what role citizenship plays in immigration policy. Some people argue that it should be an incentive, a benefit to be gained in exchange for working hard at integration. Others suggest that it should be a catalyst, helping immigrants become involved in their new societies.
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