Duncan Lawrence is the Executive Director of the Stanford Immigration Policy Lab. He received his Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of Colorado Boulder.

He is a two-time Fulbright recipient, first serving as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant in Argentina in 2005 and then more recently as a Fulbright Scholar in Chile in 2013 investigating how connections to emigrants impact perceptions of immigration. His research has appeared in journals such as Science, Science Advances and Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Prior to arriving at Stanford, Duncan cofounded a Colorado-based research and data analysis firm that provided services to nonprofits, foundations and government agencies.

Current Role at Stanford

Executive Director, Immigration Policy Lab

Honors & Awards

  • Fulbright Scholar (Chile), Fulbright Commission (2013)
  • Fulbright ETA (Argentina), Fulbright Commission (2005)

Education & Certifications

  • BA, Hamilton College, World Politics (2004)
  • MA, University of Colorado Boulder, Political Science (2009)
  • PhD, University of Colorado Boulder, Political Science (2013)

Work Experience

  • Co-Founder and Managing Partner, Telluride Research Group, LLC (1/1/2012 - 12/31/2016)


    Denver, CO

  • Associate, Rocky Mountain Institute (September 2013 - March 2014)


    Boulder, CO

  • Graduate Instructor, University of Colorado Boulder (2011 - 2012)


    Boulder, CO

All Publications

  • A randomized controlled design reveals barriers to citizenship for low-income immigrants PROCEEDINGS OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA Hainmueller, J., Lawrence, D., Gest, J., Hotard, M., Koslowski, R., Laitin, D. D. 2018; 115 (5): 939–44


    Citizenship endows legal protections and is associated with economic and social gains for immigrants and their communities. In the United States, however, naturalization rates are relatively low. Yet we lack reliable knowledge as to what constrains immigrants from applying. Drawing on data from a public/private naturalization program in New York, this research provides a randomized controlled study of policy interventions that address these constraints. The study tested two programmatic interventions among low-income immigrants who are eligible for citizenship. The first randomly assigned a voucher that covers the naturalization application fee among immigrants who otherwise would have to pay the full cost of the fee. The second randomly assigned a set of behavioral nudges, similar to outreach efforts used by service providers, among immigrants whose incomes were low enough to qualify them for a federal waiver that eliminates the application fee. Offering the fee voucher increased naturalization application rates by about 41%, suggesting that application fees act as a barrier for low-income immigrants who want to become US citizens. The nudges to encourage the very poor to apply had no discernible effect, indicating the presence of nonfinancial barriers to naturalization.

    View details for DOI 10.1073/pnas.1714254115

    View details for Web of Science ID 000423728800047

    View details for PubMedID 29339470

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC5798346

  • Improving refugee integration through data-driven algorithmic assignment SCIENCE Bansak, K., Ferwerda, J., Hainmueller, J., Dillon, A., Hangartner, D., Lawrence, D., Weinstein, J. 2018; 359 (6373): 325–28


    Developed democracies are settling an increased number of refugees, many of whom face challenges integrating into host societies. We developed a flexible data-driven algorithm that assigns refugees across resettlement locations to improve integration outcomes. The algorithm uses a combination of supervised machine learning and optimal matching to discover and leverage synergies between refugee characteristics and resettlement sites. The algorithm was tested on historical registry data from two countries with different assignment regimes and refugee populations, the United States and Switzerland. Our approach led to gains of roughly 40 to 70%, on average, in refugees' employment outcomes relative to current assignment practices. This approach can provide governments with a practical and cost-efficient policy tool that can be immediately implemented within existing institutional structures.

    View details for DOI 10.1126/science.aao4408

    View details for Web of Science ID 000423236700038

    View details for PubMedID 29348237

  • Providing driver's licenses to unauthorized immigrants in California improves traffic safety PROCEEDINGS OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA Lueders, H., Hainmueller, J., Lawrence, D. 2017; 114 (16): 4111-4116


    The integration of immigrants presents a major challenge for policymakers in the United States. In an effort to improve integration, several US states recently have implemented laws that provide driver's licenses to unauthorized immigrants. These new laws have sparked widespread debate, but we lack evidence on the traffic safety impact of these policies. We examine the short-term effects of the largest-scale policy shift, California's Assembly Bill 60 (AB60), under which more than 600,000 licenses were issued in the first year of implementation in 2015 alone. We find that, contrary to concerns voiced by opponents of the law, AB60 has had no discernible short-term effect on the number of accidents. The law primarily allowed existing unlicensed drivers to legalize their driving. We also find that, although AB60 had no effect on the rate of fatal accidents, it did decrease the rate of hit and run accidents, suggesting that the policy reduced fears of deportation and vehicle impoundment. Hit and run behaviors often delay emergency assistance, increase insurance premiums, and leave victims with significant out of pocket expenses. Overall, the results suggest that AB60 provides an example of how states can facilitate the integration of immigrants while creating positive externalities for the communities in which they live.

