Refugees’ integration helps develop our communities and improve our local economies


Refugees coming to the United States fully integrate into the communities they resettle in. After a period of ten years or more, they are in many regards similar to their U.S.-born neighbors: They actively participate in the labor force, own their own businesses, buy homes, speak fluent English and become U.S. citizens.

A new report released last week by the Center for American Progress (CAP)explains just that. It also explains that refugees come to the U.S. for humanitarian reasons from the most dangerous places in the world, but over time they contribute to the American economy, bringing vitality to areas with declining populations and expanding the labor force as they seek and find work to make better lives for themselves and their children, the report said.

The following are among the report’s major findings:

Refugee men quickly move into the labor force: The labor force participation rates of men in refugee communities often exceed that of U.S.-born men.

Refugee women become increasingly integrated into the labor force over time: Recently arrived refugee women have lower-than-average labor force participation rates, but those who have been in the United States for more than 10 years have rates about as high as or sometimes higher than those of U.S.-born women.

Once established in the United States, refugees often see substantial wage gains: Recently arrived men have a median wage of $23,000 per year, while the median for those who have been in the United States for more than 10 years is $54,000.

Refugees move up the occupational ladder as they become rooted in the United States: 23 percent of recently arrived refugees work in white-collar jobs, while 43 percent work after having been in the United States for 10 years or more.

Refugees start businesses, which helps expand local economies:Approximately 30 out of every 1,000 refugees in the labor force are business owners. By way of comparison, 31 out of every 1,000 U.S.-born people in the labor force are business owners, as are 36 out of every 1,000 foreign-born people in the labor force.

Refugee wages are in the middle of the range of wages for U.S.-born workers: Refugees enter a U.S. economy that is characterized by well-documented wage gaps based on race and gender. Refugee earnings are generally higher than those of the lowest-earning U.S.-born race and gender group, black women, but lower than those of the highest-earning U.S.-born group, white men.

Refugees learn English over time: After living in the country for more than 10 years, 86 percent of the refugees interviewed said they speak English at least “well,” and 61 percent speak English “very well” or exclusively.

Refugees who have been in the United States longer generally own their homes: Approximately seventy-three percent of refugees who have been in the United States for more than 10 years live in homes they own themselves. The rate for U.S.-born people who own homes is at 68 percent.

Refugees become U.S. citizens: Among the people in each of the four refugee groups, more than three-quarters who have been in the United States for more than 20 years have become naturalized citizens.

Refugee groups are playing a particularly big role in certain states and metropolitan areas: They have become part of the economic revitalization of Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota. They are also helping spur growth in St. Louis; Fargo, North Dakota; and Columbus, Ohio, where political leaders have welcomed their contributions.

The report is based on a 2014 analysis of American Community Survey (ACS), a 5-year data for Somali, Burmese, Hmong, and Bosnian refugees.

Read more HERE.

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