Abstract: Factors Associated with Living in Public Housing Among Refugees in the United States (Society for Social Work and Research 27th Annual Conference - Social Work Science and Complex Problems: Battling Inequities + Building Solutions)

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484P Factors Associated with Living in Public Housing Among Refugees in the United States

Saturday, January 14, 2023
Phoenix C, 3rd Level (Sheraton Phoenix Downtown)
* noted as presenting author
Edson Chipalo, MSW, Doctoral Student, University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, AL
Simon Mwima, MA, MPH, Public Health, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, IL
Background and Purpose: Access to public housing and establishing a sense of place are essential dimensions of refugee resettlement and integration in the United States. The majority of the refugees resettled in the United States often spend an extended period living in public housing that is often unsafe, overcrowded, or substandard and may lack security of tenure. The capacity to secure housing among refugees is often influenced by various factors such as education, job opportunities, language proficiency, family composition, income, health conditions, cultural values, and family lifestyles. Despite this, research on refugees' access to housing is often limited to periods of the asylum procedure and the forced immobilization and placement in the refugee camps. To fill the gaps in the literature, this study aims to determine and understand factors associated with living in public housing among newly resettled refugees in the United States.

Method: The study used the 2018 Annual Survey of Refugees data (N=5,260) for refugees aged 16 years and older refugees who entered the U.S between 2013 and 2018. To explore an association between living in the public housing (no/yes) and specific sociodemographic characteristics (i.e., age, gender, marital status, education, employment, English proficiency, health status, receiving welfare programs, year of arrival, state of resettlement, and whether adjusted to permanent residence status) all categorical variables were examined using logistic regression analysis.

Results: The results indicated that refugees who were between 40 and 54 years old (OR=.56, p<.05) and 55 or older (OR=.52, p<.05) had higher odds of living in the public housing when compared to those between 0 to 17 years old. Females (OR=.72, P<.01) had higher odds of living in public housing when compared to their male counterparts. The refugees who were never married (OR=64, p<.01) had higher odds of living in public housing compared to married refugees. Refugees who had attained primary education (OR=.39, p<.001), vocational training (OR=.33, p<.001), and a university degree or others (OR=25, p<.001) had higher odds of living in the public housing when compared with refugees with no education. Regarding health status, refugees with poor health conditions (OR=1.29, p<.05) had the highest odds of living in public housing when compared to refugees in good health conditions. Finally, refugees who resettled in the Midwest (OR=,72, p<.05) had higher odds of living in the public housing when compared to refugees who resettled in the Northeast.

Conclusion and implications: Accessing affordable public housing provides safety and security for refugees during the critical resettlement period. This study highlights the need to plan in advance to meet the housing needs, avoid spending a prolonged period in reception accommodation (public housing) and provide readily available job opportunities and access to education to improve their English proficiency for refugees. In addition, access to education also increases self-reliance and job prospects that can lead to financial independence and access to suitable housing and avoid overcrowded public housing, which appears to be a major social problem in the United States for newly resettled refugees.