Naturalisation gives migrants more opportunities

/ Author: Masja de Ree
© Hollandse Hoogte
Does taking Dutch nationality help people to integrate successfully? Floris Peters investigated this question during his PhD programme, using statistical data supplied by Statistics Netherlands (CBS). He focused on how naturalisation affects someone’s chances of getting a job, their income level, and home ownership.

Benefits of naturalisation

The most important conclusion from Dr Peters’ research is that naturalisation matters. Migrants who take Dutch nationality are more likely to find a job, to earn more, and to buy a home of their own. “But the results also show that the beneficial effect of naturalisation is greater in some migrant groups than in others. It is particularly migrants from economically underdeveloped countries, who are often at a disadvantage on the job market, who stand to benefit from naturalisation.”

Lots of data needed

Migrants are a very diverse group, says Floris Peters. “So a lot of data is needed to get a representative picture.” Moreover, it is difficult to distinguish cause from effect when it comes to the relationship between naturalisation and getting a job, for example. In the course of his PhD research, Dr Peters used registry data from CBS’ System of Social Statistical Datasets. “This allows groups of people to be tracked for longer periods of time, which is important in terms of establishing causal connections.”

Speed counts

Floris Peters discovered that the length of time people waited before applying for Dutch nationality was a significant factor. “To become a Dutch national, you must meet all kinds of requirements concerning your command of the language and your knowledge of Dutch society. The beneficial effects for immigrants were evident even during the process leading up to naturalisation. So the sooner you start the process of becoming a Dutch citizen, the better. The sooner you invest in learning a language, the more useful it will be in the professional and personal areas of your life.”

More stringent requirements

Naturalisation requirements have become more stringent in recent years. In 2003, for example, the naturalisation test was introduced. This imposes stricter requirements on language skills and on people’s knowledge of the Netherlands, while charging more for the application procedure. Dr Peters explains that “One effect of this measure appears to be that fewer migrants take Dutch nationality, and those who do take longer to complete the process. This applies in particular to migrants from non-Western countries, the very same group that seems to have the most to gain from naturalisation. So there is some doubt about the effectiveness of this measure, which was introduced with the express purpose of improving integration. More demanding requirements mean that migrants reap greater benefits from the effort they invest in passing the naturalisation test. However, excessively strict requirements can have a selective and demotivating effect. It is important to strike an effective balance here.”

Specific proposals

Based on Dr Peters’ PhD research, a number of specific proposals have been formulated for the government. “One such recommendation, for instance, was that the bill to extend the waiting period for naturalisation from five to seven years should be discontinued. As a result of this and other factors, this bill was not adopted in the Senate. Another point is that certain requirements, such as the substantial cost of the naturalisation procedure, contribute nothing to integration and mainly have a selective effect. On the other hand, requirements concerning language skills, for example, can actually galvanise the integration process.”

Cum Laude
Floris Peters received his PhD from the University of Maastricht on 28 March, with the distinction of ‘cum laude’. His supervisors were Prof. Maarten Vink and Prof. Hans Schmeets, a CBS Professor occupying an endowed chair. In 2017, Dr Peters received awards from the American Political Science Association, for two sections of his dissertation. On 1 January, Dr Peters was appointed to a postdoctoral position in the MiLifeStatus project. This cooperative venture between Maastricht University and CBS is funded by the European Research Council (ERC). For more information, see: Dr Peters has worked for CBS one day a week for the past four years. This position will be continued for the next three years, supported by ERC funding. In addition to his naturalisation study, Dr Peters is performing research for CBS into the effects of religion and social trust on organ donation.