Birthright Citizenship matters

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In Germany, automatically granting birthright citizenship to children with an immigration background significantly improves their education opportunities.

30.10.2019 · Economics, Social Sciences, Spatial Research · ifo Institute - Leibniz Institute for Economic Research at the University of Munich · News · Research result

In Germany, automatically granting birthright citizenship to children with an immigration background significantly improves their education opportunities. This is the result of a study conducted by the ifo Institute. “Germany’s Nationality Act was amended to include birthright citizenship in certain cases. Children born after the reform was enacted in 2000 were more likely to attend preschool, and their German skills and socio-emotional development also improved before they started elementary school. Furthermore, children with an immigration background born directly after the reform began their schooling earlier and needed to repeat a grade at the elementary level less frequently,” says Helmut Rainer, Director of the ifo Center for Labor and Demographic Economics.

“And those born after the reform were also more likely to be recommended for university-track secondary school and to actually attend such a school. Automatically being granted German citizenship thus had various positive effects on the educational integration of these children and helped close the gap between children with and without an immigration background,” Rainer says. “For parents with an immigration background, the reform created an incentive for them to invest more in the human capital of their children, since the latter have better career opportunities over the long term if they hold a German passport.”

The study, soon to appear in the Journal of Labor Economics, was based on data from school-entry physicals and school registration data in the German state of Schleswig-Holstein.

Starting January 1, 2000, children born in Germany to immigrant parents are automatically granted German citizenship (birthright citizenship). Prior to that, children could become German citizens at birth only if at least one parent was also a citizen (“right of blood”). After the reform, the proportion of children with an immigration background who held German citizenship rose dramatically.

Germany has the world’s second largest immigrant population: one out of every four people living in the country has an immigration background.

Rainer is presenting the study’s findings on Wednesday at a conference in the Italian Chamber of Deputies in Rome. The Chamber is currently discussing the draft of a bill that would guarantee the children of immigrant parents Italian citizenship if they have successfully completed a certain number of years of schooling.

Further information and contact

www.ifo.de/en