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CSDE Seminar Series

Population Research Discovery Seminars

Success or Self-Sufficiency? The Role of Race in Refugees' Long-Term Economic Outcomes

Rebbeca Tesfai, Department of Sociology, Temple University

Register HERE.

12:30-1:30 PM PT

360 Parrington Hall


Population Health Initiative, Horn of Africa Initiative

The United States has always prided itself as providing safe haven to those who are persecuted. Yet, the United States did not develop policy for admitting and resettling refugees until 1980. Unlike Asians and Europeans, African refugees in the 1980s were chosen primarily based on skill, but no research thus far examines whether this strategy led to greater long-term economic success for African refugees. This paper examines racial differences in refugees’ likelihood of living in poverty, receiving welfare income, engaging in full-time employment and wages between 1990 and 2019. I find that refugees show improvement in all four outcomes. African refugees, however, earn less than nearly all other groups in all time periods suggesting blocked mobility, particularly among men. Analyses focus on the 1982–1987 entry cohort of refugees who had access to more assistance than future cohorts. Consequently, these findings likely show the best-case scenario for refugees’ long-term economic outcomes.

Rebbeca Tesfai is an Associate Professor of Sociology at Temple University. Her research provides a comprehensive account of Black immigrants’ economic, political, and residential incorporation over time and across place. As a social demographer, she uses these analyses to re-examine our theoretical understanding of both immigrant incorporation and racial stratification. Her work has been published in race/ethnicity, urban, and immigration journals including International Migration Review, Ethnic and Racial Studies, Sociology of Race and Ethnicity, and the Journal of Refugee Studies.