Abstract: English Confidence and Integration Outcomes for Refugees Resettled 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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598P English Confidence and Integration Outcomes for Refugees Resettled in the United States

Sunday, January 15, 2023
Phoenix C, 3rd Level (Sheraton Phoenix Downtown)
* noted as presenting author
Madison Castro, MSW candidate, MSW student, Brigham Young University, UT
Stacey Shaw, PhD, Assistant Professor, Brigham Young University, Provo, UT
Patrick Poulin, MSW, Regional Director, International Rescue Committee
Graeme Rodgers, PhD, Technical Advisor, Research, International Rescue Committee
Background: For refugees resettling in countries such as the United States, language competence is a key component of integration. Involving both individual capacity and environmental accessibility, English language proficiency facilitates access to local knowledge, social interaction, employment opportunities, and understanding of cultural expectations (Ager & Strang, 2008). Limited research examines how confidence in one’s language ability facilitates integration outcomes. This study hypothesizes that English confidence facilitates integration outcomes including access to transportation, health, emergency, and social systems.

Methods: Part of a longitudinal study examining service provision over time, this study surveyed 243 adult refugees one-year post-resettlement. All new arrivals across a six-month period at two resettlement sites in the western U.S. were invited to participate. For those who chose to participate in the survey, case management and interpretation staff members met with participants to conduct the survey. Translation services were provided. Females comprised 50.5% of the sample and participants were on average 37 years of age. Participant’s primary countries of origin included the Democratic Republic of Congo (20.6%), Syria (13.2%), and Iraq (9.9%). English confidence was measured by asking participants if they felt their English was improving. In addition to assessing age and gender, integration measures included abilities to access public transportation, to independently make doctor’s appointments and fill prescriptions, to call the police in emergency situations, and time spent with people of different cultural backgrounds. Descriptive statistics including chi-square tests as well as logistic regression were used to examine relationships between English confidence and integration outcomes within Stata version 16.

Results: A majority of the sample (93%) expressed confidence that their English abilities were improving. In the bivariate descriptive analyses, English confidence was significantly associated with increased transportation, health, and emergency system access, and diverse social interactions (p<.01). When controlling for age and gender in the regression model, English confidence was associated with increased access to health (OR: 1.39, p<.05), emergency (OR: 2.04, p< .01), and social systems (OR: 1.82, p<.01). In this model, being female was also associated with reduced transportation (p<.001) and health system access (p<.05) when compared to males. Additionally, being younger was associated with increased transportation system access (p<.01) when compared to older participants.

Implications: English confidence facilitates multiple integration outcomes. Opportunities for newly arriving refugees to access English classes and gain confidence in their English abilities may have multiple benefits, including promoting access to transportation, health, emergency, and social systems. Further research can examine how age and gender impact English learning and confidence. Resettlement programs and policies can prioritize time for language learning as well as accessibility to language resources in the initial years post-resettlement.


Ager, A., & Strang, A. (2008). Understanding integration: A conceptual framework. Journal of Refugee Studies, 21(2), 166-191.