The ecology of immigrant naturalisation: a life course approach in the context of institutional conditions

F.W.C. Peters*, M. Vink, H. Schmeets

*Corresponding author for this work

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Traditionally, immigrants' propensity to naturalize is attributed to individual characteristics and the origin country. Recently scholars increasingly recognise that naturalisation decisions do not take place in a vacuum: they are conditioned both by the individual life course of immigrants, such as the age at migration and family situation, as well as the opportunity structure set by citizenship policies of the destination country. Yet it is less clear what impact specific policy changes have, and to whom these changes matter most. In this paper we address these questions by analysing citizenship acquisition among first generation immigrants in the Netherlands in light of a restriction in citizenship policy in 2003. We employ unique micro-level longitudinal data from Dutch municipal population registers between 1995 until 2012, which allow us to track naturalisation among different immigration cohorts. We find evidence that indeed naturalisation is part of a larger life course trajectory: immigrants who arrive at a younger age in the Netherlands naturalise more often and so do immigrants with a native partner, or a foreign-born partner who also naturalises. Policy also matters: migrants naturalise later and less often under more restrictive institutional conditions, especially migrants from less developed and politically unstable countries of origin.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)359-381
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of Ethnic and Migration Studies
Issue number3
Early online date5 Nov 2015
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • Citizenship
  • immigrants
  • life course
  • policy

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