PhD defense ceremony Floris Peters 28 March 2018

Citizenship: a kickstarter for immigrant integration

The ‘citizenship premium’
Naturalisation has the potential to provide a boost to the integration of immigrants according to Floris Peters, a PhD candidate at the Department of Political Science of Maastricht University. In his research, supervised by prof. Maarten Vink and prof. Hans Schmeets, and jointly financed by the Maastricht Centre for Citizenship, Migration and Development (MACIMIDE) and Statistics Netherlands, Peters has studied the relevance of citizenship for the labour and housing market integration of first generation immigrants in the Netherlands. In light of the growing salience of international migration, policy-makers of destination countries have a strong incentive to ensure a quick and successful settlement process of immigrants. In that context, international research suggests that citizenship may facilitate the integration of immigrants, a phenomenon also known as the citizenship premium. Yet little is known as to why – and by extension – to whom and under which conditions citizenship matters. Which migrants benefit from naturalisation most, what is the role of the trajectory into citizenship, and how does policy variation factor into the relationship between citizenship and integration?

Work method & findings
To answer these questions, this PhD project draws on individual-level administrative data from the System of Social Statistical Datasets (SSD) at Statistics Netherlands. These data include information on almost all registered first-generation immigrants in the Netherlands. Findings show that the propensity to naturalise depends on the individual life situation of immigrants, but is also conditioned by the institutional context of the destination country. Migrants naturalise less quickly and less often under more restrictive citizenship policies. The analyses also confirm that citizenship acquisition can provide a boost to the probability of employment, earnings from labour, and opportunities for homeownership of immigrants. However, the process by which citizenship is acquired matters for associated outcomes. Citizenship for instance has a bigger impact if it is acquired relatively early in the settlement process. As such, the extent to which naturalisation can facilitate the integration of immigrants strongly depends on citizenship policies that stipulate the pathways to citizenship that are open to immigrants.

Political relevance
The research of Peters also directly contributed to debates in the Dutch parliament on a proposal that would increase the residence requirement for naturalisation from the current five to seven years. Peters’ research shows that a longer period before naturalisation decreases the probability that acquiring citizenship will positively affect the labour market prospects of immigrants. On Tuesday 3 October 2017 the Dutch Senate voted against the proposal with senators from various parties referring to the research by Floris Peters and his supervisors Maarten Vink and Hans Schmeets.

The quality of the work by Floris Peters was underlined when in 2017 one of the chapters from his dissertation was awarded by the American Political Science Association (APSA) the prize for best chapter on migration and/or citizenship in 2017; one of his published articles received an honorable mention for the APSA 2017 prize for best article on migration and/or citizenship. 

In sum, findings in this dissertation support the notion that citizenship can be a stepping stone for the integration of immigrants, and provide policy-makers with important insights to get the most out of legal status transitions of immigrants. Yet, a more detailed understanding of the role of citizenship policies for immigrants’ propensity and ability to naturalise, as well as positive outcomes associated with naturalisation, requires a cross-national perspective. Does citizenship matter less in countries that require a long waiting period for naturalisation? Do integration requirements facilitate settlement success, or do they simply make citizenship more exclusive? And what is the relevance of dual-citizenship? Since January 2018, Peters has been researching these follow-up questions in the capacity of post-doctoral researcher within Migrant Life Course and Legal Status Transition (MiLifeStatus). MiLifeStatus is a five-year ERC-funded research project (2016-2021), led by Prof. Maarten Vink, in which the relationship between naturalisation and integration is studied using register and survey data from various European and North-American countries.

Floris Peters defended his PhD dissertation ‘The Citizenship Premium: Immigrant Naturalisation and Socio-Economic Integration in the Netherlands’ on 28 March 2018.


MiLifeStatus has received funding from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (grant agreement No 682626)

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