CMS Announces Release of Detailed Data on the Naturalization-Eligible and Potential Future Voters in 2,332 Sub-state Areas

CMS Announces Release of Detailed Data on the Naturalization-Eligible and Potential Future Voters in 2,332 Sub-state Areas

On November 3, 2015, the Center for Migration Studies of New York (CMS) published a paper in its Journal on Migration and Human Security with estimates of the US “eligible-to-naturalize” population.[1] It subsequently released two spreadsheets on the naturalization-eligible with state-level data on country of origin; languages spoken at home; ability to speak English; educational attainment; age; sex; period of entry; marital status; access to a computer or the internet; poverty status; median income and health insurance coverage.

Today, it is releasing detailed estimates and characteristics of naturalization-eligible immigrants residing in 2,332 US sub-state regions; i.e., public use microdata areas (PUMAs) which cover geographic areas that contain at least 100,000 persons. PUMAs do not align with Congressional districts, but the estimates provide data on the naturalization-eligible in virtually every city and rural area in the United States.

Naturalized citizens can vote, run for elected office and otherwise enjoy the full rights and responsibilities afforded by citizenship. The data by CMS, therefore, has broad implications for US elections as approximately 8.6 million voters could potentially be added to the body politic. Naturalized citizens can significantly impact political party affiliations, shift traditional support for issues and candidates and ultimately swing elections. By providing PUMA-level data on the naturalization-eligible, the findings of CMS highlight a population that will likely play an important role in the US electorate for years to come.

As detailed in the journal article, CMS derived its estimates on the naturalization-eligible from data collected in the US Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS)[2] in 2013. The estimation procedure relied on the ACS questions on country of birth, citizenship status, and year of immigration. All of the estimation was done at the micro data level. CMS compiled data for non-US citizens who entered before mid-2008,[3] removed those that it had previously identified as undocumented residents and made adjustments that took into account specific residency requirements of refugees, spouses of US citizens and active-duty military. The CMS estimates of the naturalization-eligible include some persons who are not currently eligible to naturalize because they do not meet the language and civics requirements, although they could become eligible as their circumstances change. In addition, the estimates include about 360,000 children who would derive citizenship upon the naturalization of either parent or who would be eligible to naturalize when they reach age 18.

The CMS estimates were derived from data collected in a very large – 1 in 100 – national survey. As such, they are subject to sampling variability as well as non-sampling errors, such as possible errors in the assignment of legal status of noncitizens. The estimates for smaller geographic areas should be used with caution. Items might not sum to the totals shown because of rounding.

Download Table 3. Characteristics of the population potentially eligible to naturalize, by PUMA: 2013

For media inquiries, please contact Rachel Reyes at [email protected] or (212) 337-3080, ext. 7012.


[1] Warren, Robert and Donald Kerwin. 2015. “The US Eligible-to-Naturalize Population: Detailed Social and Economic Characteristics.” Journal on Migration and Human Security 3(4): 306-29.

[2] The ACS is an annual statistical survey conducted by the Census Bureau. It covers approximately one percent of the total US population. The survey gathers information previously obtained in the decennial census long form.

[3] Most of those in the 2013 ACS who entered after mid-2008 would not meet the five-year residency requirements to naturalize. See Appendix A of the journal article for a detailed description of the methodology.