New report: The Economic Impact of Refugees in Southeast Michigan

Yasir Ibrahim came to Detroit in 2008 fleeing persecution and ethnic violence ravaging Iraq. He quickly found work as a clerk in a dollar store stocking shelves, cleaning up, and tackling any task that would help him build a good life for himself in America, his new home. He worked hard to learn English and to save money to invest in his future. Today, less than a decade later, Yasir employs 15 Michiganders at his Sterling Heights restaurant Casper Burger and Escalope.

“My dream came true,” Yasir told the crowd at the public release of Global Detroit’s new research report, “Economic Impact of Refugees in Southeast Michigan.” The study conservatively estimates total annual economic impact to be between $229.6 million and $295.3 million in new spending, along with between 1,798 and 2,311 new jobs, in 2016 alone, from the over 21,000 refugees in resettled into Macomb, Oakland, Washtenaw and Wayne Counties between 2007-2016.

Michigan has been the fourth largest destination state for refugees over the last decade. Global Detroit’s 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. While refugee policies and politics necessarily extend beyond economics, Global Detroit’s research verifies that being welcoming to refugees is in the region’s own economic self-interest.

“Studies like Global Detroit’s report can help public policy makers, local and state government, philanthropy, and even the private sector,” noted study co-author Elisabeth Gerber, Professor and Associate Dean at the Ford School of Public Policy at the University of Michigan. “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.”

This study is being released at a critical moment. President Trump announced last month that the U.S. would only accept 45,000 refugees in the coming fiscal year—the lowest ceiling since U.S. Presidents began setting the annual ceiling on refugee admissions in 1980. Yet, across the globe, there are more refugees than at any time since the Second World War. Some 22 million people—more than half of whom are children—are unsafe in their home countries.

This study was undertaken as part of a larger effort to build a regional refugee resettlement collaborative in Southeast Michigan. Global Detroit, partners at Welcoming Michigan-Michigan Immigrant Rights Center and the four refugee resettlement agencies in the region—Samaritas, Catholic Charities of Southeast Michigan, Jewish Family Services of Washtenaw, and U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants—formed a core group to launch such an endeavor amidst the growing global refugee crisis in 2015. Generous funding from the McGregor Fund provided support to launch the collaborative.

While refugee policies and politics necessarily extend beyond economics, Global Detroit’s research verifies that being welcoming to refugees is in our own economic self-interest.

The release of the study was well promoted in local media:

Detroit Free Press Study: Refugees Added up to $295M to Southeast Michigan Economy in 2016
Detroit News Study: Refugees Contribute over $200M in Metro Detroit
WXYZ Channel 7 Study Finds Refugees in Michigan Contributed More than $200M to Economy
Detroit Free Press Brian Dickerson Column: Spurning Refugees makes Metro Detroit Poorer, not Safer
MLive Refugees Contribute $295M Annually to Michigan Economy, Study Says
Oakland Press Refugees Boost Economy, Create Jobs in Region, Study Finds
Macomb Daily Refugees Boost Economy, Create Jobs in Region, Study Finds
WWJ AM 950 Report: Refugees Boosting Michigan’s Economy
DBusiness Report: Refugees Contribute $295M to Southeast Michigan Economy Annually
Press and Guide Refugees Boost Economy, Create Jobs in Region, Study Finds
Xinhua Net Refugees Contribute to U.S. Regional Economy: Study

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