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The Economic Impact of Refugees in the Cleveland Area in 2012

A study by Chmura Economics & Analytics, commissioned by The Refugee Services Collaborative of Greater Cleveland, finds that there are significant economic benefits to the local economy due to refugee resettlement in the Cleveland Area. Focusing on Cuyahoga County in 2012, the report examines the overall economic impact of refugees by analyzing labor market participation rates, tax revenues, and spending by refugee owned businesses, households and service organizations. By all accounts, refugees in the Cleveland area are positively contributing to the local economy, creating an estimated overall economic impact of $48 million, supporting 650 jobs and producing nearly $2.8 million in state and local tax revenue in 2012. In a metropolitan area deeply affected by high unemployment and population decline, this source of revenue and employment should not be discounted but seen as a way to revitalize the local economy and community. Despite a decline in refugee arrivals after the September 11 terrorist attacks, refugee resettlement has rebounded nationally since reaching a low point in 2006, Cleveland has taken in over 4,500 refugees from Burma, Bhutan, Somalia, Ukraine and Iraq since 2000. Refugee resettlement incurs considerable short term costs, the long term benefits to welcoming refugees are undeniable and this study finds no evidence to the notion that immigrants take jobs from natives or are a burden to the public. Within a few years of resettlement, refugees’ labor market participation increases while their dependence on government assistance decreases. Moreover, research indicates that refugees are highly motivated to give back to their host country and are more likely to start successful businesses than natives. The positive benefits continue into the following generations as second generation refugees are proven to be high achievers in both education and employment.

Compared with refugee communities nationally, refugees in Cleveland are doing particularly well. The report finds that refugees in the Cleveland area typically gain employment within five months of their resettlement despite that many lack English proficiency. Refugees in Cleveland also enjoy higher household earnings and employment rates than their counterparts in Miami, Sacramento and Houston while also depending less on public assistance. Furthermore, refugees in the Cleveland area are at or above the national norm in terms of socioeconomic integration. Over the last ten years refugees in Cleveland have started more than 38 local businesses which employ 141 refugees, producing $12 million in spending while also purchasing 248 homes along the way. In just 2012, refugees contributed about $2.7 million to the state and local governments in tax revenues. It’s clear that the $4.8 million in funding that supports refugee resettlement is well spent as it has generated $48 million in annual economic activity and supports 650 jobs in Cuyahoga County. By welcoming refugees the Cleveland area has undeniably benefitted in economic terms and will continue to do so. As for revitalizing our local economy and communities, refugees are leading the way.

For a more in depth analysis into the economic impacts of refugee resettlement and case studies, read the full report here.

Chmura Economics & Analytics. (2013). Economic Impact of Refugees in the Cleveland Area.

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