- A person with certain rights and duties under a government
- A person who by birth or by choice owes allegiance, or loyalty, to a nation
How Does One Become a United States Citizen?
- By Birth - The 14th Amendment to the Constitution guarantees citizenship to anyone born on US soil, or born to parents of US citizens.
- Jus soli - Citizenship is determined by the place of one's birth (literally, right of the soil)
- Jus sanguinis - Citizenship is determined by having one or both parents who are citizens of the state (literally, right of blood)
Who Are Americans? A Look at American Demographics
How Many Households Are Like Yours? (New York Times Interactive Infographic from June 17, 2011)
The Changing Definition of Citizenship
At the nation’s founding, voting was limited to white, land-owning men 21 years old or older (approximately 6% of the population at the time). Since then, through amendments to the Constitution, legislation, and Supreme Court cases, citizenship and suffrage have been expanded to include more people.
- 13th Amendment (1865) ended slavery in the US
- 14th Amendment (1868) granted former slaves citizenship
- 15th Amendment (1870) gave African American men the right to vote.
- 19th Amendment (1920) gave women the right to vote.
- 24th Amendment (1964) removed barriers to poor people’s access to vote
- 26th Amendment (1971) lowered the voting age to 18
Preserving American Freedom: The Evolution of American Liberties in Fifty Documents (Digital Archive Project)
Duties and Responsibilities of Citizenship
- Civic Duties – An action required by law for a citizen to perform (Things we MUST do)
- Obey Laws
- Pay Taxes
- Selective Service
- Serve in Court
- Go to School
- Civic Responsibilities – Actions we SHOULD do as citizens
- Be informed
- Vote in elections
- Participate in community
- Respect property
- Respect others