Noah Smith column: Afghan refugees do not pose an economic threat to Americans | Chroniclers


Whether it’s Iraqi refugees in Sweden, Syrian refugees in Turkey, Middle Eastern refugees in Denmark, Cuban refugees in the United States, or a number of other similar situations, economists never stop. to find no employment penalty for natives. Wages are not suffering either.

This does not mean, of course, that refugees themselves will flourish automatically. Unlike immigrants who come here through normal employment and family-based systems, refugees tend to come to the United States without a lot of money or many existing networks.

But despite these handicaps, studies show that refugees tend to do well. For example, a 2004 study by economist Kalena Cortes found that although refugees start out more disadvantaged than other immigrants, their labor market outcomes 10 to 15 years later are actually better. Researchers who have followed refugees over time find that they tend to do whatever it takes to move forward in the world: get an education, learn English, etc. They work in a variety of industries and are starting more than their share of businesses.

This economic success means that refugees are generally not going to weigh on public coffers. Besides jobs and wages, the other big economic fear is that refugees will need a lot of social services, which will have to come out of the pockets of taxpayers. Studies that track refugees for decades have shown that, on average, they pay back in taxes what they get from government services after only eight years. Over 20 years, they tend to pay tens of thousands of dollars more than they use. This means that instead of being a tax grab, Afghan refugees are likely to ease the strain on public finances.

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