Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Public Assistance Usage and Employment Patterns in Utah’s Refugee Population

Natalie Torosyan, Research Economist

Each year, hundreds of refugees are resettled in Utah and receive assistance from a variety of sources. Among those sources is the Department of Workforce Services (DWS), which provides some form of public assistance or employment service to the majority of refugees in Utah. The Workforce Research and Analysis division at DWS recently published a research paper that profiles the segment of the refugee community in Utah served by DWS.

Refugees can access a number of public assistance programs through DWS. The public assistance programs that are described in this research paper are the following:
  • Supplement Nutritional Assistance Program, commonly known as food stamps
  • Medical
  • Child Care
  • Unemployment Insurance
  • Financial, which includes the Family Employment Program, Refugee Cash Assistance and General Assistance Cash Program
During the first four years after arrival in Utah, a refugee could have potentially received 48 months of public assistance from each of the programs listed above, or 240 overlapping months if taking each program individually. When summing the total number of months of public assistance across all of the different programs, refugees’ average public assistance usage was 42 months. The figure below, taken from the paper, plots the average public assistance usage and average four-year wages by country of origin. The size of the bubble indicates the proportion of the total refugee population that comes from a particular country of origin. The plot shows that Iraqis, the largest group of refugees, receive the most public assistance on average. The relatively small population of refugees from Cambodia tends to earn the highest wages during the first four years.

Click to enlarge
The research paper also includes an analysis of industry sectors of employment, out-migration from the state, and the impact of the recession on the refugee population of Utah.

The full report can be accessed here.

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