The UK Citizenship Process: Integration or Marginalization?

Monday, 16 July 2018: 17:30
Oral Presentation
David BARTRAM, University of Leicester, United Kingdom
The UK ‘citizenship process’ subjects immigrants (especially those who want to become citizens) to a set of requirements ostensibly intended to enhance their identification with ‘British values’. What impact does that policy have on the immigrants themselves? Proponents of the policy suggest it will facilitate their integration: as they learn about ‘life in the UK’, they will become better able to understand and navigate core institutions. Many external observers, by contrast, believe that the requirements exacerbate marginalization, by constructing immigrants as objects of presumptive suspicion and concern.

For the most part, this debate has been conducted via analysis of policies and documents. In this paper I adopt an empirical strategy focusing on outcomes for the immigrants themselves. Using panel data from ‘Understanding Society’ (the UK household panel survey), I investigate interest in politics among those who are non-citizens at Wave 1, comparing those who became citizens by Wave 6 to those who remained non-citizens.

The analysis indicates that those who became citizens subsequently reported lower interest in politics, controlling for other determinants. The longitudinal nature of the analysis suggests that this decrease comes as a consequence of their naturalization, rather than indicating lower interest already prior to naturalization. This unexpected finding reinforces the concerns of critics of the ‘citizenship test’ regime: the policy appears to do more to alienate new citizens than it does to facilitate their integration in the political sphere.