Trends in Naturalization
In this brief, we examine changes in the number of naturalized citizens and the rate of naturalization. We also explore the size and characteristics of the pool of immigrants in the United States now or soon to be eligible to naturalize. Core findings include:
- Beginning in the mid-1990s, the number of naturalized citizens rose for the first time in decades, from 6.5 to 11 million citizens by 2002;
- The share of legal immigrants who had naturalized rose to 49 percent in 2002 after a steep downward trend—from 64 percent in 1970 to 39 percent in 1996;
- Despite rising numbers and rates, a large pool of immigrants; almost 8 million;is now eligible to naturalize. 2.7 million live in California;
- Another 2.7 million legal immigrants are likely to soon become eligible to naturalize;
- The eligible immigrants who have not yet naturalized differ significantly from recently naturalized citizens. For example, those not yet naturalized have more limited English language skills; have less education; and are more heavily Mexican;
- Any moves to expand or target naturalization programs including language and civics instruction should take these characteristics into account.