See Ya!: Exploring American Renunciation of Citizenship Through Targeted and Sparse Social Media Data Sets and a Custom Spatial-Based Linguistic Analysis Dictionary

See Ya!: Exploring American Renunciation of Citizenship Through Targeted and Sparse Social Media Data Sets and a Custom Spatial-Based Linguistic Analysis Dictionary

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-2679-7.ch005
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The renunciation of U.S. citizenship is a non-trivial action, with far-reaching implications, for the individual, his / her social group, and even for the nation. While several U.S. government agencies collect information about this phenomenon, little actual data are publicly shared and mostly only through the U.S. Internal Revenue Service. Social media platforms—Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, Wikipedia, and Reddit (among others)—offer some insights about American renunciation of citizenship. From this targeted data, it is possible to design and collate a custom-made spatial-based dictionary (to run on LIWC2015) in order to automate the analysis of textual data about this phenomenon. This paper describes this process of creating a custom spatial-based dictionary, methods for pilot-testing the dictionary's efficacy (with “test” social media data sets, with experts, and with discovered insights about the target phenomenon), fresh space-based insights about American renunciation of citizenship, and future research directions.
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Human migrations occur for a range of reasons. Some may be disasters, like natural disasters, human warfare, politics, persecution, and the slave trade, and others. There may be economic downturns that lead to out-migration. Some migrations are forced, and others are volitional. In addition to large-scale patterns, there are localized ones: people moving to study, people moving to be with family, people exploring ancestral locations (and their own identities), people exploring different lifestyles, people in pursuit of careers and adventure, and people in retirement. After life traumas, people sometimes move in order to have fresh starts. Such migrations are not barrier-free. There are real-world costs and regulations, bureaucracies on every side of every border, and opportunity costs (moving to one location for some opportunities will close doors on other options). Even more demanding are citizenship requirements, when these are even available. For many countries, they require years of residency, and also proof of health, law abidance, language requirements, and oaths of loyalty.

At any one time, there may be three to eight million Americans living overseas, or even up to nine million non-military U.S. citizens living abroad. These individuals are known as being part of the “American diaspora” (“American diaspora,” Dec. 13, 2016). Their living abroad does not mean that this will be a permanent state or that the U.S. expatriates will eventually renounce citizenship. As a matter of fact, the numbers of those renouncing citizenship are vanishingly small.

There may be any number of reasons why people may pursue renunciation or relinquishment of their U.S. citizenship. In the first case, the individual has to file for a Certificate of Loss of Nationality and then square matters with the tax authorities. In the latter case, those filing for relinquishment file a Statement of Voluntary Relinquishment of U.S. Citizenship under Section 349 (a)(1) of the INA” (Immigration and Naturalization Act), and here, the loss of U.S. citizenship is a byproduct of prior actions taking on another nationality and another citizenship. These latter actions may include taking an oath of allegiance to another country, naturalized in a foreign country, served in the armed forces of a foreign state (with non-hostile relations with the U.S.), taken on non-policy level employment with a foreign government, or other actions. In 2015, there are varying estimates for the numbers of former U.S. citizens who chose to renounce their citizenship. One author puts this number 4,250 in 2015, an 18-fold increase from the approximately 250 expatriate renunciators in 2008 (Jamison, Nov. 10, 2016); he named some of the destination countries: Costa Rica, Singapore, and the Bahamas. This author cites sources suggesting that there may be even higher rates of U.S. citizenship renunciation.

In fact, possibly correlated to the election of a new president that year, or even to the start of the great financial crisis, the number of Americans renouncing their U.S. citizenship spiked from a low of roughly 250 expatriates in 2008 by a factor of 18 by 2015. And based on statistics gathered earlier this year by the Federal Register, 2016 promises to generate the highest number of renouncers yet. (Jamison, 2016)

[Side Note: It may be important to note that “expats” or people who live abroad from their countries of citizenship do not necessarily renounce their original citizenship. Living abroad is not a necessary precursor to renouncing citizenship, as some renounce and leave “cold” without having lived abroad. Experiences traveling and living abroad may provide a path to a location of interest for living abroad for some. The inclusion of “expat” studies is that is does have some relationship to the renunciation of citizenship but a very small one. For some, renunciation of citizenship is a thought-through and planned process; for others, it may be impulsive.]

This renunciation of citizenship by Americans is occurring in a time when local trends related to interstate migration declining 25 to 50 percent (based on National Bureau of Economic Research statistics) has been trending downward because of a somewhat inactive jobs market and economy (Leefeldt, Nov. 29, 2016).

According to a writer for Forbes, these numbers of former Americans who’ve renounced their citizenship are even higher (6,545 people) even though the costs for citizenship renunciation and relinquishment have gone up four-fold in order to cover the actual costs to process the paperwork. The U.S. has the world’s highest fee to renounce citizenship, according to MoveHub. One author notes: “And the $2,350 fee is more than twenty times the average level in other high-income countries” (Wood, Oct. 23, 2015).

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