Naturalizing Economic Growth

Naturalizing Economic Growth

Tony Caushi, December 2014

As a non-American citizen, I’ve been brought up with an exposure to the everlasting ideal of opportunity and easiness of the beginning of a new life in the United States, an idea that has evolved to be mentioned in any conversation with the obviousness of a cliché. This definition has been immortalized in me not only from stories of those who would have this kind of knowledge, but also through a range of movies starting from “The Godfather” and “Scarface”, to “Titanic” and “The Legend of 1900”, feature films which would spark the curiosity of my childhood with confusion due to the stoic imagery of patience and determination of mothers carrying their young ones in their arms, underneath the deck on the third class of ships of the early XX century. As I’d grow up, and ‘Uncle Scorcese’ would broaden my cinematographic horizon by emphasizing the aspect of crime in the lives of US immigrants, the question that slowly bloomed came to be “How would all of this then benefit the US and its citizens?” The 650,000 people that are naturalized on average as American citizens a year, since the times that those movies represented, fulfill certain requirements for which they’re approved by a legislative authority to achieve the benefits of becoming of a citizen, for which they most importantly return the favor by providing the US with different opportunities, one of those being probably the most effective one; growth in the economic sector. [1]

The mid-XIX century and further on brought along the presence of immigrants from all around the world, mainly from China, Ireland and Italy, with a Jewish population in their midst, all of them escaping famine, poverty, discrimination, and death. [2] As this process quickly occurred, many of the newcomers found occupations in all standards of working environments, this ranging from the lowest paying jobs, to the possession of historical monopolies as in the case of Scottish businessman and industrialist Andrew Carnegie. In this manner, all of the classes of the American society were being affected in different aspects, but mainly pushing the economy towards a beneficiary direction. Through a promised naturalization of these immigrants, the US could secure the working power of millions of determined Europeans, who stepped hopeful on American soil.

Nevertheless, during this period of time, trouble was being caused by American-born citizens who felt the fear of losses in working positions in agriculture and industry, where the acceptance of low pays by immigrants was competing with their requirements of pay. The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 achieved, up to a point, a masked discrimination of Chinese immigrants travelling from the far east to work on railroads in the west coast, this occurring even though their work had not only eased the transport of people and merchandise, but it had also sped up the movement of gold during the Gold Rush of the 1850s, the profits of which reached an approximate value of $15 billion with 2010 prices.[3][4] Staying adamant to racial prejudice, but also constrained to the necessity of economic progress, it was in 1892 when the US governmental entity of the Bureau of Immigration opened Ellis Island for the admittance of 70% of immigrants who would enter the US until 1954, when it was finally shut down. [5] As the Dillingham Commission of 1910 claimed, 57.9% of all workers of the 21 industries in the US were foreign-born, that meaning that the majority of the foundations of American economic boost was coming from the labor of foreign individuals. [6] With these numbers, it is worth being mentioned the impact of Eastern European Jewish work in 1915, when 3/4 of 300,000 garment workers were estimated to be Jewish immigrants; owners of workshops. [7]

Reigning on the other side of the coin and being of irreplaceable help to the financial development of the US, businessmen as the above-mentioned industrialist Andrew Carnegie, were providing innovative means of transport, production, and manufacturing to the market, this way benefiting not only themselves, but those affected by their work also. [8] Carnegie kept low costs for his products with the purpose of enhancing the efficiency of production, and expanded the steel market slowly, while at the same time he’d become a great support to the American economy by rapidly providing new windows of opportunities for urban growth and further western expansion. [9] Less praised by the popular eyes in comparison to the previous example, but with a work which thrives among us to this day, first-generation Italian Amadeo P. Giannini started small to build today’s powerful banking business of Bank of America by directly handling the money of fellow immigrants to slowly pass on a legacy. Basing his filter of customers on their character rather than their income, Giannini gave rise to Bank of Italy in San Francisco on October 17, 1904, developing the deposits from $8,780 to $700,000 in a year’s period. [10] His brave efforts helped the 1906 earthquake-shocked San Francisco get through the economical difficulties by making loans and collecting deposits, to later rise and merge with other establishments to give birth to what today is respectably known across the world as Bank of America. [11] In the last case, even though Giannini’s birthplace was the US, his parents migrated across the Atlantic Ocean with trust that their children’s future would flow directed for the best.

