Researchers available to discuss new Rice U. report on Houston refugees

Rice University
Office of Public Affairs / News & Media Relations


David Ruth

Researchers available to discuss new Rice U. report on Houston refugees

HOUSTON — (June 7, 2018) – A new report from Rice University’s Kinder Institute for Urban Research finds that an emphasis on short-term, rapid employment has prevented Texas refugees from accessing opportunities for education and language acquisition. Researchers Yan Digilov and Yehuda Sharim are available to discuss the report and implications for the refugee community in Houston.

Silhouettes of refugees. Photo by“Refugee Realities: Between National Challenges and Local Responsibilities in Houston, Texas,” examines the history of refugees in Houston from the 1980s to today. It highlights statistics ranging from financial support received to employment rates and offers recommendations on improving life for refugees.

The report’s key finding is that support for refugees fell from an average of about $12,500 per capita in the 1980s to about $3,500 in 2015. Policymakers, backed by faulty 1980s dependency metrics on the degree to which refugees remained dependent on welfare, decided new arrivals could be forced into rapid employment simply by reducing aid being given, the researchers said.

This emphasis on short-term, rapid employment for Texas refugees, which forces people to accept any job offered to them within weeks of arrival, prevented refugees from accessing opportunities for education and language acquisition, the researchers said. In the 1990s, 10 percent of refugees on average had not learned to speak English after five years of living in the U.S. By the next decade, this statistic grew to 14 percent.

“The consequences of rapid employment have unquestionably been most harmful to the most vulnerable arrivals, such as single mothers, large families and the elderly,” Digilov said. “Especially in Texas, where public assistance is below a livable threshold, no steps are taken to ensure these community members can survive after 90 to 180 days in the country.”

Based on the report’s findings, the researchers say investments must be made in many areas, including community infrastructure, outcome tracking among refugee populations, housing and transportation solutions, hiring incentives and educational support.

“In this historic moment, when the number of displaced communities is unprecedented, we should and could do better and begin imagining a new standard of care for one another,” Sharim said. “Our standards of care should not be decided by a few individuals and lobbyists in closed rooms, but should be part of our democratic space, for all of us to decide how we would like to treat our communities, youth and new arrivals.”

The report is available online at

To schedule an interview with the researchers, contact David Ruth, director of national media relations at Rice, at 713-348-6327.


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About Amy McCaig

Amy is a senior media relations specialist in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.