Session: Economic Integration Among Refugees in the United States: Language Resources and Barriers (Society for Social Work and Research 26th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Racial, Social, and Political Justice)

62 Economic Integration Among Refugees in the United States: Language Resources and Barriers

Friday, January 14, 2022: 8:00 AM-9:30 AM
Marquis BR Salon 13, ML 2 (Marriott Marquis Washington, DC)
Cluster: Immigrants and Refugees
Symposium Organizer:
Yunju Nam, PhD, School of Social Work
Maryam Rafieifar, PhD, Montclair State University
Refugees have multiple barriers to economic success in the United States. Forced to leave their home countries often abruptly due to war, violence, conflicts, or political oppression, refugees arrive in the United States with minimal preparation. In addition to the language barriers and discrimination confronting most immigrants, refugees face unique challenges in resettlement. Refugees are often unable to produce evidence of their educational credentials and work experience due to limited access to documentation and institutions in their home country. The majority of refugees have experienced traumatic events and may also suffer from associated socio-emotional distress and mental health issues. However, the U.S. government offers minimal support to refugees: The goal of our refugee resettlement policy is to rapidly place refugees in jobs and remove them from government assistance programs. The U.S. government has developed, adopted, and implemented refugee policies and programs without an in-depth understanding of refugees' economic integration experiences. This symposium presents findings from quantitative and qualitative studies of refugees' economic challenges and integration into the U.S. labor market and financial system. Three papers in this symposium address two Social Work Grand Challenges: 'Reduce extreme economic inequality' and 'Achieve equal opportunity and justice.' Furthermore, these papers illustrate how social work science promotes racial, social, and political justice. The focal population of these studies, refugees, are a racially, linguistically, religiously, and politically marginalized group. The first paper, Factors associated with economic integration of refugee households in the United States, examines poverty among refugees, using data from a nationally representative sample: the 2018 Annual Survey of Refugees (ASR). This quantitative study illustrates refugees' economic challenges using the federal poverty measure: Refugees's poverty rate (21%) is almost double that of the general population (11.8%). Furthermore, refugees' poverty rate is dangerously high (79%) when it is measured with an alternative capabilities-based measure: The global Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI). Multivariate analyses reveal that limited English proficiency is significantly associated with both measures of poverty. The second paper, Financial instability and job insecurity among resettled Rohingyan refugees, expands our knowledge of refugees' economic challenge using qualitative data collected from Rohingyan refugees. Recently arrived from Burma and camps in Bangladesh, Rohingyans have additional linguistic challenges as their language does not have a written script. This study reveals the extremely precarious economic position of Rohingyan refugees: They suffer from a high debt-income ratio, low income, unstable employment, and difficulty in meeting basic economic needs; Their economic conditions became even worse after the outbreak of Covid-19. The third paper, "You tell your friend there is a job here": Refugee women's social networks, language resources, and economic integration, looks at complex relationships among human capital, social networks, and gender role ideology. Data collected for this grounded theory study reveal the roles of language resources in the development of human capital and social network and the gendered nature of access to language resources. Taken together, these papers expand our knowledge on the integration challenges faced by refugees and the role of English proficiency and language resources in overcoming these challenges.
* noted as presenting author
Factors Associated with Economic Integration of Refugee Households in the United States
Mitra Naseh, PhD, Portland State University; Maryam Rafieifar, PhD, Florida International University; Shanna Burke, PhD, Florida International University
Financial Instability and Job Insecurity Among Resettled Rohingyan Refugees
Diane Mitschke, PhD, University of Texas at Arlington; Erin Laney, University of Texas at Arlington; Mohamad Faizal, University of Texas at Arlington; Emily Costello, University of Texas at Arlington
"You Tell Your Friend There Is a Job Here": Refugee Women's Social Networks, Language Resources, and Economic Integration
Sarah Richards-Desai, MSW, State University of New York at Buffalo; Yunju Nam, PhD, School of Social Work
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