New Research on Refugee Economic Contributions

New Research on Refugee Economic Contributions
Global Detroit, University of Michigan release study detailing up to $295 million in annual economic activity

West Bloomfield, Michigan – Every year, refugees to Southeast Michigan contribute up to $295 million to the region’s economy and, in 2016 alone, they create up to 2, 311 new jobs. That’s according to a new study released by Global Detroit and University of Michigan researchers.

The study conservatively estimates total annual economic impact to be between $229.6 million and $295.3 million in new spending, along with between 1,798 and 2,311 new jobs, in 2016 alone, from the over 21,000 refugees in resettled into Macomb, Oakland, Washtenaw and Wayne Counties between 2007-2016.

”Michigan has been the fourth largest destination state for refugees over the last decade..Our research documents that these new Michiganders have been a source of strength to the Michigan economy—launching new businesses, providing much-needed labor, and achieving self-sufficiency within a very short time after their arrival,” said Steve Tobocman, Executive Director of Global Detroit and one of the study’s principal authors. “While refugee policies and politics necessarily extend beyond economics, our research verifies that being welcoming to refugees is in our own economic self-interest.”

In addition to Global Detroit and the University of Michigan, a number of other institutions contributed to the report’s research including local refugee resettlement agencies (Samaritas, Catholic Charities of Southeast Michigan, Jewish Family Services of Washtenaw, and U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants), Welcoming Michigan-Michigan Immigrant Rights Center, and the Chaldean Chamber of Commerce.

The study was released at the Chaldean Cultural Center in West Bloomfield. According to U.S. State Department data analyzed in the study, 90 percent of the 21,000 refugees resettled in Southeast Michigan between 2007-2016 were Iraqis and many were Chaldean, an indigenous people of Iraq who speak a form of Aramaic and, as Christians, face persecution in present-day Iraq. Southeast Michigan is home to the world’s largest Chaldean population outside of Iraq, with an estimated 150,000 Chaldean people, over 61% of whom live in households that own one or more businesses.

To arrive at their findings, the researchers examined sources of new spending that would not exist if not for the resettlement of refugees in the region. The study used Census microdata and survey instruments to quantify the annual spending from refugee resettlement agencies’ federal contracts, the spending of refugee households, and the spending from refugee-owned businesses.

“Studies like today’s report can help public policy makers, local and state government, philanthropy, and even the private sector,” noted study co-author Elisabeth Gerber, Professor and Associate Dean at the Ford School of Public Policy at the University of Michigan. “It is our hope that local communities deciding to welcome refugees can use this research to better integrate refugees, help them achieve self-sufficiency, and insure that their resettlement is an economic benefit to the local community.”

This study is being released at a critical moment. President Trump announced last month that the U.S. would only accept 45,000 refugees in the coming fiscal year—the lowest ceiling since U.S. Presidents began setting the annual ceiling on refugee admissions in 1980.

Yet, across the globe, there are more refugees than at any time since the Second World War. Some 22 million people—more than half of whom are children—are unsafe in their home countries. The U.S. has traditionally accepted the largest number of these referrals—over 3 million refugees since 1975. While the Trump Administration has decreased the U.S. role in providing a place of refuge, other nations—especially in Europe—have stepped up their leadership to address the crisis.

This study was undertaken as part of a larger effort to build a regional refugee resettlement collaborative in Southeast Michigan. Global Detroit, partners at Welcoming Michigan-Michigan Immigrant Rights Center and the four refugee resettlement agencies in the region—Samaritas, Catholic Charities of Southeast Michigan, Jewish Family Services of Washtenaw, and U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants—formed a core group to launch such an endeavor amidst the growing global refugee crisis in 2015. With generous funding from the McGregor Fund, more than a dozen other state and local government partners, as well as other social service providers have worked to build the collaborative. Following a communications effort to tell refugee stories as part of Immigrant Heritage Month in June 2017, the release of this economic analysis is the second product of the collaborative’s efforts.


About Global Detroit

Global Detroit is revitalizing Metro Detroit’s economy by mobilizing its immigrant potential. A 2016 national Renewal Award winner, Global Detroit is nationally-recognized as an innovator and expert in leveraging international talent to fill regional businesses’ unmet talent needs, catalyzing the growth and development of immigrant entrepreneurs, revitalizing neighborhoods, and building a global region with competitive advantages in job creation, business growth, and community development.

Global Detroit has launched leading-edge programs in international student talent retention, professional talent connection, immigrant entrepreneurship, and neighborhood revitalization. Global Detroit has spearheaded the creation of the Welcoming Economies Global Network (WE Global), a ten-state regional collaborative of more than 20 peer local immigrant economic development initiatives across the Rust Belt. For further information go to


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