Report: Refugees Contribute $295M to Southeast Michigan Economy Annually


A new study released by Global Detroit and University of Michigan researchers indicates that refugees to southeast Michigan contribute between $229.6 million and $295.3 million annually. Additionally, in 2016, refugees created up to 2,311 new jobs after settling in Macomb, Oakland, Washtenaw, and Wayne counties from 2007-2016.

“Michigan has been the fourth largest destination state for refugees over the last decade. Our research documents that these new Michiganders have been a source of strength to the Michigan economy —launching new businesses, providing much-needed labor, and achieving self-sufficiency within a very short time after their arrival,” says Steve Tobocman, executive director of Global Detroit and one of the study’s principal authors. “While refugee policies and politics necessarily extend beyond economics, our research verifies that being welcoming to refugees is in our own economic self-interest.”

To compile the study, researchers examined sources of new spending that would not exist without the resettlement of refugees throughout the region and used U.S. Census microdata and survey instruments to quantify the annual spending from refugee resettlement agencies’ federal contracts, the spending of refugee households, and spending from refugee-owned businesses.

“Studies like today’s report can help public policy makers, local and state government, philanthropy, and even the private sector,” says Elisabeth Gerber, a study co-author and professor and associate dean at the Ford School of Public Policy at U-M. “It is our hope that local communities deciding to welcome refugees can use this research to better integrate refugees, help them achieve self-sufficiency, and insure that their resettlement is an economic benefit to the local community.”

The U.S. has taken in more than 3 million refugees since 1975 and there are currently an estimated 22 million people living unsafely in their home countries worldwide.

Various institutions including Samaritas, Catholic Charities of Southeast Michigan, Jewish Family Services of Washtenaw, the Chaldean Chamber of Commerce, the Michigan Immigrant Rights Center, and the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants contributed to the report’s research.

The study was released at the Chaldean Cultural Center in West Bloomfield Township. According to U.S. State Department data used in the study, 90 percent of the 21,000 refugees who resettled in southeast Michigan from 2007-2016 were Iraqis and many were Chaldean, an indigenous people of Iraq who speak a form of Aramaic and are Christian.

A full version of the report can be read here.

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