Well-settled refugee communities in the United States punch above their weight economically, outpacing the national average on household income and entrepreneurship, according to a new report by the American Immigration Council.
Household income for refugees rises dramatically the more time they spend in the United States, according to the report.
On average, refugee households who have been in the United States five years or less earn around $30,500 per year, but after 20 years in the country that figure jumps to $71,400, $4,300 above the national median income.
The study analyzed data from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS) for 2015 to 2019, focusing on 2.4 million people likely to be refugees due to their country of origin and date of arrival in the United States; the Census Bureau does not collect data on past or present immigration status.
The report was released Tuesday to mark World Refugee Day.
Using the 2.4 million respondents as a sample for the about 3.5 million refugees in the United States, the researchers found that the sample group earned about $93.6 billion in household income in 2019.
The group also paid $25 billion in taxes and had nearly $70 billion left over as disposable income.
“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,” said Nan Wu, research director of the American Immigration Council.
According to the report, 13 percent of refugees are also entrepreneurs, compared to 9 percent of the U.S.-born population, and 11.7 percent of non-refugee immigrants.
In comparison to other immigrants, refugees are also more likely to participate politically and lay down roots in the United States — after 20 years of residency in the country, 89.9 percent of refugees have opted for U.S. citizenship, compared to 67.5 percent of other immigrants.
The sample group in the survey showed a 59.2 percent homeownership rate, higher than other immigrant groups at 51.7 percent, but lower than the 65.7 homeownership rate for the U.S.-born.
According to the United Nations, more than 100 million people were displaced from their homes globally in 2022, and State Department figures show that 20 million people were displaced in the Western Hemisphere.
Comparatively, the Biden administration has set a goal of accepting 125,000 refugees in 2023, a figure most experts say will be difficult to reach.
Still, the American Immigration Council report took into account the nearly 180,000 Afghans and Ukrainians who have been allowed into the United States through humanitarian parole.
“We hope this report will encourage informed conversations about the importance of refugee resettlement and highlight the invaluable contributions refugees make to our communities,” Wu said.
“By recognizing refugees as drivers of economic growth and social progress, we can foster a more inclusive and prosperous future for all.”
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