What is citizenship?

The Center for the Study of Citizenship uses the Merriam-Webster dictionary definition of citizenship: "membership in a community." This definition allows us to define our reach broadly, focus upon social inclusion as well as exclusion, yet still fit the realm of citizenship.

Definition of citizenship

A legal status and relation between an individual and a state that entails specific legal rights and duties.

Citizenship is generally used as a synonym for nationality. Where citizenship is used in a meaning that is different from nationality it refers to the legal rights and duties of individuals attached to nationality under domestic law. In some national laws, citizenship has a more specific meaning and refers to rights and duties that can only be exercised after the age of majority (such as voting rights) or to rights and duties that can only be exercised in the national territory. (Source: GlobalCIT)

What is a citizen?

A citizen is a participatory member of a political community. Citizenship is gained by meeting the legal requirements of a national, state, or local government. A nation grants certain rights and privileges to its citizens. In return, citizens are expected to obey their country's laws and defend it against its enemies.

The value of citizenship varies from nation to nation. In some countries, citizenship can mean a citizen has the right to vote, the right to hold government offices and the right to collect unemployment insurance payments, to name a few examples.

Living in a country does not mean that a person is necessarily a citizen of that country. Citizens of one country who live in a foreign country are known as aliens. Their rights and duties are determined by political treaties and by the laws of the country in which they stay. In the United States, aliens must obey the laws and pay taxes, just as U.S. citizens do. They must register with the U.S. government to obtain legal permission to stay for an extended length of time. Legal aliens are entitled to protection under the law and to use of the courts. They may also own property, carry on business and attend public schools. But aliens cannot vote or hold government office. In some states, they are not allowed to practice certain professions until they become citizens.

Under United States law, a noncitizen national is a person who is neither a citizen nor an alien but who owes permanent loyalty to the United States. People in this category have some but not all of the rights of citizens. For example, inhabitants of a United States territory may not have the right to vote. Noncitizen nationals of the United States include those people on the Pacific islands of American Samoa who were born after the territory was taken over by the United States in 1900. (Source: New Book of Knowledge)

What is corporate citizenship?

A company's role in, or responsibilities towards society. (Source: The Business Dictionary)

Corporate citizenship is a recognition that a business, corporation or business-like organization, has social, cultural and environmental responsibilities to the community in which it seeks a license to operate, as well as economic and financial ones to its shareholders or immediate stakeholders. Corporate citizenship involves an organization coming to terms with the need for, often, radical internal and external changes, in order to better meet its responsibilities to all of its stakeholders (direct or indirect), in order to establish and maintain, sustainable success for the organization and, as a result of that success, to achieve long term sustainable success for the community at large. (Source: CCRU (Corporate Citizen Research Unit) at Deakin University in Australia)

The belief that companies need to take active responsibility for their employees' lives and that corporations have social responsibilities even when meeting those responsibilities may cost money. (Source: Stebbins, L.F. (2001). Work and family in America. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, Inc.)

For a more comprehensive explanation of corporate citizenship, read the paper by our 2012 intern, Justin Ross Tuttleman (Wayne State University Law School), on corporate citizenship/corporate social responsibility.