How are Refugees Faring: Integration at U.S. and State Levels

Michael Fix, Kate Hoper, and Jie Zong
Date of Publication: 
June, 2017
Source Organization: 
Migration Policy Institute

This study looks at the educational and economic outcomes of five refugee communities (Vietnamese, Cuban, Russian, Iraqi and Burmese) in four states (California, Florida, New York and Texas).  The key question is whether the location of refugee resettlement has a significant impact on refugee integration.  This has been described as “the lottery effect” – the idea that refugees’ lives are impacted by being placed in locales with very different labor markets, costs of living and social safety nets. The authors begin by reviewing refugee outcomes more generally, pointing out that they tend to enter employment quickly.  However, these outcomes vary by community, with some populations (e.g., Russian) faring better than others (e.g., Bhutanese). The study finds the same is true at the state level, with Vietnamese and Russian refugees having higher employment rates and higher median income and the Iraqi and Burmese refugee communities having lower employment rates and lower median income across the states.  The authors conclude that national origin seems to be more highly correlated with positive economic outcomes than location of resettlement.  They offer some suggestions for why this might be the case, including the fact that many Iraqi refugees are widows with limited experience of the workforce. The authors also note that to get a fuller picture of resettlement outcomes, research should be conducted on non-economic factors such as levels of civic participation and refugees’ sense of belonging to the community where they have resettled (Erik Jacobson, Montclair State University).

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Fix, M., Hooper, K., & Zong, J. (2017). How Are Refugees Faring? Integration at U.S. and State Levels (p. 38). Washington, D.C.: Transatlantic Council on Migration. Retrieved from