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This paper addresses two issues. First: among immigrants, is there a labour market benefit associated with becoming a citizen of the host country, in this case Canada or the United States? Recent international research indicates that there is an economic return to acquiring citizenship. Second: a significant gap in the citizenship rate has opened up between Canada and the United States. In 1970, about two-thirds of immigrants in Canada or the United States were citizens. Citizenship rates then fell in the United States and rose in Canada; by 2006, the citizenship rate was 33 percentage points higher in Canada than in the United States. Do differences between the two countries in individual and source region characteristics of immigrants account for this widening citizenship rate gap? This study finds that, through the 1970s, when the gap widened most, changes in the characteristics of immigrants to Canada and the United States accounted for 63% to 68% of the increase. Through the 1980s, changes in immigrant characteristics accounted for about 50% of the increase. Over the 1990-to-2006 period, the citizenship rate changed little in the United States, and the continued rise in Canada was again related mostly to changes in immigrant composition.

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