In Defense of Birthright Citizenship

How can we build unity within ethnically heterogeneous states? Scholars debate the effects of consociational powersharing institutions, such as federalism and proportional electoral systems. We focus on a different realm of policy: citizenship laws. The question is whether countries with more inclusive citizenship laws are better able to garner the loyalty of immigrants and other indigenous minorities than are restrictive ones. We combine data about citizenship laws in national constitutions with attitudinal data from cross-national surveys, leveraging both cross-sectional and over-time variation. Our cross-sectional analysis suggests that minority respondents—and especially more recent immigrant groups—in countries with jus soli citizenship are more likely to express national pride than are minority respondents in countries with more restrictive citizenship laws. A case study of the Baltic States also suggests the impact of citizenship laws.