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It’s World Refugee Day! Here Are Some of the Economic Impacts of Refugees in America

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Today is World Refugee Day — and as CNN reports, more than 65 million people around the world are counted as forcibly displaced by the United Nations. CNN goes on to point out that:

  • Children are disproportionately affected — more than half of refugees are under 18
  • People are displaced every day — you could fill 630 school buses with people forced from their homes every day
  • More than half of all refugees come from three war-torn countries: Syria, Afghanistan, and Somalia
  • Others flee famine or persecution. Starvation is a threat for millions in Africa, while ethnic persecution is targeting more than 1 million Rohingyas in Myanmar
  • Only 1% of refugees are resettled in any one year. In 2016, 150,000 refugees around the world were resettled.

New American Economy has released a new report on refugees and their economic contributions to America. Here are some of their findings:

Refugees contribute meaningfully to our economy as earners and taxpayers. In 2015, the almost 2.3 million refugees captured in our analysis earned a collective $77.2 billion in household income. They also contributed $20.9 billion in taxes. That left them with $56.3 billion in disposable income, or spending power, to use at U.S. businesses.

While refugees receive initial assistance upon arriving in the United States, they see particularly sharp income increases in subsequent years. By the time a refugee has been in the country at least 25 years, their median household income reaches $67,000—a full $14,000 more than the median income of U.S. households overall.

Refugees have some of the highest entrepreneurship rates of any Americans. The United States was home to more than 180,000 refugee entrepreneurs in 2015. That means that 13 percent of refugees were entrepreneurs in 2015, compared to 9% of the U.S.-born population. The businesses of refugees also generated $4.6 billion in business income that year.

Refugees make particularly meaningful contributions to the economies of several large states. In 18 U.S. states—including Minnesota, Michigan, and Georgia—likely refugees hold more than $1 billion in spending power. In California alone, their spending power totals more than $17.2 billion, while in Texas, the equivalent figure is more than $4.6 billion.

In an era when the country faces unprecedented demographic challenges, refugees are uniquely positioned to help. Recent estimates have indicated that by 2030, 20.3 percent of the U.S. population will be older than age 65, up from just 12.4 percent in 2000. Refugees can help lessen the anticipated strain this will place on the U.S. workforce and entitlement programs. An estimated 77.1 percent of refugees are working-age, compared to the just 49.7 percent of the U.S.-born population.

Other Resources for World Refugee Day