Saving for Citizenship: Looking Back
Five years ago, with leadership support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Opportunity Fund launched Saving for Citizenship, the first of its kind in the nation. Designed to help low-income Silicon Valley residents develop financial skills while saving to pay the fees to become U.S. citizens, Saving for Citizenship has enabled more than 700 individuals from over 40 countries to become U.S. citizens, with all the rights and responsibilities that come along with that transformation. The program also helped these immigrants build the critical financial management skills they will need to be informed financial citizens.
Now, as the project winds down, we’re sharing a final report on what our clients have accomplished, and what we have learned in the process. This report reveals the results of an independent, longitudinal evaluation, conducted by ICF International, to understand the project’s impact on the financial and civic lives of the families who participated. Here’s a summary:
High success rate: More than 695 adults and children have already taken their oaths and become naturalized US citizens, and many more will do so over the coming months. Only 3% of savers were unable to complete the process.
Improved financial habits: Despite average annual household incomes of less than $22,000, families saved an average of $66 a month. After participating in Saving for Citizenship, 84% of clients felt confident in their ability to make good financial decisions, compared with only 47% at the outset.
Strong civic and community involvement: 76% of those who have become citizens are registered to vote, higher than the national average for both naturalized and native born citizens. And roughly 65% participate regularly in community activities (such as volunteering, participating in community projects, signing petitions and attending public meetings) – an increase of over 50% from before they joined the program.
Gloria, a new citizen and immigrant from the Philippines explained it best: “Everything feels different now. Before, I felt like I didn’t belong. Even after more than 25 years here. But now that I’m an American, I’m part of this - and I want to be involved: with the economy, the politics, everything. I have courage now to have my voice heard!”