THE BLOG
09/23/2015 12:24 pm ET Updated Sep 23, 2016

Citizenship is an Economic Asset

Citizenship is an economic asset -- for our cities, its residents, and businesses.

With citizenship comes not only important social and political rights, but also significant, tangible financial gains. That is why Citi joined the mayors of Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York--as well as The Center for Popular Democracy and The National Partnership for New Americans--as the founding corporate partner of Cities for Citizenship, which celebrated its one year anniversary last week, alongside the launch of the White House's "Stand Stronger" campaign.

Cities for Citizenship is a national campaign to increase citizenship and financial capability among eligible legal permanent residents.

Research shows that, on average, foreign born residents that secure U.S. citizenship have higher potential for financial success. For instance, they see up to an eleven percent boost in personal incomes due to access to better jobs, benefits and educational opportunities. Naturalized citizens are also over four times more likely to have a bank account than non-citizens, providing them with financial security and the ability to more fully participate in the economy.

Immigrant communities are revitalizing many urban centers. In all major U.S. cities, foreign born residents represent a significant share of the population, labor force and business community. In New York, for example, about one-third of the population is foreign born; roughly equal to the total population of Chicago. Nationally, between 2000 and 2013, immigrants were responsible for all of the net growth in Main Street business, including 31 of the 50 largest U.S. metropolitan areas. Moreover, if all legal permanent residents in the U.S. became citizens, they would provide up to a $50 billion boost to the national economy over the next ten years, including a $4 billion increase in New York City, $3 billion in the Los Angeles economy, and $1.5 billion in Chicago.

However, there are still 8.8 million legal permanent residents who are eligible for citizenship (52 percent of whom are low-income), but for financial, legal and language barriers, both real and perceived, have not become citizens.

It makes business sense - sense for cities and for the private sector - to enable access to naturalization resources for those who qualify as a necessary and powerful tool for broader, inclusive economic growth.

Cities for Citizenship connects mayors and municipalities with immigrant organizations and the business, faith and labor communities in public-private partnerships. The initiative enables cities to expand naturalization and financial capability programs, as well as access to legal assistance, microloans and financial counseling, boosting economic opportunity for immigrants and communities nationwide. In this way, as one builds a new national identity, one also builds a financial identity and the skills needed to be well positioned to choose and access appropriate financial services.

In one year, nearly 20 cities have joined.

To continue to build on the momentum of this past Citizenship Day and the launch of the "Stand Stronger" campaign, Cities for Citizenship members will participate in workshops, media campaigns, and naturalization ceremonies in soccer stadiums and city halls across the country. Those taking the oath of allegiance will be doing far more than becoming a U.S. citizen--they will be opening up many new opportunities for themselves, their families, their communities, and our nation, which is a cause for all of us to celebrate.