Skip to main content
Log in

The Labor Market Performance of Naturalized Immigrants in Switzerland—New Findings from the Swiss Labor Force Survey

Journal of International Migration and Integration Aims and scope Submit manuscript

Cite this article


The objective of this paper is to obtain new empirical insights into the integration of naturalized immigrants in Switzerland. In particular, we focus on a comparison of first-generation immigrants with and without Swiss citizenship. The analysis on the basis of the 2008 wave of the Swiss Labor Force Survey is motivated by findings in the literature highlighting the role of the acquisition of citizenship in the integration process. In line with those findings, our results demonstrate that naturalized first-generation immigrants tend to have higher wages than non-naturalized immigrants. An applied Blinder–Oaxaca decomposition technique demonstrates that this result is strongly connected to the higher human capital endowments of immigrants who have attained Swiss citizenship. The findings are in line with other case studies stating that immigrants positively select into citizenship.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this article

Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.

Instant access to the full article PDF.

Institutional subscriptions

Fig. 1

Similar content being viewed by others


  1. Until the end of the 1970s, the Swiss law discriminated against women and their children living in bi-national marriages. A reform in 1978 ended the unequal treatment and created a new standard, according to which children of women married to foreigners automatically receive Swiss citizenship.

  2. The expulsion initiative of the SVP demands that every criminal foreigner in Switzerland is deported automatically. This includes crimes of violence like murder, rape, sexual offenses, robbery as well as drug dealing and the abuse of social benefits.

  3. We thank Urs Fischli and Markus Peek from the Swiss Federal Office for Migration for helping to clarify the actual legal situation in Switzerland.

  4. Experience = Age − Years of Schooling − 6.

  5. The rationale for including controls for enterprise size and region is that these might contribute to the explanation of the wage gap between naturalized and non-naturalized immigrants. We know for example that naturalization requirements differ across regions (please see the section “Citizenship Acquisition in Switzerland”). Due to this fact, naturalized immigrants might be concentrated in particular regions. If these regions have higher/lower wage levels than regions with few naturalized immigrants part of the wage differences between naturalized and non-naturalized immigrants could be explained by regional location. The same holds true for enterprise size if naturalized immigrants are more likely to work in large companies.

  6. All three languages are official languages in Switzerland.

  7. We excluded war refugees from our sample.

  8. We decided in favor of a decomposition in which the nondiscriminatory coefficient is derived from a pooled regression, because discrimination is characterized by undervaluation of one group, and overvaluation of the other (Cotton 1988). For a comprehensive discussion of different forms of Oaxaca–Blinder decompositions see Elder et al. (2010).

  9. The corresponding regression results are in the appendix.

  10. Furthermore, the shares of unemployed individuals among naturalized and non-naturalized immigrants are comparable and relatively low (5.5% and 5.3%).

  11. Exp (0.0958) − 1.


  • Achermann, A., Achermann, C., D’Amato, G., Kamm, M., & von Rütte, B. (2010). Country report. Florence, Switzerland: EUDO Citizenship Observatory.

    Google Scholar 

  • Akbari, A. H. (2008). Immigrant naturalisation and its impact on immigrant labour market performance and treasury, in: Bevelander, P. und DeVoretz, D. J. (ed.). The Economics of Citizenship, University Malmö, pp. 129–154.

  • Bevelander, P., & DeVoretz, D. J. (2008). The economics of citizenship: A synthesis. In P. Bevelander & D. J. DeVoretz (Eds.), The economics of citizenship (pp. 155–167). Malmö: Malmö University.

    Google Scholar 

  • Bevelander, P., & Pendakur, R. (2009). Citizenship, co-ethnic populations and employment probabilities of immigrants in Sweden, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA), Discussion Paper No. 4495, Bonn.

  • Bevelander, P., & Pendakur, R. (2011). Voting and social inclusion in Sweden. International Migration, 49, 67–92.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Bevelander, P., & Veenman, J. (2008). Naturalization and socioeconomic integration: The case of the Netherlands. In P. Bevelander & D. J. DeVoretz (Eds.), The economics of citizenship (pp. 65–88). Malmö: Malmö University.

    Google Scholar 

  • Blinder, A. S. (1973). Wage discrimination: Reduced form and structural estimates. Journal of Human Resources, 8, 436–455.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Bloemraad, I. (2006). Becoming a citizen: Incorporating immigrants and refugees in the United States and Canada, London.

