Working Paper
Involuntary migration, context of reception, and social mobility

The case of Vietnamese refugee resettlement in the United States

In this study, we examine the Vietnamese population of the United States as a case study in the integration of a refugee group in a host country. We approach this case in three parts.

We first offer a brief review of Vietnamese refugee resettlement in the US and the making of a new ethnic community. We then provide a quantitative analysis of socioeconomic mobility among Vietnamese refugees using American Community Survey data from 1980 to 2015 and survey data. We examine how this ethnic population has changed over time by focusing on key socioeconomic indicators, such as poverty rates and levels of education, occupation, and income. Third, we seek to explain what enables Vietnamese refugees and their children to overcome initial disadvantage and move up in society based on our own work over the span of 20 years with in-depth qualitative data. We consider how policies, institutions (government, civil society, and ethnic), and patterns of social relations in the Vietnamese American community have interacted with individual agency to shape mobility.