Student working on a research project.

Barriers And Facilitators Of Refugees’ Economic Integration In Western New York (WNY)

Refugees are economically vulnerable, even in comparison with other foreign-born populations. While many immigrants have ample time to prepare for their migration by studying English and gathering needed credentials for employment, refugees are forced to move with no such preparation (Adserà & Pytliková, 2016). Refugees tend to have lower English proficiency and may be placed in isolated geographic locations away from their ethnic communities (Chiswick & Lee, 2006). Refugees with poor English proficiency rarely receive needed employment services and training (Shutes, 2011).
Despite the challenges faced by refugees, U.S. refugee resettlement policy prioritizes rapid economic self-sufficiency. Refugees are urged to get a job immediately after their arrival and discouraged from making long-term investments in their economic success, such as seeking formal education or certification (United States Government Accountability Office, 2011). Given these challenges to refugees’ economic wellbeing, it is critical to understand how they are adjusting to the U.S. labor market and the current policy environment.
In order to expand on the literature regarding refugee employment and economic outcomes, , this mixed-method research project examines refugees’ economic integration in Western New York in collaboration with the Journey’s End Refugee Services. The goal of this project is to help policy makers and resettlement agencies develop and implement policies and programs to promote refugees’ economic success by identifying barriers and facilitators of refugees’ economic integration. This project will do the followings:
First, the qualitative component of this project involves individual interviews with 30-40 employed and unemployed refugees of all genders in order to understand their economic experiences during pre- and post-migration periods. The research team will conduct face-to-face in-depth interviews with refugees who can communicate in one of the following three languages: Arabic, Burmese, or English. Interviewees will be recruited in collaboration with Journey’s End Refugee Services.
Undergraduate research assistants will build skills related to qualitative methodologies while assisting the research team in preparing for interviews (e.g., translating documents from English into Arabic or Burmese), recruiting study participants, interpreting interviews, transcribing and organizing interview data, and analyzing qualitative data. In addition, undergraduate assistants will have opportunity to learn how to work effectively among culturally diverse populations. Undergraduate research assistants will be paid for their time spent completing tasks related to translation and interpretation. Research assistants may become co-authors of academic papers if they make substantive contribution to the project.
Second, the quantitative component of this project uses the U. S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS) data to investigate the relationship between language isolation and refugees’ employment and labor market outcomes. Undergraduate research assistants will assist the research team with data cleaning and analysis, library research, and academic writing. Undergraduate research assistants will learn various quantitative research skills including data management and an introduction to statistical analysis software programs. Research assistants may become co-authors of academic papers if they make substantive contribution to the project.
Undergraduate research assistants may work on only one or both components of the study (either qualitative or quantitative) based on her/his interests.

Research Project Information

Disciplines: Social Work, Social Science (Economics, Sociology), Ethnic Studies
Student Skill-Set Needed: Ability to work independently and responsibly; Speak Burmese or Arabic; Respect to different cultures
Compensation: Academic Credit, Salary / Stipend, Volunteer, Work Study
Available: Fall, Spring, Summer


For further information on this opportunity, or to apply, contact:

Faculty Member: Yunju Nam
Title: Associate Professor
Department: Social Work
Office: 685 Baldy Hall
Phone: 7166451255