The Economic and Social Outcomes of Refugees in the United States: Evidence from the ACS
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.
This work was supported by the Wilson Sheehan Lab for Economic Opportunities. We wish to thank representatives at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and Catholic Charities USA for a number of helpful comments about our work. The views expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Bureau of Economic Research.
- Over the first 20 years in the U.S., the average adult refugee pays taxes that exceed relocation costs and social benefits. Are...