New Report Reveals Refugees' Profound Economic Contributions and Integration in the United States

June 20, 2023
Last modified: 
June 20, 2023

WASHINGTON—Amidst the global refugee crisis, the American Immigration Council unveils a new report highlighting the substantial economic and social impact of refugees in the United States. The report, “Starting Anew: The Economic Impact of Refugees in America,” provides compelling evidence that refugees have become an indispensable part of their local communities, revitalizing cities and towns across the nation.

The report draws from U.S. census data on nearly 2.4 million likely refugees based on their country of origin and year of arrival in the United States, to present an irrefutable case for the positive influence refugees exert on the American economy and society. It challenges the prevailing political debates surrounding refugee acceptance, urging a broader understanding of their long-lasting impact.

As the United States is in the midst of political debates surrounding global displacement and refugees, the report emphasizes the enduring legacy refugees bring to American communities. While humanitarian obligation and public safety concerns are essential considerations, they fail to capture the profound social and economic contributions made by newcomers to their cities and towns.

“The findings are clear: refugees pay billions of dollars in taxes annually and demonstrate a remarkable entrepreneurial spirit, with high rates of business ownership, citizenship attainment, and homeownership. We hope this report will encourage informed conversations about the importance of refugee resettlement and highlight the invaluable contributions refugees make to our communities,” said Nan Wu, research director of the American Immigration Council. “By recognizing refugees as drivers of economic growth and social progress, we can foster a more inclusive and prosperous future for all.”

The report's key findings demonstrate the significant economic contributions made by refugees:

  • Economic Engine: In 2019 alone, the nearly 2.4 million refugees examined in the analysis generated a remarkable $93.6 billion in household income, contributing $25 billion in taxes and leaving them with $68.6 billion in disposable income to stimulate the U.S. economy.
  • Income Growth: While refugees experience initial assistance upon arrival, subsequent years witness substantial income growth. Refugees residing in the country for at least 20 years achieve a median household income of $71,400, surpassing the median income of U.S. households overall.
  • Entrepreneurial Spirit: Refugees display an entrepreneurial drive surpassing that of both non-refugee immigrants and the U.S.-born population. In 2019, the United States boasted nearly 188,000 refugee entrepreneurs, representing 13% of the refugees in the workforce and generating $5.1 billion in business income.
  • State Contributions: Across 17 states, including North Carolina, Michigan, and Massachusetts, the likely refugees analyzed possess over $1 billion in spending power. California stands out with over $20.7 billion, while Texas demonstrates over $5.4 billion in spending power from likely refugees.
  • Long-Term Integration: Refugees exemplify a profound commitment to their adopted homeland. About 89.9% of refugees residing in the United States for 20 years or more have become citizens, and 59.2% of likely refugee households own their homes.

To access the full report, including detailed findings and methodology, click here.

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Elyssa Pachico
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