    View details for DOI 10.1073/pnas.1618991114

    View details for Web of Science ID 000399387400047

    View details for PubMedID 28373538

  • Protecting unauthorized immigrant mothers improves their children’s mental health Science Hainmueller, J., Lawrence, D., Martén, L., Black, B., Figueroa, L., Hotard, M., Jiménez, T., Mendoza, F., Rodriguez, M., Swartz, J., Laitin, D. 2017: eaan5893


    The United States is embroiled in a debate about whether to protect or deport its estimated 11 million unauthorized immigrants, but the fact that these immigrants are also parents to more than 4 million U.S.-born children is often overlooked. We provide causal evidence of the impact of parents' unauthorized immigration status on the health of their U.S. citizen children. The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program granted temporary protection from deportation to more than 780,000 unauthorized immigrants. We used Medicaid claims data from Oregon and exploited the quasi-random assignment of DACA eligibility among mothers with birthdates close to the DACA age qualification cutoff. Mothers' DACA eligibility significantly decreased adjustment and anxiety disorder diagnoses among their children. Parents' unauthorized status is thus a substantial barrier to normal child development and perpetuates health inequalities through the intergenerational transmission of disadvantage.

    View details for DOI 10.1126/science.aan5893

  • A low-cost information nudge increases citizenship application rates among low-income immigrants. Nature human behaviour Hotard, M., Lawrence, D., Laitin, D. D., Hainmueller, J. 2019


    We show that an information nudge increased the rate of American citizenship applications among low-income immigrants eligible for a federal fee waiver. Approximately half of the 9million naturalization-eligible immigrants qualify for a federal programme that waives the cost of the citizenship application for low-income individuals. However, take-up of this fee waiver programme remains low1-3. Here we use a randomized field experiment to test the effectiveness of a low-cost intervention (a 'nudge') that informed low-income immigrants about their eligibility for the fee waiver. We find that the information nudge increased the rate of citizenship applications by about 8.6 percentage points from 24.5% in the control group to 33.1% in the treatment group (ordinary least squares regression with robust standard errors (d.f.=933); P=0.015; 95% confidence interval ranged from 1.7 to 15.4 percentage points). We found no evidence that the nudge was less effective for poorer or less educated immigrants. These findings contribute to the literature that addresses the incomplete take-up of public benefits by low-income populations4-10 and suggest that lack of information is an important obstacle to citizenship among low-income immigrants who demonstrate an interest in naturalization.

    View details for DOI 10.1038/s41562-019-0572-z

    View details for PubMedID 30988483

  • Oregon's Expansion of Prenatal Care Improved Utilization Among Immigrant Women MATERNAL AND CHILD HEALTH JOURNAL Swartz, J. J., Hainmueller, J., Lawrence, D., Rodriguez, M. I. 2019; 23 (2): 173–82


    Objectives To determine whether expanding Emergency Medicaid to cover prenatal care in Oregon affected maternal health outcomes for unauthorized immigrants. Methods This study takes place in Oregon from 2003 to 2015 and includes all Emergency Medicaid and Medicaid claims for women aged 12-51 with a pregnancy related claim. To isolate the effect of expanding access to prenatal care, we utilized a difference-in-differences approach that exploits the staggered rollout of the prenatal care program. The primary outcome was a composite measure of severe maternal morbidity and mortality. Additional outcomes include adequacy of prenatal care, detection of pregnancy complications and birth outcomes. Results A total of 213,746 pregnancies were included, with 35,182 covered by Emergency Medicaid, 12,510 covered by Emergency Medicaid Plus (with prenatal care), and 166,054 covered by standard Medicaid. Emergency Medicaid Plus coverage did not affect severe maternal morbidity (all pregnancies 0.05%, CI - 0.29; 0.39; high-risk pregnancies 2.20%, CI - 0.47; 4.88). The program did reduce inadequate care among all pregnancies (- 31.75%, 95% CI - 34.47; - 29.02) and among high risk pregnancies (- 38.60%, CI - 44.17; - 33.02) and increased diagnosis of gestational diabetes (6.24%, CI 4.36; 8.13; high risk pregnancies 10.48%, CI 5.87; 15.08), and poor fetal growth (7.37%, CI 5.69; 9.05; high risk pregnancies 5.34%, CI 1.00; 9.68). The program also increased diagnosis of pre-existing diabetes mellitus (all pregnancies 2.93%, CI 2.16; 3.69), hypertensive diseases of pregnancy (all pregnancies 1.28%, CI 0.52; 2.04) and a history of preterm birth (all pregnancies 0.87%, CI 0.27; 1.47). Conclusions for Practice Oregon's prenatal care expansion program produced positive effects for unauthorized immigrant women and their children.

