Community Dividend

Report reveals refugee resettlement trends

Published November 1, 2006  | November 2006 issue

A new report from the Brookings Institution reveals trends in refugee resettlement to the U.S. over the last two decades. From 'There' to 'Here': Refugee Resettlement in Metropolitan America examines metropolitan resettlement patterns of the 1.6 million refugees resettled by the U.S. government between 1983 and 2004. Refugees, commonly defined as people who are outside their homelands and unwilling to return due to fear of persecution, account for about 10 percent of annual immigration to the U.S.

The report is based on records of all people granted refugee status and admitted to the U.S. during the 1983 to 2004 period. The data were tabulated by the Worldwide Refugee Application Processing System and obtained from the U.S. Office of Refugee Resettlement.

The data confirm that refugees are overwhelmingly resettled in metropolitan areas with large foreign-born populations, such as New York City, Los Angeles and Chicago. However, the current decade has brought a shift from these long-established "gateway" cities to other metropolitan areas, which are resettling proportionally more refugees. Since 2000, 1 in 5 newly arrived refugees has been resettled in Seattle, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Atlanta, Sacramento or Portland (Ore.).

According to the report, refugees make up the majority of the foreign-born population in many metropolitan areas of 1 million people or less. From 1990 to 2000, small or medium-sized metropolitan areas with the highest ratios of refugees to the overall foreign-born population were Utica-Rome, N.Y. (86.6%); Fargo-Moorhead, N.D.-Minn. (76.1%); Erie, Penn. (74.4%); Sioux Falls, S.D. (61.1%); and Binghamton, N.Y. (54.6%).

To access the report, visit