Report: Refugees Successfully Integrate in the United States

By Kristina Doan

Earlier this summer the Center for American Progress and Fiscal Policy Institute released a report titled “Refugee Integration in the United States,” examining how well refugees integrate into U.S. communities within a ten-year span. The findings include some encouraging results showing that refugees are integrating well into American society through labor force participation, business ownership, home ownership, English language acquisition, and rates of naturalization.

Refugee resettlement is also playing a large role in the economic revitalization of cities in the Midwest such as Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota; St. Louis, Missouri; Fargo, North Dakota; Columbus, Ohio; and a number of cities in Wisconsin. Refugees are creating jobs and driving economic growth both as consumers and by opening businesses.

The study focused on four groups: Bosnian, Burmese, Hmong, and Somali refugees. Combined, these refugee groups constitute about 500,000 U.S. residents. Both refugee men and women show remarkable rates of American labor force participation and integration after being in the country for some time. Refugees are quickly and successfully contributing and integrating into the U.S. labor force and along the way developing and sustaining local economies.

Refugees are also advancing their careers and many are becoming entrepreneurs and opening businesses in their communities. For every 1,000 refugees, 36 are business owners. Refugees run businesses in construction, trucking, architectural firms, retail, restaurants, agriculture, nail salons, and home health care enterprises, all of which contribute to economic and social integration. Many Somali, Burmese, and Hmong refugees have also built careers in the fields of teaching, social work, and the arts, expanding the social and cultural fabric of their local communities.

After ten years in America, refugee median annual earnings continue to rise as refugees seek better job and educational opportunities and move up the occupational ladder. They also improve their English language skills, and home ownership rates continue to grow. After twenty years in America, more than 75 percent of these four refugee groups have become naturalized U.S. citizens.

These findings illustrate that over time refugees achieve the metrics of economic success that pave the way for social and cultural synthesis. They are integrating and actively participating in American society. Refugees continue to make significant economic contributions to communities and are working to improve their conditions over time.

We should continue to invest in education and business opportunities for refugees. America has a long history of welcoming and resettling refugees, and when refugees succeed, our communities grow and prosper.


Published on August 12, 2016


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