Analysing official immigration records, researchers lay bare the inequality that Black applicants and applicants from Muslim-majority countries face when applying for US citizenship.
A new study published in the Proceedings of the Natural Academy of Sciences suggests that there are disparities in the approval of US citizenship applications, even though the United States has prohibited discrimination against applicants for citizenship based on race, gender and marital status since 1952.
The researchers examined more than 2.5 million nonmilitary naturalisation applications filed between October 2014 and March 2018 which they obtained through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
The approval rate of the 2,687,101 applications was 92 percent. The authors took a closer look, comparing three variables between the approved and denied applications, a news release notes: the self-reported gender and race/ethnicity of the applicant and whether or not the applicant’s country of origin was a Muslim-majority country.
The authors report that “all else being equal, the odds of approval are consistently smaller for non-White and Hispanic applicants than White applicants.” They give the example of “the odds of approval are about 41 percent smaller for Blacks compared to Whites,” even when they controlled for other applicant statistics.
As for applicants from Muslim-majority countries, and males in general, the authors note that “male applicants are at a disadvantage compared to female applicants and so are applicants from Muslim-majority countries compared to applicants from other countries.”
They highlight the the disparity based on gender: “Specifically, the odds of approval are about 18 percent larger for female than male applicants.” They also emphasise that “For applicants from Muslim-majority countries, the odds of approval are about 43 percent smaller than those of their counterparts from other countries.“
According to the authors’ numerical analysis, the adjusted predicted probability of approval “for Black males is only about 89 percent compared to that of White females at 94 percent.” They also note that Blacks from Muslim-majority countries have “only about 86 percent predicted probability of approval, whereas Whites from non-Muslim-majority countries have about 96 percent probability of approval.”
Similarly, females from Muslim-majority countries have “only about 87 percent predicted probability of approval compared to 93 percent for females from non-Muslim-majority countries.”
The researchers sum up their findings; calling applicants of colour, particularly men and those from Muslim-majority countries, at a disadvantage.
They note that even if the differences may seem minor when you look at percentage points, the percentage points translate into big numbers: the researchers give the example of five percentage points for Black males as almost 8,000 additional Black males that could have obtained approval, “had their approval rate been equal to that of White females.”
Another example of nine percentage points for Blacks from Muslim-majority countries “means over 3,600 additional Blacks from Muslim-majority countries could have obtained approval … had their approval rate been equal to that of Whites from non-Muslim majority countries.”
The last example they cite is of six percentage points for females from Muslim-majority countries which means “more than 9,600 additional females from Muslim-majority countries could have obtained approval … had their approval rate been equal to that of females from non-muslim majority countries.”
The authors, who say they find bias and disparities among approval rates between the genders and along religious/ethnic boundaries, suggest that transparency in the US naturalisation process is sorely needed especially because “the reasons for denial are not systematically captured in government data.”