Theses Master's

The Geography of Resettlement: Housing and Employment Trajectories in Diverse Urban Destinations

Book, Rebecca Rand

Previous research has demonstrated that urban context significantly affects refugees’ access to suitable housing and jobs, however little research has been done into how sites for resettlement are selected. In the United States, this is a decentralized process which relies on actors on several scales, each of which are driven by markedly different aims. Voluntary Agencies identify and prepare a suitable housing unit for the family before they arrive. These are ideologically driven, largely faith based organizations, who contract with the federal government. On the local level, resettlement is supported by preexisting institutions, who offer language classes or job training, and local politicians who choose to advocate for refugees in their town. The driver for these actors is largely economic. Federal quotas for refugees to be admitted are largely determined by politics.
Through interviews refugee resettlement professionals and analysis of American Community Survey data, I will describe The way in which these 3 actors interact to determine the location and type of housing provided to a refugee upon their arrival to the United States. This story varies significantly based on the type of city in which a family is placed. Large cosmopolitan gateway cities with a long history of integrating refugees offer a well established resettlement infrastructure and ethnic communities to provide support for refugees, but come with high rents. Therefore, the geography of resettlement has shifted to emerging gateways in suburban municipalities with budding communities of recent refugees. Many recent refugees have no existing ethnic communities in the US to join, and are placed in pre-emerging gateway cities with limited foreign born population.
These different environments offer distinctly different pathways to finding housing and becoming an economically self sufficient member of American society, however analysis of ACS data demonstrates that within a few years of their arrival refugees learn English, and demonstrate higher rates of business ownership and employment than Native Born Americans. As their income grows steadily with increased time spent in the U.S., refugees become important members of their local community, contributing to the local tax base, renovating abandoned homes, and diligently completing jobs that are not in high demand among native born workers.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Urban Planning
Thesis Advisors
Wu, Weiping
M.S., Columbia University
Published Here
May 11, 2017