Project Project
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Indicators of Citizenship Rights for Immigrants (ICRI)

Research Fields
Migration, Integration, and Intercultural Conflicts

Theoretical background and objectives

This project investigates the merits of different theoretical perspectives regarding the factors shaping the granting of rights of individual equality and recognition of cultural differences by nation-states to immigrants. The perspective of post-national citizenship (Jacobson 1997; Sassen 1998; Soysal 1994) emphasises the role of supranational authorities such as the European Union and the legal frameworks associated with them, which are said to increasingly constrain nation-states in implementing restrictive policies regarding immigrant and cultural minority rights. The perspective of democratic liberalism (Joppke 2007) also expects convergence between countries, at least among liberal-democratic ones, because of their self-commitment to fundamental principles of equality and protection of minorities. The courts in particular are viewed as upholding such principles, sometimes against restrictive ambitions of governments. A third perspective (Brubaker 1992; Koopmans et al. 2005) emphasises national path dependence and the resilience of national traditions of citizenship and national identity. This perspective therefore predicts no or limited convergence and does not lead us to expect a secular trend towards more inclusive rights.

We analyse rights in the eight thematic fields of nationality acquisition, family reunification, expulsion, anti-discrimination, public-sector employment for non-nationals, political rights for non-nationals, cultural rights in education, as well as other cultural and religious rights. Theoretically, these rights for immigrants are classified according to two dimensions that partly cross-cut the eight thematic fields. The first dimension captures the inclusiveness of a country's understanding of citizenship by distinguishing countries where access to equal rights is difficult for immigrants from countries where immigrants can easily, and in the case of the second generation sometimes automatically, join the community of citizens. The second dimension shows how countries deal with cultural and religious diversity: the differences here range between those countries that are willing to recognise minority groups and adopt a pluralistic strategy by granting cultural and religious group rights, and those countries that are reluctant to recognise such groups, do not grant any specific rights but on the contrary require immigrants to assimilate to a dominant culture.

Research design, data and methodology

The project is based on original data drawn from policy documents, legal texts, secondary literature, internet websites, and expert information. The qualitative information from these sources is transformed into ordinal codes, classifying policies as more or less restrictive in terms of the extent and accessibility of rights for immigrants. Temporal trends in the means (as a measure of liberalisation) and cross-national standard deviations (as a measure of convergence) of policies are related by way of bivariate and multivariate regression analyses to explanatory variables such as EU membership, the strength and scope of judicial review, government incumbency of left-wing parties, and the electoral strength of right-wing populist parties. In the first phase of the project data have been gathered for ten North-Western European countries for four measurement years: 1980, 1990, 2002, and 2008. In a second phase, data was collected for four classical anglo-saxon settler countries as well as for additional Eastern and Southern European countries, Middle Eastern, East Asian, African and South American countries. As a result, data is now available for 29 countries for the year 2008.


First results for the ten European countries find little evidence for cross-national convergence and strong support for national path dependence. In most countries rights became more inclusive until 2002, but this trend was not universal (Denmark and France deviate) and stagnated or partly reversed in virtually all countries afterwards, in association with the rise of right-wing populist parties. EU membership, the scope of judicial review in a country, and left-wing government incumbency had no noticeable impact on trends and differences in citizenship rights. Our conclusion is that there is little support that supranational regulation or a common dynamic within liberal democracies produce convergence of citizenship rights for immigrants, which for the moment continue to be strongly divergent and shaped by national institutional and policy traditions.

We currently study explanations for cross-national differences in granting citizenship rights to immigrants for 29 countries worldwide for the year 2008.

  • Koopmans, Ruud/Michalowski, Ines (2017): "Why Do States Extend Rights to Immigrants? Institutional Settings and Historical Legacies Across 44 Countries Worldwide". In: Comparative Political Studies, Vol. 50, No. 1, S. 41-74. (vorab online publiziert 24.06.2016)
  • Koopmans, Ruud/Michalowski, Ines/Waibel, Stine (2013): "Bürgerrechte für Zuwanderer. Nationale und politische Prozesse und internationale Konvergenz in Westeuropa, 1980-2008". In: Hans Dietrich von Löffelholz/Peter Schimany (Hg.): Beiträge zur Migrations- und Integrationsforschung. Aus Anlass des 60-jährigen Bestehens des Bundesamtes für Migration und Flüchtlinge. Nürnberg: Bundesamt für Migration und Flüchtlinge, S. 125-150.
  • Koopmans, Ruud/Michalowski, Ines/Waibel, Stine (2012): "Citizenship Rights for Immigrants. National Political Processes and Cross-National Convergence in Western Europe, 1980–2008". In: American Journal of Sociology, Vol. 117, No. 4, S. 1202-1245.
  • Koopmans, Ruud/Michalowski, Ines/Waibel, Stine (2010): Citizenship Rights for Immigrants. National Paths and Cross-National Convergence in Western Europe, 1980-2008. WZB Discussion Paper SP IV 2010-703. Berlin: WZB.

Project data set Western Europe, 1980-2008 (published in AJS 2012):

download: indicators data set (excel-file)

download: Estimation of electorate of immigrant voters (pdf-file)


Project data set 29 countries worldwide, 2008 (published in CPS 2016):

download: /sites/default/files/u262/icri_indicators_29_countries_worldwide_.xlsx

download: /sites/default/files/u262/list_indicators_29_countries_worldwide.pdf