March 2004

IZA DP No. 1088: The Economic Experiences of Refugees in Canada

published in: P. Waxman and V. Colic-Peisker (eds.), Homeland Wanted: Interdisciplinary Perspective on Refugee Settlement in the West, New York: Nova Science Publishers, 2004

Canada admits refugees on the basis of compassion and not economic criteria. It is however, important to document the economic successes or failures among Canada’s refugee population in order to understand how post arrival integration policies affect refugee economic performance. This essay examines a set of economic indicators from Canada’s IMDB database to assess the post 1981 Canadian refugee economic experience. With the aid of a standard human capital model we answer a series of economic questions including the length of time required for refugee economic integration, their use of Canada’s social safety net, refugee poverty levels and refugee economic performance vis-à-vis Canada’s family immigrant class. Our main findings are that employed Canadian refugees earn an amount equal to that earned by their family class reference group circa 1980-2001. However, the incidence of social assistance attachment for refugees is substantial and for those refugees who receive any assistance their total income is at the near destitute level.