Public Assistance

Immigrants Use Fewer Public Benefits than U.S. Born (Except for Elderly)
The National Academies of Science, in a seminal 2016 study on the fiscal impacts of immigration, found that immigrants of all ages except for the elderly use fewer public benefits than the U.S. born.
Excerpt: “Considering the fiscal contributions of individuals (without including dependent children), cross-sectional data from 1994-2013 reveal that, at any given age, adult members of the second generation typically have had a more positive net fiscal impact for all government levels combined than either first or third-plus generation adults. Reflecting their slightly higher educational achievement, as well as their higher wages and salaries (at a given age), the second generation contributes more in taxes on a per capita basis during working ages than either the first or second generations. (…) The net fiscal impact for any U.S. resident, immigrant or native-born, is negative. When fiscal sustainability is assumed to result in future spending cuts and tax increases, immigrants are more valuable than native-born Americans (that is, their net fiscal impact is greater in a positive direction).
National Academies of Sciences, The Economic and Fiscal Consequences of Immigration, Panel on the Economic and Fiscal Consequences of Immigration, 2016.

Immigration Cost Estimate by The National Academies of Sciences
Excerpt: For the United States as a whole, 2011-2013 annualized state and local government expenditures averaged $13,850 per independent person unit, or about $900 less than was raised in revenue. Sixteen states had average expenditures between $10,450 and $11,950 per independent unit; (..). By generation, for the United States as a whole, annualized state and local government expenditures for the 2011-13 period were considerably higher for first generation independent person units ($15,950) than for second generation ($13,800) or third-plus generation ($13,400) independent person units. This was due to greater program participation (including public education).” (pp. 397-419)
Source:  National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, The Economic and Fiscal Consequences of Immigration, 2016.

Resettlement Cost Estimate by University of Notre Dame Scholars
“Dr. Evans estimated the 2014 cost of resettlement was $9,680 per refugee, which translates to less than six dollars per U.S. household.  After nine years in the U.S. refugees’ tax dollar contributions increased to the degree that they completely offset and eventually far outpaced social insurance costs (food stamps, welfare payments, social security, Medicaid and Medicare). The LEO research project involved looking at roughly 18,000 refugees who entered the country between 1990 and 2014.  It is important to note that Dr. Evans’ calculation of resettlement costs does not factor in volunteer hours and in-kind contributions. Other research has underscored the significance of in-kind contributions in resettlement. For example, the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service’s 2008 study, “The Real Cost of Welcome. A Financial Analysis of Local Refugee Reception,” found that community resources cover 30 percent of resettlement expenses. If you applied the LIRS calculation to the LEO study, the real cost of resettlement decreases to $6,453 per refugee (from $9,680). And finally, refugees find work in the U.S. far earlier than in other countries and start businesses at an even quicker pace than the American-born. One study found that 90 percent of Somali refugees in the United Kingdom were unemployed, while only 26% of Somali refugees in the U.S. didn’t have a job.” [Excerpt from MRS Refugee Research Blog]
Bill Evans and Danny Fitzgerald, The Social and Economic Assimilation of Refugees: Evidence from the American Community Survey,” University of Notre Dame/Wilson Sheehan Lab for Economic Opportunities (LEO) Brown Bag Presentation at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops/Migration and Refugee Services  (Nov. 15, 2016).

OECD Resettlement Cost Estimate
The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) arrives at $14,708 in estimated annual costs per refugee in the U.S., based on 2014 data.
The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), ODA Reporting of In-Donor Country Refugee Costs, 2014.

Private Sponsorship of Refugees in the U.S. 
In this paper, two U.S. nonprofits explore the idea of private refugee resettlement, as a tool to supplement the existing private/public model.
“Private sponsors could pay for pre-arrival costs through a combination of donations and fees to the U.S. Department of State, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, and other non-profit and international organizations involved in overseas processing. Post-arrival, private sponsors would be required to provide financial support for one year through a variety of methods. Sponsors could make in-kind donations (e.g., free housing); replace government benefits by directly providing refugees with cash assistance and benefits; and/or make tax-deductible donations to cover the cost of services best provided directly to refugees by government or resettlement agencies. After the private sponsorship term, refugees could enroll in means-tested benefits, if necessary.”
International Refugee Assistance Project & Human Rights First, Private Sponsorship of Refugee Resettlement in the United States: Guiding Principles and Recommendations. October 2016

Privately-Funded Refugee Resettlement
In this paper, authors of the Niskanen Center explore the idea of private refugee resettlement, as a tool to supplement the existing private/public model.
“The program would establish an account into which private individuals and organizations can donate money to fund resettlement. Greater donations would fund greater admissions. This privately funded resettlement program should be combined with an expanded private sponsorship of refugees. Current law under the Priority-3 refugee program allows refugees already in the United States to jump-start resettlement for their immediate relatives abroad without having to wait for a referral from the United Nations. This program should be expanded to allow non-refugee United States residents who have displaced family, including extended family, to apply to the refugee program.”
David Bier and Matthew La Corte: Privately Funded Refugee Resettlement How to Leverage American Charity to Resettle Refugees. Niskanen Center. 2016.

To What Degree Do Refugees Depend on Public Assistance?
The ORR Annual Survey to Congress (FY 2014) finds that survey respondents’ utilization of Refugee Cash Assistance, TANF, General Assistance, Medicaid, and SNAP benefits is generally lower among refugees who have been in the United States longer. In particular, there is a large drop in benefits receipt between the first and the second year in the U.S. across most benefit types, as respondents move past the initial resettlement period. Utilization of SSI and housing assistance is higher among cohorts arriving in 2012 and earlier, but rates of utilization for these benefits remain much lower than other types of assistance. Given that SSI and housing assistance are two programs that typically require long eligibility processes, it is plausible that these increases represent not a growth in underlying demand for services but the lagged time it takes for eligible households to access these types of assistance.

The U.S. Office of Refugee Resettlement: Annual Survey of Refugees (pps. 87 to 107). In The 2014 Annual Report to Congress, 2015.

Does the Time Spent as Refugee Decrease Self-Sufficiency Success?
Research indicates that, as the number of years spent as a refugee increases, the likelihood of a refugee securing adequate employment will decrease. This finding suggests that people who have spent longer portions of their lives as refugees are at a significant disadvantage for securing adequate (versus remedial) employment during resettlement.

Jonathan D. Codell: Predicting Meaningful Employment for Refugees. (2010)

Federal Funding Accounts for 39 percent of Total Service and Material Cost per Case
The public-private partnership is heavily skewed in favor of the private contribution. On average, the federal contribution is a mere 39 percent of the total resources needed to meet cooperative agreement guidelines. Furthermore, the number of staff hours reported per refugee case yields a staff-to-refugee ratio significantly higher than that used by PRM in estimating local staffing needs. Essentially, more staffing is required and actually used to carry out reception services than is assumed in the formulation of the program requirements and funding structure. Based upon the study’s findings, the total full-time staff equivalent should be approximately 2.5 times the staff budgeted through the PRM grants. 

Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, The Real Cost of Welcome. A Financial Analysis of Local Refugee Reception, 2008.