Despite decades of research on naturalization, the relationship between gender and the decision to naturalize is under-theorized. Given that women's lived experiences of migration are distinctive from those of men, we ask whether and how gender plays into immigrants’ naturalization decisions. We explore gendered migration trajectories by incorporating Michael Piore's concept of social status as an additional rationale for naturalization. To better understand immigrants’ naturalization decisions, our research leverages semi-structured interviews conducted in 2018 with immigrants residing in California to illuminate gendered decision-making processes that underpin naturalization choices. We find that naturalization is conditioned by gender when women's status in the origin country differs from their status in the destination country. Where women's rights are less extensive in origin countries, we find that both genders value citizenship in the destination country but for different reasons. Women respondents who enjoyed enhanced status in the destination country valued citizenship because it secured their ability to remain in the destination country, while retaining their ability to visit friends and care for family in their origin country. By contrast, men respondents who lost status in the destination country planned return to their origin country to regain their societal position but valued the destination-country passport as a status symbol in their origin country and because the passport provided enhanced mobility and economic opportunities in the global economy. Where status differences between the origin and destination countries were minimal, gender was not a significant factor in naturalization decisions. We point to a fruitful extension of the research agenda on naturalization by incorporating a theoretical framework that acknowledges gendered migration and naturalization trajectories.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)