    View details for DOI 10.1007/s10995-018-2611-1

    View details for Web of Science ID 000459576000005

    View details for PubMedID 30039326

  • Determinants of refugee naturalization in the United States PROCEEDINGS OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA Mossaad, N., Ferwerda, J., Lawrence, D., Weinstein, J. M., Hainmueller, J. 2018; 115 (37): 9175–80


    The United States operates the world's largest refugee resettlement program. However, there is almost no systematic evidence on whether refugees successfully integrate into American society over the long run. We address this gap by drawing on linked administrative data to directly measure a long-term integration outcome: naturalization rates. Assessing the full population of refugees resettled between 2000 and 2010, we find that refugees naturalize at high rates: 66% achieved citizenship by 2015. This rate is substantially higher than among other immigrants who became eligible for citizenship during the same period. We also find significant heterogeneity in naturalization rates. Consistent with the literature on immigration more generally, sociodemographic characteristics condition the likelihood of naturalization. Women, refugees with longer residency, and those with higher education levels are more likely to obtain citizenship. National origins also matter. While refugees from Iran, Iraq, and Somalia naturalize at higher rates, those from Burma, Ukraine, Vietnam, and Liberia naturalize at lower rates. We also find naturalization success is significantly shaped by the initial resettlement location. Placing refugees in areas that are urban, have lower rates of unemployment, and have a larger share of conationals increases the likelihood of acquiring citizenship. These findings suggest pathways to promote refugee integration by targeting interventions and by optimizing the geographic placement of refugees.

    View details for DOI 10.1073/pnas.1802711115

    View details for Web of Science ID 000444257200052

    View details for PubMedID 30150381

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC6140527

  • Immigration Policy: Valuing Children ACADEMIC PEDIATRICS Mendoza, F. S., Cueto, V., Lawrence, D., Sanders, L., Weintraub, D. 2018; 18 (7): 723–25
  • Expanding Prenatal Care to Unauthorized Immigrant Women and the Effects on Infant Health. Obstetrics and gynecology Swartz, J. J., Hainmueller, J., Lawrence, D., Rodriguez, M. I. 2017


    To measure the effect of access to prenatal care on unauthorized and low-income, new legal permanent resident immigrant women and their offspring.We used a difference-in-differences design that leverages the staggered rollout of Emergency Medicaid Plus by county from 2008 to 2013 as a natural experiment to estimate the effect on health service utilization for women and health outcomes for their infants. Regular Medicaid pregnancies were used as an additional control in a triple difference design.Our sample included pregnancies covered by Emergency Medicaid (35,182), Emergency Medicaid Plus (12,510), and Medicaid (166,054). After expansion of access to prenatal care, there was an increase in prenatal visits (7.2 more visits, 95% CI 6.45-7.96), receipt of adequate prenatal care (28% increased rate, CI 26-31), rates of diabetes screening (61% increased rate, CI 56-66), and fetal ultrasonograms (74% increased rate, CI 72-76). Maternal access to prenatal care was also associated with an increased number of well child visits (0.24 more visits, CI 0.07-0.41), increased rates of recommended screenings and vaccines (0.04 increased probability, CI 0.002-0.074), and reduced infant mortality (-1.01/1,000, CI -1.42 to -0.60) and rates of extremely low birth weight (less than 1,000 g) (-1.33/1,000, CI -2.44 to -0.21).Our results provide evidence of increased utilization and improved health outcomes for unauthorized immigrants and their children who are U.S. citizens after introduction of prenatal care expansion in Oregon. This study contributes to the debate around reauthorization of the Children's Health Insurance Program in 2017.

    View details for DOI 10.1097/AOG.0000000000002275

    View details for PubMedID 29016491

  • When lives are put on hold: Lengthy asylum processes decrease employment among refugees. Science advances Hainmueller, J., Hangartner, D., Lawrence, D. 2016; 2 (8)


    European governments are struggling with the biggest refugee crisis since World War II, but there exists little evidence regarding how the management of the asylum process affects the subsequent integration of refugees in the host country. We provide new causal evidence about how one central policy parameter, the length of time that refugees wait in limbo for a decision on their asylum claim, affects their subsequent economic integration. Exploiting exogenous variation in wait times and registry panel data covering refugees who applied in Switzerland between 1994 and 2004, we find that one additional year of waiting reduces the subsequent employment rate by 4 to 5 percentage points, a 16 to 23% drop compared to the average rate. This deleterious effect is remarkably stable across different subgroups of refugees stratified by gender, origin, age at arrival, and assigned language region, a pattern consistent with the idea that waiting in limbo dampens refugee employment through psychological discouragement, rather than a skill atrophy mechanism. Overall, our results suggest that marginally reducing the asylum waiting period can help reduce public expenditures and unlock the economic potential of refugees by increasing employment among this vulnerable population.

    View details for DOI 10.1126/sciadv.1600432

    View details for PubMedID 27493995

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC4972466