CORDIS - EU research results

Legal Identity for All?

Project description

Towards an inclusive society

According to the World Bank, over one billion people lack legal documents such as birth certificates or identification cards to prove their identity. This leads to a gap in accessing citizenship rights between undocumented and documented citizens. The EU-funded CitizenGap project aims to develop a political understanding that will help transform the way scholars and policymakers think about addressing this issue. To do this, the project will draw on a mixed-methods design to examine the origins and nature of the citizenship gap.


Although we often think of undocumented persons as migrants or non-citizens, about one in seven people across the globe lack documents such as birth certificates, ID cards or passports to prove their legal identity, and thus their status as citizens in their own country. This gap between citizens with and without state-recognized documents is just as consequential as the distinction between citizens and non-citizens.

Existing approaches portray the citizenship gap – the difference between legal status and the ability of citizens to document their claim to this status – as the apolitical by-product of deficiencies in governance. The proposed research project – CitizenGap – aims to change how scholars and policy-makers think about achieving one of the key targets of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals “By 2030, provide legal identity for all, including birth registration” by developing a novel political understanding.

The project establishes the citizenship gap as a field of social scientific research, and pursues two main questions: (1) How and why do states invest in civil registration? (2) How and why do citizens decide to obtain documents? To understand why millions of citizens are undocumented, it is crucial to remember that citizenship is not only a legal status, but first and foremost a political relationship between states and the populations they govern. CitizenGap advances a strategic theory that seriously considers the incentives of states and citizens in the politics of civil registration. Empirically, the project contributes a comprehensive, cross-national measure that captures the number and characteristics of undocumented citizens, including those at risk of having their citizenship status questioned. The project analyzes the origins and nature of the citizenship gap in India and Mexico with a mixed methods design, combining demographic and spatial (GIS) datasets with fieldwork, archival sources, interviews and focus groups

Host institution

Net EU contribution
€ 1 499 996,00
1012WX Amsterdam

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West-Nederland Noord-Holland Groot-Amsterdam
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Total cost
€ 1 499 996,00

Beneficiaries (1)