Introduction: This report examines trends in citizenship status between 1990 and 2013.
Methods: Data were obtained from the U.S. Census Bureau American Community Survey, reorganized for public use by the Minnesota Population Center, University of Minnesota, IPUMSusa. Citizenship status is defined using three categories: citizen by birth, naturalized citizen, and not a citizen. In addition, educational attainment was computed for those age 25 and older, while the remaining outcomes of income, employment status, usual hours worked, and poverty status were computed for those between the ages of 16 and 64. Cases in the data set were weighted and analyzed to produce population estimates.
Results: In 2013, 76% of Latinos were U.S. citizens either by birth (65%) or naturalization (11%). Excluding Puerto Ricans who are all citizens by birth, Mexicans, Cubans, and Dominicans had the highest rates of citizenship by birth or naturalization, at 76%, 77%, and 73% respectively in 2013. Levels of educational attainment among naturalized Latino citizens, especially in higher education, far surpassed educational attainment among Latino non-citizens in each year. Despite similar employment rates, personal incomes were higher among naturalized Latino citizens ($24,000 in 2013), compared to the incomes of both Latinos that were citizens by birth ($12,700) and non-citizens ($13,500 in 2013). Finally, despite the 2008 - 2009 recession, the employment rate among Latino non-citizens rose between 1990 and 2013
Discussion: While the overall employment rate increased among non-citizen Latinos between 1990 and 2013, employment only rose among a small percentage of part-time workers in low wage jobs. Naturalized Latino citizens had substantially higher educational attainment, higher median incomes, and lower poverty rates than Latino non-citizens. Those findings indicate that a pathway to citizenship for Latino immigrants may result in improved educational and economic outcomes. Immigration reform that integrates immigrants into U.S. society may be a viable solution to educational and economic obstacles and promote better standards of living.