  • Bratsberg, B., Ragan, J. F., & Nasir, Z. M. (2002). The effect of naturalization on wage growth: A panel study of young male immigrants. Journal of Labor Economics, 20, 568–579.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Chiswick, B. (1978). The effect of Americanization on the earnings of foreign-born men. Journal of Political Economy, 69, 897–921.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Cotton, J. (1988). On the decomposition of wage differentials. The Review of Economics and Statistics, 70, 236–243.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • De Coulon, A. (1998). Wage differentials between ethnic groups: Empirical evidence from Switzerland. Genève: Université de Genève, Faculté des sciences économiques et socials.

    Google Scholar 

  • De Coulon, A. (2001). Wage differentials between ethnic groups. Labour, 15, 111–132.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • DeVoretz, D. (2008). The economics of citizenship: A common intellectual ground for social scientists? Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 34, 679–693.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • DeVoretz, D., & Pivnenko, S. (2005). The economic causes and consequences of Canadian citizenship. Journal of Immigration and Integration, 6, 435–468.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Elder, T. E., Goddeeris, J. H., & Haider, S. H. (2010). Unexplained gaps and Oaxaca–Blinder decompositions. Labour Economics, 17, 284–290.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Eurostat (2010). Different data,

  • Federal Statistical Office (FSO) (Ed.). (2004). Die Schweizerische Arbeitskräfteerhebung (SLFS): Konzepte. Neuchâtel: Methodische Grundlagen, Praktische Ausführung.

    Google Scholar 

  • Fibbi, R., Lerch, M., & Wanner, P. (2007). Naturalisation and socio economic characteristics of youth of immigrant descent in Switzerland. Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 33, 1121–1144.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Golder, S. M. (2000). Endowment or discrimination? An analysis of immigrant–native earnings differentials in Switzerland, Kiel Institute of World Economics (IfW), Kiel Working Paper No. 967, Kiel.

  • Hayfron, J. E. (2008). The economics of Norwegian citizenship. In P. Bevelander & D. J. DeVoretz (Eds.), The economics of citizenship (pp. 91–104). Malmö: Malmö University.

    Google Scholar 

  • Helbling, M. (2008). Practising citizenship and heterogeneous nationhood. Naturalisations in Swiss municipalities. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press (IMISCOE Series).

    Book  Google Scholar 

  • Jann, B. (2008). The Blinder–Oaxaca decomposition for linear regression models. The Stata Journal, 8, 453–479.

    Google Scholar 

  • Liebig, T., Steinhardt, M., & von Haaren, F. (2010). Naturalisation and the labour market integration of immigrants, SOPEMI 2010, International Migration Outlook, report commissioned by the OECD, pp. 157–186, Paris.

  • Mazzolari, F. (2009). Dual citizenship rights: Do they make more and richer citizens? Demography, 46, 169–191.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Neumark, D. (1988). Employers’ discriminatory behavior and the estimation of wage discrimination. Journal of Human Resources, 23, 279–295.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Oaxaca, R. (1973). Male–female wage differentials in urban labour markets. International Economic Review, 14, 693–709.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Scott, K. (2008). The economics of citizenship: Is there a naturalization effect? In P. Bevelander & D. J. DeVoretz (Eds.), The economics of citizenship (pp. 107–126). Malmö: Malmö University.

    Google Scholar 

  • Steinhardt, M. F. (2008). Does citizenship matter? The economic impact of naturalization in Germany, Centro Studi Luca d’Agliano (LdA), Development Studies Working Paper No. 266, Milan.

  • Steinhardt, M. F., Straubhaar, T., & Wedemeier, J. (2010). Studie zur Einbürgerung und Integration in der Schweiz: Eine arbeitsmarktbezogene Analyse der Schweizerischen Arbeitskräfteerhebung, Study commissioned by the Swiss Confederation represented by the Swiss Federal Office for Migration, Hamburg.

  • Swiss Labor Force Survey (SLFS) (2008). Federal Statistical Office, Neuchâtel.

  • Yang, P. Q. (1994). Explaining immigrant naturalization. International Migration Review, 28, 449–477.

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references


Very useful comments were provided by Urs Fischli, Mario Gattiker, Markus Peek, Kurt Rohner, and Thomas Straubhaar. The research assistance of Sibille Duss is gratefully acknowledged. We would especially like to thank the editors and two anonymous referees for suggestions that substantially improved the manuscript.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Max Friedrich Steinhardt.

Additional information

This paper is produced as part of the project “Temporary Migration, Integration and the role of Policies” (TEMPO) funded by the NORFACE Research Programme: “Migration in Europe—Social, Economic, Cultural and Policy Dynamics”.



Table 6 Wage regression
Table 7 Wage regression, pooled model

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Steinhardt, M.F., Wedemeier, J. The Labor Market Performance of Naturalized Immigrants in Switzerland—New Findings from the Swiss Labor Force Survey. Int. Migration & Integration 13, 223–242 (2012).

Download citation

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:


JEL Codes