E Are Refugees A Burden To U.S. Taxpayers? Not According To A NBER Study!

Are refugees a burden on the taxpayer? New evidence suggests that, with a long enough perspective, the answer is no. Over their first 20 years in the United States, refugees who arrived as adults aged 18-45 contributed more in taxes than they received in relocation benefits and other public assistance. They also find that the younger the refugees were when they resettled in America, the more likely they were to catch up with their native-born peers educationally and economically. (Steve Maas, NBER Digest, August 17, 2017)

This important study relates to the average time taken for refugees to integrate into the U.S. economy. The report also examined the fiscal and social costs of integrating refugees into the U.S. economy. (See William N. Evans and Daniel Fitzgerald, The Economic and Social Outcomes of Refugees in the United States: Evidence from the ACS, NBER Working Paper No. 23498)

The study extrapolated lifecycle profiles for typical refugees using data collected from the 2010-14 American Community Survey. The study’s data sample was quite robust, since it represented one-third of all refugees who entered the U.S. during the period.

Here are some of the most important findings

1.Refugees who arrived before the age of 14 had, by ages 19-24, graduated from high school at the same rates as their U.S.-born counterparts. At ages 23-28, these young refugees displayed the same college graduation rates as natives.

2. Refugees who arrived as older teens took longer to obtain their high school diplomas than their U.S.-born peers. The researchers attribute this largely to language difficulties and the fact that many in this demographic arrived as unaccompanied minors.

3. The gap in high school graduation rates observed between refugees and natives aged 19-24 disappears within a decade, and the gap in college graduation rates is halved over this period. Controlling for educational attainment, the researchers found “no difference in economic outcomes between refugees who arrived as children and U.S.-born survey respondents.”

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Author: Travis Esquivel

Travis Esquivel is an engineer, passionate soccer player and full-time dad. He enjoys writing about innovation and technology from time to time.

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