The political economy of naturalization


  • The author is also affiliated with Paris School of Economics and IZA, Bonn. I am grateful to David de la Croix and Matthias Doepke for their advice. Comments from Raouf Boucekkine, Xavier Chojnicki, Claude d'Aspremont, Christian Dustmann, Alberto Galasso, and Ganeshkumar Munnorcode on earlier drafts also proved very useful. I would like to thank participants in the T2M 2005 Conference in Lyon, the CHILD 2007 Workshop in Bari, and seminars in Louvain-la-Neuve (UCL), Ghent, Florence (EUI-RSCAS), Paris (CES-PSE), and Rome (LUISS and University of Rome ‘La Sapienza’) for lively and fruitful discussions. Two anonymous referees provided several suggestions that helped me improve the paper. All remaining errors are under my own responsibility. Financial support from the Belgian French-Speaking Community (convention ARC 09/14-018 on ‘Sustainability’) and the Belgian Federal Government (grant PAI P6/07) is gratefully acknowledged. Email:


This paper presents a political economy model in which self-interested natives decide when citizenship and/or voting rights should be granted to foreign-born workers. Native voters know that immigrants hold different ‘political’ preferences and would thus tend to postpone their enfranchisement as much as possible. They also consider, however, that a more restrictive naturalization policy may reduce the gains from immigration. We find that the optimal timing of naturalization depends on the quantity, quality (productivity), and preferences of potential immigrants, the political composition and the age structure of the native population, as well as the sensitivity of migration choices to the citizenship issue.


L'économie politique de la naturalisation. Ce texte présente un modèle d'économie politique dans lequel les natifs décident quand la citoyenneté et/ou les droits de vote devraient être accordés aux travailleurs nés à l'étranger. Les électeurs natifs savent que les immigrants ont des préférences `politiques`différentes, et tendraient à reporter leur integration politique le plus possible. Ils considèrent cependant qu'une politique plus restrictive de naturalisation peut réduire les gains découlant de l'immigration. On découvre que la période de qualification optimale pour la naturalisation dépend du nombre, de la qualité (productivité) et des préférences des immigrants potentiels, de la composition politique et de la structure d'âges de la population native, ainsi que la sensibilité des choix migratoires à la question de la citoyenneté.