June 17, 2017


Refugees May Be Good For The Economy (Kathryn Casteel and Michelle Cheng, 6/12/17, 538)

A new working paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research, however, argues that it is a mistake to focus on the costs of refugee resettlement without also looking at the economic and financial benefits.

"You can't just look at one side of this equation. [They're] getting benefits, but they're also generating income," said William Evans, a Notre Dame economist and one of the paper's authors. "They're living [here], so therefore they are paying taxes."

To try to estimate both the costs and benefits of admitting refugees, Evans and his coauthor, research assistant Daniel Fitzgerald, used data from the American Community Survey to identify people who are likely to be refugees. From that group, researchers pulled a sample of 18-to-45-year-olds who resettled in the U.S. over the past 25 years and examined how their employment and earnings changed over time. They found that the U.S. spends roughly $15,000 in relocation costs and $92,000 in social programs over a refugee's first 20 years in the country. However, they estimated that over the same time period, refugees pay nearly $130,000 in taxes -- over $20,000 more than they receive in benefits.

The authors found that, when compared to rates among U.S.-born residents, unemployment was higher and earnings were lower among adult refugees during their first few years in the country, but these outcomes changed substantially over time. After six years in the U.S., refugees were more likely to be employed than U.S.-born residents around the same age. The longer they live longer in the U.S., the more refugees' economic outcomes improved and the less they relied on government assistance. While refugees' average wages are never as high as the average for U.S.-born residents, after about eight years in the U.S., refugees aren't significantly more likely to receive welfare or food stamps than native-born residents with similar education and language skills.

Posted by at June 17, 2017 4:23 PM