Ancestry into Opportunity: How Global Inequality Drives Demand for Long-distance European Union Citizenship

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This paper investigates the relationship between global inequality and dual citizenship by analysing citizenship acquisition from abroad in the European Union (EU). Most EU countries now offer facilitated naturalisation to descendants of emigrants and co-ethnics abroad, which requires neither residence nor renunciation of former citizenship. Since the 1990s, over 3.5 million people have used this opening to obtain dual citizenship from a European country to which they often have little if any connection. I analyse this phenomenon using a data-set that I constructed from previously unanalysed administrative statistics. The data were used to test an original theory that explains patterns of demand for dual citizenship in the context of a global hierarchy of citizenship worth. The analysis demonstrated that demand was much higher in Latin America and Eastern Europe than in North America and Western Europe. Non-Western applicants were drawn to the practical benefits of EU citizenship, and their level of demand varied in response to economic conditions like unemployment. In contrast, Western applicants displayed lower demand for citizenship and were unresponsive to economic incentives. The paper contributes to the literature by demonstrating the relationship between citizenship and global stratification as well as highlighting a widespread instrumental approach to dual citizenship.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2081-2104
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of Ethnic and Migration Studies
Issue number13
StatePublished - 10 Nov 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Citizenship
  • European Union
  • Globalisation
  • Migration
  • Transnationalism


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