Journal Article
Challenges to the economic integration of Afghan refugees in the US

THIS ARTICLE IS ON EARLY VIEW. Informed by a modified segmented assimilation theory, we use 5% Census and American Community Survey data to examine the economic integration of Afghan refugees resettled in the US. First-wave Afghan refugees have made significant gains in income and employment, while their poverty rates and reliance on government assistance decreased dramatically.

However, the most recent wave of Afghan refugees is not doing as well as the first at comparable points in time. Analysis of ACS data from 2006–15 finds that, with controls, Afghan refugees’ earned incomes are the lowest of seven refugee/immigrant comparison groups. Given the robust set of controls, we hypothesise that anti-Muslim discrimination is an important unmeasured explanatory factor and suggest where to focus future research on this topic.

Afghans’ lower incomes are substantially explained by lower employment levels, especially among less educated Afghan women and highly educated Afghan women and men. Evidence suggests that these patterns are influenced by distance between Afghan and US gender orders, greater physical and mental disability from exposure to traumas, and the limited internal social capital of this small refugee group from a poor country.

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