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Academic study Gaining Swiss citizenship shown to boost earnings

Man with Swiss passport in pocket

In 2018, 42,500 people received Swiss citizenship.

(© Keystone / Christian Beutler)

Foreigners who gain Swiss citizenship generally increase their annual earnings by CHF5,000 over the following 15 years compared to those who don’t get naturalised, a new study shows.

A team of researchers from Zurich’s Federal Institute of Technology (ETHZ) and Stanford University studied the economic benefits of gaining citizenship and long-term integration.

Focusing on 46 municipalities in German-speaking Switzerland, they analyzed individuals’ social security records and pension data to compare the income of applicants before and after receiving a positive or negative naturalisation decision. For their study they concentrated on municipalities that used a secret ballot process to decide individual citizenship applications until 2003. They then focused on ballots with close results.

Their conclusions showed that gaining Swiss citizenship boosts new citizens’ annual earnings by an average of CHF 5,000 over the subsequent 15 years.

“The positive income effects are greatest for people with the lowest wages and more marginalized immigrants, particularly those from Turkey and the former Yugoslavia,” explained Dominik Hangartner, Professor of Public Policy at ETH Zurich, in a statementexternal link.

Hangartner said the study showed that naturalization has a “positive long-term effect on economic integration” and that “the earlier a person receives citizenship, the sooner they can become better integrated in Switzerland and the higher the effects of naturalization on lifetime income”.

Their results were published in Science Advances on December 4external link.

Swiss citizenship is generally highly sought after – and correspondingly hard to get. Foreigners with no direct blood ties to Switzerland through either birth or marriage must live in the country for at least ten years before they can apply for citizenship.

In 2018, 42,500 people received Swiss citizenshipexternal link. The annual figure has topped the 40,000-mark since 2015.

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ETH Zurich/sb

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