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Migrant Life Course and Legal Status Transition

Periodic Reporting for period 3 - MiLifeStatus (Migrant Life Course and Legal Status Transition)

Reporting period: 2019-08-01 to 2020-08-31

This project studies the relation between migrant naturalisation and integration. Obtaining the citizenship of a host country provides migrants a secure residence status, rights, and participation opportunities and may encourage a sense of belonging. Yet a passport is no panacea; becoming a citizen does not solve each and every problem in an immigrant’s life. Previous research in this field has produced mixed results, since the causal relation between naturalisation and integration is not straightforward and has often been studied within one societal context only.

Over a period of five years, the MiLifeStatus research team will disentangle the relationship between migrant naturalisation and integration in a longitudinal and comparative manner. The central - and innovative - idea of our research is to model migrants’ legal status transitions as life course events, which are in turn shaped by their origin, their family context, and societal structures and institutions. In other words: the value and meaning of citizenship is different for each individual migrant, depending on contextual factors. For example, obtaining a passport carries different consequences for a young refugee, than it does for an elderly migrant from a highly developed origin country. The meaning and value of citizenship may also differ between countries where naturalisation is an accessible option for most migrants and those countries where strict requirements make it accessible only for a highly select group of migrants.

By investigating the relevance of citizenship within the individual life course of an immigrant, MiLifeStatus analyses why, how, and for whom legal status transitions matter and, especially, how variation in policies between countries impacts on this relation. The research will focus on integration in socioeconomic domains, such as labor market performance, as well as living conditions, health status, out-migration, and education among first and second-generation immigrants. We draw on longitudinal register and survey data from Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden - four destination countries with relatively comparable migration and socioeconomic contexts but different and changing citizenship policies.

Overall progress on the project has been excellent. Besides the setting up and consolidation of the research team (incl. the necessary research training), our efforts have been focused on designing the various studies addressing the research objectives (including comprehensive state-of-the-art review and modelling strategies), presenting ideas to academic and non-academic audiences, achieving access to data and harmonising the operationalization of variables across national settings, and publishing our first findings in a number of publications.
Some highlights of results achieved so far:

- Based on micro-level longitudinal data from administrative registers in Denmark, the Netherlands, and Sweden –countries with widely different and changing requirements for the acquisition of citizenship– we find that after fifteen years, three quarters of migrants have acquired Swedish citizenship, whereas just over half of migrants naturalised in the Netherlands and only a quarter in Denmark. The introduction of formal language requirements and integration tests in Denmark (2002, further restricted 2006) and the Netherlands (2003) pushed these rates further down, especially among migrants with lower levels of education. Our findings suggest that theorizing about the influence of micro-level and macro-level factors on migrants’ naturalisation propensity needs to be contextualized by the institutional conditions under which citizenship can be acquired.

- Based on longitudinal register data from Statistics Netherlands from 1999 until 2011, we observe a one-time boost in the probability of having employment after naturalisation, consistent with the prevalent notion of positive signalling. However, we find that the employment probability of naturalising migrants already develops faster during the years leading up to citizenship acquisition, even when controlling for endogeneity of naturalisation.

- Based on cross-sectional survey data in 13 West European countries and employing a bivariate probit model that accounts for unobserved characteristics of naturalising immigrants, we observe a positive relationship across these destination countries between citizenship and the probability of employment for both immigrant men and women, as well as between citizenship and occupational status for men. Liberalising the access to citizenship does not diminish the positive returns on employment from naturalisation.

- Based on cross-sectional and longitudinal survey data, we find that migrants are frailer than non-migrants except in Southern European countries. European migrant and non-migrant frailty trajectories converge over the life course. Countries which enhance migrant health access show reduced frailty inequality. This effect may be reduced if migrants obtain equal legal rights to non-migrants.
After around three years into the project, we have made substantial contributions (some published, some under review) in each of the six application domains of the project:

1) citizenship acquisition
Vink, M., A. Tegunimataka, F. Peters and P. Bevelander. Naturalization in Context: Origin Country, Life Course and Citizenship Policy Change. Under review (revise & resubmit).

2) citizenship and socioeconomic integration
Peters, F., M. Vink, H. Schmeets (2018). Anticipating the citizenship premium: before and after effects of immigrant naturalization on employment. Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies 44(7) 1051-1080.

3) citizenship and living conditions
Leclerc, C., M. Vink and H. Schmeets. Does local context matter? Residential segregation and naturalisation propensity in the Netherlands. Under review.

4) citizenship and health status
Walkden, G., E.L. Anderson, M.P. Vink, K. Tilling, L.D. Howe, Y. Ben-Shlomo (2018). Frailty in older-age European migrants: cross-sectional and longitudinal analyses of the Survey of Health, Aging and Retirement in Europe (SHARE). Social Science & Medicine 213 (2018) 1-11.

5) citizenship and out-migration
De Hoon, M., M. Vink and H. Schmeets (2019). A ticket to mobility? Naturalization and outmigration of refugees in the Netherlands. Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies.

6) citizenship and migrant children
Labussière, M. and M. Vink. The intergenerational impact of naturalisation reform: citizenship status of children of immigrants in the Netherlands, 1995-2016. Under review (revise & resubmit).