From that point in time, immigration laws and influxes have interlocked to result in variations of numbers of those who enter the US. For the future, a report written in 2012 by Manuel Pastor and Justin Scoggins titled “Citizen Gain: The Economic Benefits of Naturalization for Immigrants and the Economy” effectively displays the pattern of financial development of naturalized individuals throughout the years after the receiving of citizenship, a pattern which after 12-17 years would effectively peak and become a factor in a 13% profit for the financial profit for the US. [12] The economic individual earnings are predicted to be boosted by 8-11%, which means an increase of $21-45 billion in over ten years, amounts of money that would transform the American economy. [13] Pastor and Scoggins take into account obstacles in reaching this point, which without the consideration of elements as the language barrier, naturalization fees, and lack of knowledge about the process and the eligibility, would have to be considered ideal. [14] Thus, a further reasoning behind this expected occurrence has been a topic of debate by many, as the aspects that this phenomenon can be seen from are numerous. In September of 2012, Migration Policy Institute (MPI) authors Madeleine Sumption and Sarah Flamm released an analysis called “The Economic Value of Citizenship for immigrants in the United States” on the reasons of why and how naturalized immigrants eventually receive an average income not only greater than their non-citizen counterparts, but from native-born Americans too. Among others, the main idea that they explore is the fact that citizen immigrants are better represented for higher level working positions than the other two groups due to their educational preparation and language proficiency. [15] With earlier evidence for support of the authors, Heidi Shierholz of the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) has strengthened the same idea with her report “The Effects of Citizenship on Family Income and Poverty”, which has been reflected on Figure 1. [16]

Figure 1. Representation of average income according to employees' social status in 2007 dollars.
Figure 1. Representation of average income according to employees’ social status in 2007 dollars [16].

As it can be clearly seen, the average income of the naturalized immigrants (noted as ‘Citizen immigrant’ in the figure) is about $1,000 greater than the ones of the native-born Americans and the non-citizen immigrants. Through this difference, it can be concluded that naturalized immigrants have gained the notion of reliability by those who look to employ individuals who would benefit micro- and macro-economically; to the sectors they cover, but also to the who US economy as a whole.

As they present the benefits of voting, protection, security of residence, etc., Sumption and Flamm also introduce and make the correlation of the Bureau of Immigration, as an important sector of the Government, which works accordingly to the economic capability of the country, a strategy whose pattern can be noticed on Table 1, where a standout number of immigrants that have been awarded their citizenship under the year 2008, a period in time which not only had presidential elections standing right around the corner, but was also a year when a financial crisis had been developed. [17][18] The more naturalized citizens means a promising and enduring working force for a future time, which in the year 2008 was alarmingly needed with the purpose of overcoming the financial bubble of that year:


In 2014, President Barack Obama made public the reform he planned on taking to allow certain illegal residents to “come out of the shadows”, as he put it, and live a life not in fear but with a chance to legally gradually climb the stairs to citizenship. [19] Even though not in a direct manner, this novelty that the president introduced, among others, it will expect a financial benefit, as in compliance to the before-mentioned reports of Sumption and Flamm.

To answer the question of my younger years and the gap between naturalization and American economy, it can be said that the reliance on the shoulders of immigrants can secure for financial progress of the future, fact achieved by in exchange providing of citizenship. The naturalization correlation with economy will surpass times, since now it is also easier for immigrants to thrive among native-born Americans, no matter what their race is. Heard with an Italian accent in works of cinematography, the shriek “America!” has defined the skyline of hope, as the US will always be known as the most promising chance in the eyes of those who look for escape from their dead-end lives.

[1] “Naturalization Fact Sheet,” US Citizenship and Immigration Services, last modified June 25, 2013.
[2] Hana Layson and Daniel Greene, “Immigration and Citizenship in the United States, 1865-1924,”The Newberry, last modified May 3, 2014,
[3] Ibid.
[4] Bowen O.E., and Crippen, R.A., Jr., 1948, Geologic Maps and Notes along Highway 49, The Mother Lode Country, Geologic Guidebook along Highway 49 – Sierran Gold Belt, California Division of Mines and Geology Bulletin 141, 36.
[5] Layson and Greene, “Immigration and Citizenship in the United States, 1865-1924.”
[6] Frederick C. Croxton, Statistical Review of Immigration, 1820-1910, Washington: G.P.O., 1911, 97.
[7] Jeffrey D. Stansbury, Organized Workers and the Making of Los Angeles, 1890-1915, Los Angeles, 47.
[8] Judy Carmichael, “Carnegie Steel”, Carnegie, Andrew – Overview, Personal Life, Career Details, Chronology: Andrew Carnegie, Social and Economic Impact, accessed on November 12, 2014,
[9] Ibid.
[10] James, Marquis & Bessie R. (1954). Biography of a Bank – The Story of Bank of America N.T. & S.A. Harper & Brothers. p. 16.
[11] Ibid.
[12] Manuel Pastor and Justin Scoggins, “Citizen Gain: The Economic Benefits of Naturalization for Immigrants and the Economy,” USC Dornsife, accessed on October 30, 2014,
[13] Ibid.
[14] Ibid.
[15] Madeleine Sumption & Sarah Flamm, “The Economic Value of Citizenship for immigrants in the United States”, The New Americans Campaign, 5, accessed on November 12, 2014,
[16] Heidi Shierholz, “The Effects of Citizenship on Family Income and Poverty”, The New Americans Campaign, 5, accessed on November 12, 2014, ,a href=””>
[17] Ibid.15.
[18] “Naturalization Fact Sheet,” US Citizenship and Immigration Services, last modified June 25, 2013.
[19] “Immigration,” The White House, accessed on December 7, 2014,

Worcester State University Fall 2022