Abstract: Distributive Politics of U.S. Refugee Resettlement: Examining State-Level Factors Associated with Discretionary Federal Funding (Society for Social Work and Research 27th Annual Conference - Social Work Science and Complex Problems: Battling Inequities + Building Solutions)

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35P Distributive Politics of U.S. Refugee Resettlement: Examining State-Level Factors Associated with Discretionary Federal Funding

Thursday, January 12, 2023
Phoenix C, 3rd Level (Sheraton Phoenix Downtown)
* noted as presenting author
Odessa Gonzalez Benson, PhD, MSW, Assistant Professor, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
Chiho Song, PhD, Researcher, University of Washington
Irene Routte, MSW, Doctoral Student, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti, MI
Background and Purpose: Distributive politics lies at the heart of the debate on refugee resettlement. The federal government determines refugee placement and funding allocations, but state and local governments determine policies of un/welcome of refugees—a clear illustration of the tensions of the federalist structure of the US welfare state. Ideally, equity is the aim of federal resource distribution: local need determines targeted funding allocation. However, other theories posit that organizational capacity, electoral politics, and morality or ideology politics also play a role.
Method: Testing four theories of distributive politics, this study examines state-level temporal trends (2007-2017) of discretionary federal funding for refugee resettlement. Further, this study uses multivariate regression to assess factors associated with that funding in 2017. State-level factors considered were the number of refugee admissions, party affiliation (Demorat/Republican), annual revenue of resettlement agencies, local refugee policy, and size of foreign-born population. This study uses integrated data from the U.S. Office of Refugee Resettlement, U.S. Census, GuideStar, and other publicly available sources.
Findings: Findings illustrate refugee discretionary funding was allocated to states with considerable variation. Temporal descriptive analysis illustrates that funding levels generally fluctuated according to refugee arrivals, with exceptions. Florida is exceptional, receiving much more discretionary funding per refugee arrival compared with the other highly funded states. This illustrates a mismatch or discrepancy between discretionary funding received and local refugee need. Further, regression results suggest that a greater percentage of the foreign-born population in a given state is associated with higher funding in 2017. That is, the presence of immigrants in a given state seem to be associated with differing levels of supplementary federal discretionary funding for refugee programming.
Conclusions and Implications: Result lends support for morality politics theory, whereby the power of the demographic constitution of the local context yields relevance for refugee resettlement funding. Morality policies are highly charged, often drawing upon social constructions of target populations and political branding to garner support or opposition for policies and funding priorities. How a locality or place conceptualizes itself, such as identification as a gateway city for primary or secondary migration, impacts the civic and moral responsibility that constituents have towards promoting immigration and refugee policies. Greater contact between immigrants and native-born individuals will facilitate integration and shared sense of local community. This study yields insights on the distribution of discretionary funding, thereby contributing to broader questions of how to promote accountability, equity, and fairness in public supports for resettled refugees.