People at a March 2015 naturalization ceremony hold American flags. Photo by Katie Schoolov

When Senator Ted Cruz, R-Texas, announced he was running for president in 2016,  one of the first questions asked was whether he was an American citizen. Cruz was born in Canada to an American-born mother. The Constitution requires a presidential candidate be a “natural-born” citizen. In other words, a citizen at birth. The fact Cruz’s mother was an American, gave him an automatic claim to citizenship.

That got us thinking over at inewsource about what it means to be a “natural born” American compared to someone who becomes a naturalized citizen, a process that can sometimes take as long as two decades. So we did what we do best and crunched the numbers from the Department of Homeland Security.

On average there are almost six times as many naturally born citizens  — babies born in America (or born to American parents abroad)  —  than people who go through the naturalization process.

There are about four million babies born each year in the U.S. and an average of 60,000 more have been born to American parents abroad over the past decade.

At naturalization ceremonies across the country, 654,949 people became American citizens in 2014 — nearly 10 million since 2001.

A majority of naturalized citizens, about 55 percent, were women in 2013.

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Women also account for more than half the country’s permanent residents living in the U.S. legally, otherwise known as immigrants with green cards. (These figures don’t include immigrants residing in the U.S. with other types of visas or undocumented immigrants.)

They come from all countries, but Mexico tops the list for their country of origin.

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So why so many women?

Dr. Enrico Marcelli, an associate professor of demography at San Diego State and published researcher on immigration policy, said in recent decades more women started to come to the U.S. without depending on a man to go first.

Dr. John Weeks, a SDSU geography professor who specializes in the U.S. and Mexico border population, said his research shows, “Women are becoming increasingly competitive in the labor market relative to men.”

At the same time, he said, some employers take advantage of the fact that some women are willing to work for less than a man.

While the data only reflects immigrants who chose to complete the naturalization process and become citizens, it doesn’t show how long these people have been living in the United States as legal permanent residents.

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Of the women who become citizens, one in four are between 24 and 34 years old. For men and women combined, one in three are 34 or younger. This may seem young, but they may have waited many years or even decades to come to the U.S, Weeks said. The large backlog of applications for visas from countries like Mexico keeps people waiting to cross the border.

When it comes to work, the largest number — 28 percent — of naturalized citizens fall into the “no occupation category.”   For women specifically, that number is higher, about 34 percent. This could mean they are students, homemakers, retired or unable to find work.

Although the data shows many new citizens are unemployed, a more accurate indicator on immigrant employment is how long they lived in the U.S., Marcelli said.

They are more likely to improve their English skills, earn a higher level of education and find suitable employment, he said.

Madison Hopkins was an investigative assistant for inewsource. She graduated from San Diego State University with a bachelor's in journalism and a minor in women's studies. While at SDSU she served as managing editor of the student-run newspaper, The Daily Aztec. Starting in the fall of 2015 she will...

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