From Struggle to Resilience: The Economic Impact of Refugees in America

Jun 1, 2017

Refugees living in the United States show a strong upward economic trajectory over time and make significant contributions to their new communities. This report uses data from the 2015 American Community Survey to examine 2.3 million likely refugees based on year of arrival in the U.S. and country of origin. The report finds that, although refugees in the U.S. for five years or less have a median household income of $22,000, that figure more than triples in subsequent decades, exceeding the median income of U.S. households overall. In addition, while only nine percent of the U.S.-born population and 11.5 percent of the non-refugee immigrant population were self-employed in 2015, 13 percent of refugees were entrepreneurs. Refugees are also willing to put down roots in the U.S., with 84 percent of refugees who have been in the U.S. for 16 to 25 years becoming citizens compared to half of the overall foreign-born population in the country for that length of time. As refugees are demonstrating a willingness to make long-term investments in the U.S., the authors recommend that more work be done to track and publicize the successes of the refugee population, in part to justify the short-term assistance provided to refugees during the resettlement process. 

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