The U.S. Diversity Immigration Lottery

Other External Scholars:
Ralph Sell, American University in Cairo
Project Date:
Jul 2003
Award Amount:
Project Programs:

The U.S. Department of State and the Immigration and Naturalization Service conduct an annual "Diversity Lottery" that allows adults who were born in under-represented source countries a chance to gain legal, permanent residency in the United States. In recent years, 8 to 12 million people from over 150 countries applied for a chance to obtain one of 50,000 green cards through a random selection. Despite the lottery's impact on these millions of people and the immigrant population in the United States, little is known about the role the program plays in contemporary U.S. immigration.


Ralph Sell of American University in Cairo will describe the legislative, administrative and operational dimensions of the diversity lottery and show its relationship to other immigration processes. Using diversity lottery statistics, Sell will calculate variation in sources of and demand for U.S. immigration. By examining his findings within the context of theories about immigrant assimilation, he hopes to explain why it is that people from certain countries seek to immigrate to the United States at certain times. In a group of papers and a comprehensive report, Sell will assess the degree to which diversity lottery winners differ from other immigrants and shed light on this little understood gateway into U.S. residency.


RSF: The Russell Sage Foundation Journal of the Social Sciences is a peer-reviewed, open-access journal of original empirical research articles by both established and emerging scholars.


The Russell Sage Foundation offers grants and positions in our Visiting Scholars program for research.


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