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The Economic and Social Outcomes of Refugees in the United States: Evidence from the ACS

Listed author(s):
  • William N. Evans
  • Daniel Fitzgerald

Using data from the 2010-2014 American Community Survey, we use a procedure suggested by Capps et al. (2015) to identify refugees from the larger group of immigrants to examine the outcomes of refugees relocated to the U.S. Among young adults, we show that refugees that enter the U.S. before age 14 graduate high school and enter college at the same rate as natives. Refugees that enter as older teenagers have lower attainment with much of the difference attributable to language barriers and because many in this group are not accompanied by a parent to the U.S. Among refugees that entered the U.S. at ages 18-45, we follow respondents’ outcomes over a 20-year period in a synthetic cohort. Refugees have much lower levels of education and poorer language skills than natives and outcomes are initially poor with low employment, high welfare use and low earnings. Outcomes improve considerably as refugees age. After 6 years in the country, these refugees work at higher rates than natives but they never attain the earning levels of U.S.-born respondents. Using the NBER TAXSIM program, we estimate that refugees pay $21,000 more in taxes than they receive in benefits over their first 20 years in the U.S.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 23498.

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Date of creation: Jun 2017
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:23498
Note: CH ED LS PE
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  1. Borjas, George J, 1985. "Assimilation, Changes in Cohort Quality, and the Earnings of Immigrants," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 3(4), pages 463-489, October.
  2. Heather Antecol & Kelly Bedard, 2006. "Unhealthy assimilation: Why do immigrants converge to American health status levels?," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 43(2), pages 337-360, May.
  3. Chiswick, Barry R, 1991. "Speaking, Reading, and Earnings among Low-Skilled Immigrants," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 9(2), pages 149-170, April.
  4. Card, David, 2001. "Immigrant Inflows, Native Outflows, and the Local Labor Market Impacts of Higher Immigration," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 19(1), pages 22-64, January.
  5. Lori A. Beaman, 2012. "Social Networks and the Dynamics of Labour Market Outcomes: Evidence from Refugees Resettled in the U.S," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 79(1), pages 128-161.
  6. Borjas, George J, 1995. "Assimilation and Changes in Cohort Quality Revisited: What Happened to Immigrant Earnings in the 1980s?," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 13(2), pages 201-245, April.
  7. Todd Schoellman, 2016. "Early Childhood Human Capital and Development," American Economic Journal: Macroeconomics, American Economic Association, vol. 8(3), pages 145-174, July.
  8. Daniel Feenberg & Elisabeth Coutts, 1993. "An introduction to the TAXSIM model," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 12(1), pages 189-194.
  9. Trejo, Stephen J, 1997. "Why Do Mexican Americans Earn Low Wages?," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 105(6), pages 1235-1268, December.
  10. George J. Borjas, 2003. "The Labor Demand Curve is Downward Sloping: Reexamining the Impact of Immigration on the Labor Market," NBER Working Papers 9755, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. George J. Borjas, 2003. "The Labor Demand Curve is Downward Sloping: Reexamining the Impact of Immigration on the Labor Market," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 118(4), pages 1335-1374.
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