Abstract: Employment and Economic Integration Gap of Refugee Women Resettled in the U.S.: Gender Inequality in Country of Origin (Society for Social Work and Research 24th Annual Conference - Reducing Racial and Economic Inequality)

148P Employment and Economic Integration Gap of Refugee Women Resettled in the U.S.: Gender Inequality in Country of Origin

Friday, January 17, 2020
Marquis BR Salon 6 (ML 2) (Marriott Marquis Washington DC)
* noted as presenting author
Sarah Richards-Desai, MSW, Doctoral Candidate, State University of New York at Buffalo, Buffalo, NY
Yunju Nam, PhD, Associate Professor, School of Social Work, Buffalo, NY
Background and Purpose: Globally-embedded economic inequalities impact all women but particularly those experiencing the intersectionality of racialization, displacement, and violence (Bertrand, 2011; Rose, 2016). Gender-blind resettlement policies and economic independence requirements of women resettled in Western nations and the diasporic ethnic enclaves shape women’s opportunities.  Even as the number of refugees resettled in the United States dwindles under current immigrant policy, more resettled families worldwide are headed by women (Memela & Majaraj, 2018). Employment is required by U.S. policy (U.S. Department of State, 2018) and so refugee women must find ways of gaining economic wherewithal. While there are many qualitative examinations of how refugee women integrate, there have been no empirical studies using data from nationally-representative samples. Recent work has begun to explore the role of sending regions in refugee wages but has not considered how gender-based inequality is associated with employment outcomes for refugee women (Minor & Cameo, 2018). Built on the existing literature, this study investigates the impacts of the level of gender-based inequality in their country of origin on refugee women’s employment in the United States.

Methods: This study uses PUMS data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2010-2015 American Communities Survey (ACS), the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Annual Immigration Statistics Yearbook, and the UNDP’s Gender Inequality Index. The analysis sample consists of likely refugees in the ACS data. We investigate refugees (n = 26,155) and non-refugee immigrants (n = 993,336).  The outcome was a binary variable indicating employment. Using logistic regression and difference-in-difference (DID) estimation to ascertain associations between refugee women’s country of origin and other factors as compared to men’s, the sample was weighted to ensure that this was representative of the refugee population in the United States.

Results:  Analyses show that most refugees come from nations identified as having at least moderate to severe gender-based inequality, with only 9.9 % coming from more equal societies. Refugee women from countries with high inequality were less likely to be employed than male refugees, but more likely to be employed than non-refugee immigrant women. Male refugees and immigrants were more likely to be employed by their female counterparts regardless of the GII rank of their country of origin, however there was a greater difference in employment among refugee women and men according to GII than among non-refugee immigrant women and men.

Conclusion and Implications: Gender and inequality in the country of origin must be considered in planning interventions and policy to support refugee women’s economic integration, particularly into the U.S. labor market. Findings indicate need for policies and programs that consider cultural backgrounds (cultural norms of countries of origin) when serving refugee women.