On October 28, the Refugee Services Collaborative
(RSC) released its first-ever study of the economic impact Cleveland’s 4,500 refugees have made on the region since 2000. Refugees are legal U.S. residents who have come here to avoid persecution in their home countries.
"We felt there were a lot of negative misconceptions about refugees, so we commissioned the economic impact study to uncover the facts," says Luanne Bole-Becker, RSC’s special projects and data management coordinator.
The report, generated by Chmura Economics and Analytics
and funded through a grant from the Cleveland Foundation
, shows that refugees created and sustained 650 jobs in 2012 as a result of household spending, small business creation and through the agencies in place to help them. The total economic impact was $48 million in these three areas.
“Refugees bolster the population and their spending creates jobs in the economy,” explains Chmura’s Dan Meges, economist and business development manager. “Without refugee arrivals, this spending and economic activity would be occurring somewhere else in the United States. They also increase the demand for local housing by buying or renting homes, and they increase the socio-cultural diversity of the city, which has other positive spillovers.”
RSC was formed in 2011 and grew out of dialogue between the region’s many refugee service agencies. The report shows that while refugees typically find work in food service, housekeeping, sewing, factory production work and seasonal landscaping, they are also more likely to be entrepreneurs and start small businesses once they have settled in the area.
"Refugees are positive for Cleveland,” says Bole-Becker. “While they need some initial help, it's an investment in a group of people that don't take jobs; they make jobs. We hope to increase capacity so that more refugees can be resettled here, adding to Cleveland's growth."
Meges adds, “From an analytic viewpoint, what matters is their average family income, which is estimated to be about $31,000 annually in the Cleveland area in 2012.”
More than 17,000 refugees have settled in Cleveland since 1983.
Source: Dan Meges, Luanne Bole-Becker
Writer: Karin Connelly