Refugees Who Reach the US Found More Businesses Than People Born There, Study Shows

In 2019, 13% of the refugees in the US were entrepreneurs, compared to 9% of US-born Americans, according to a study by New American Economy

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June 22, 2023 | 03:10 PM

Bloomberg Línea — The United States has set its refugee admission target at 125,000 for 2023, but global crises are generating greater demand for asylum. In 2021, the country allowed in nearly 180,000 Afghans and Ukrainians into the country on humanitarian grounds.

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However, beyond the political debates over humanitarian obligations and public safety concerns, refugees have a lasting positive social and economic impact on US communities. In various US cities, refugees have transformed communities in fundamental ways, revitalizing the local economy and contributing to the growth of various industries, according to a report by New American Economy.

The report, using data from the 2019 American Community Survey, highlights the positive economic impact of refugees in the United States, and it states that the nearly 2.4 million refugees analyzed earned a collective household income of $93.6 billion in 2019 and contributed $25 billion in taxes. This left them with $68.6 billion in disposable income to use in US-based businesses.

In addition, refugees enjoy a higher rate of entrepreneurship than other immigrant groups. In 2019, nearly 188,000 refugee entrepreneurs generated $5.1 billion in business revenue. That means 13% of refugees were entrepreneurs, compared to only 11.7% of non-refugee immigrants and 9% of the US-born population.

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Spillover effect

According to the study, refugees show a greater willingness to settle and build lives in the United States. 89.9% of those who have been in the country for 20 years or more have become citizens, compared to 67.5% of other immigrants in that period.

In addition, 59.2% of refugee households own their homes, compared to 51.7% of other immigrants, while 65.7% of US-born residents are homeowners.

At a time when the United States faces unprecedented demographic challenges, refugees can play an important role in helping to mitigate these challenges. An estimated 78.2% of refugees are of working age, compared to 61.9% of the US-born population. Their contribution to the workforce and entitlement programs can alleviate the anticipated strain of an aging population.


Refugees also contribute significantly to the economies of several large states, such as North Carolina, Michigan and Massachusetts, where they have more than $1 billion in purchasing power. In California, their purchasing power exceeds $20.7 billion, and in Texas, it exceeds $5.4 billion.

For example, in Fargo, North Dakota, large employers such as glass manufacturer Cardinal IG and rural health care provider Sanford Health say they could not have maintained and expanded their operations in the region without the influx of refugee workers.

In Minneapolis, Somali refugees have become an integral part of the city’s business and cultural landscape, even representing the area in the US Congress. In Buffalo, New York, refugees are credited with the “rebirth of the city,” reversing decades of population decline and transforming neglected neighborhoods into safe and lively areas.

A record 100 million people worldwide were forced to flee their homes in 2022, according to the American Immigration Council. Of those displaced persons, 32.5 million were refugees who left their countries for fear of persecution for their race, religion, nationality, political opinion, etc.

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