Ethnic Networks can Foster the Economic Integration of Refugees

Linna Martén, Jens Hainmueller & Dominik Hangartner
Date of Publication: 
August, 2019
Source Organization: 

While policymakers have long opposed resettling refugees into ethnic enclaves on the grounds that this reduces assimilation, new research from Europe suggests that resettling refugees in co-ethnic communities (communities with people of the same ethnicity) results in faster economic integration. In “Ethnic networks can foster the economic integration of refugees” the authors find that refugees assigned to live in locations with many co-nationals are more likely to enter the labor market and, thus, become economically integrated into their host countries. The study is based on a sample of asylum seekers in Switzerland, where refugees are allocated to cantons (member states of the Swiss Confederation) based on their population and are restricted from moving out of their assigned canton. Data from the State Secretariat of Migration allowed the researchers to track employment status from the point directly after arrival. Their analyses provide evidence to suggest that co-national and co-ethnolinguistic networks positively affect the probability of employment in the arrival year and peaks at three years after arrival. This study has implications for refugee resettlement policy, specifically calling into question the proposition that refugee dispersion in the host country promotes cultural integration. The authors suggest that access to nationality-, ethnic, or language-based networks could not only improve employment outcomes for refugees but would also have positive economic impact on host societies. (Kristine Germar for The Immigrant Learning Center’s Public Education Institute)

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Martén, L., Hainmueller, J., & Hangartner, D. (2019). Ethnic networks can foster the economic integration of refugees. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS) 116(33). Retrieved from