The Park Place Economist


The United States has long been the leading destination for immigration. In 2014, there were more than 42 million immigrants in the US, which constitutes 13.3% of the total population in the country (Zong & Batalova, 2016). Of these different immigrant groups, one group in particular has received increasing attention from labor economists: refugees. Unlike economic immigrants who moved to the United States for better economic opportunities, refugees fled to the United States to escape persecution in their home country. In other words, economic immigrants chose to come to the US under their free will, whereas refugees did not have much liberty to choose when and where they would be resettled for humanitarian purposes. Hence, economic immigrants and refugees differ primarily based on the length of time and variety of resources they have at their home country to prepare for settlement in the United States, namely acquiring English skills to increase the likelihood of employment. Refugees are likely to have less time and fewer resources to gain such US-specific skills prior to immigration and therefore be disadvantaged in the US labor market.

It is hence important for policymakers to understand how the refugees fare in the United States to formulate better humanitarian resettlement programs. This paper aims to investigate how refugees perform in the US labor market in relation to economic immigrants, while controlling for demographic and human capital variables. The paper is organized in the following order: literature review, theoretical model, data/ empirical model, empirical results, and conclusion.