The more things change the more they stay the same: Mexican naturalization before and after welfare reform

Kelly Stamper Balistreri, Jennifer Van Hook

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


During the last decade there has been a dramatic increase in the both the number and the rate of Mexican naturalization. Some have interpreted this increase as a response to changes in welfare and immigration policy surrounding the 1996 Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA), which limited public assistance to noncitizens, and the 1996 Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA), which may have increased the incentive to naturalize by making it more difficult for legal immigrants to sponsor their relatives for entry to the United States. This article uses Current Population Survey data from 1994/95 and 2000/01 to examine how the social and economic determinants of naturalization may have changed in order to provide insight into which explanation for the increase in naturalizations is most relevant. We find that while the proportion of Mexican immigrants who are naturalized increased during the 1990s, their determinants have remained largely the same with the exception that those with noncitizen spouses have become more likely to be naturalized in the post-reform period. This suggests that a more cautious interpretation be taken about the relationship between the increase in naturalizations and welfare and sponsorship restrictions, particularly when regarding Mexican immigrants.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)113-130
Number of pages18
JournalInternational Migration Review
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2004

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Demography
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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