Documenting the Undocumented: A Review of the United States' First Municipal ID Program

Lagunes, Paul Felipe; Levin, Brian M.; Ditlmann, Ruth K.

The City of New Haven, CT, sought to promote the assimilation of its immigrants by becoming the first American city to provide a government-backed ID, the Elm City Resident Card, to all residents. This article tests the policy's effectiveness in commerce. We find that Hispanics/Latinos are asked to present an ID more than Whites/Anglos, showing that the former are in greater need of documentation, regardless of their citizenship status. When a Hispanic/Latino presented the Elm City Resident Card to a cashier, it fared only as well as an unofficial ID. Thus, we conclude that the card has negligible utility as a form of documentation.

Geographic Areas


  • thumnail for Documenting the Undocumented.pdf Documenting the Undocumented.pdf application/pdf 5.01 MB Download File

Also Published In

Harvard Journal of Hispanic Policy

More About This Work

Academic Units
School of International and Public Affairs
Published Here
May 11, 2017