May 2022

IZA DP No. 15317: The Economic and Fiscal Effects on the United States from Reduced Numbers of Refugees and Asylum Seekers

published in: Oxford Review of Economic Policy, 2022, 38 (3), 449-486.

International migrants who seek protection also participate in the economy. Thus the policy of the United States to drastically reduce refugee and asylum-seeker arrivals from 2017 to 2020 might have substantial and ongoing economic consequences. This paper places conservative bounds on those effects by critically reviewing the research literature. It goes beyond prior estimates by including ripple effects beyond the wages earned or taxes paid directly by migrants. The sharp reduction in U.S. refugee admissions starting in 2017 costs the overall U.S. economy today over $9.1 billion per year ($30,962 per missing refugee per year, on average) and costs public coffers at all levels of government over $2.0 billion per year ($6,844 per missing refugee per year, on average) net of public expenses. Large reductions in the presence of asylum seekers during the same period likewise carry ongoing costs in the billions of dollars per year. These estimates imply that barriers to migrants seeking protection, beyond humanitarian policy concerns, carry substantial economic costs.