In Search of Opportunity and Community: The Secondary Migration of Refugees in the United States

Nadwa Mossaad , U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS)
Jeremy Ferwerda, IPL
Jeremy Weinstein, IPL
Duncan Lawrence, IPL
Jens Hainmueller, IPL

Each year the United States resettles thousands of refugees in a set of pre-determined locations across the country. However, refugees are free to relocate upon arrival. Although secondary migration can fundamentally alter outcomes for both refugees and the communities that host them, policymakers lack any systematic data on this phenomenon. Using novel administrative data covering all refugees resettled between 2000 and 2015, we provide a comprehensive analysis of secondary migration patterns. A high proportion of refugees leave their initial resettlement site and migrate to a different state within the first year, although rates vary widely by origin, family ties, and arrival state. Importantly, secondary migration is driven primarily by the presence of co-ethnic networks and labor market considerations. Contra expectations, state partisanship and the generosity of welfare benefits have insignificant effects on patterns of secondary migration.

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 Presented in Session 5. Immigration Policy