Here is another little bit of information buried in the most recent Office of Refugee Resettlement Report to Congress:
Overall, findings from ORR’s 2005 survey indicate (as in previous years) that refugees face significant problems upon arrival in the United States. In previous years, we reported that the data described a process where refugees readily accepted entry level employment and moved toward economic self-sufficiency in their new country. Data also showed continued progress of most refugee households toward self-sufficiency, tied to factors such as education, English proficiency, and such characteristics as age at time of arrival and family support.
All in all, past surveys have described a consistent process of advancement, slow at first, and halting for some, but sustained nevertheless, toward integration with the American mainstream. The 2005 survey, in contradistinction, describes a much more serious struggle. The 2005 survey reveals a definite turndown in refugee resettlement advancement as measured by the general labor force participation and welfare utilization data. The survey indicates that the educational background of the five-year refugee population is substantially weaker than that reported in previous surveys. Fewer refugees have finished higher school, and fewer still have finished a college degree. A smaller proportion of arriving refugees can speak English fluently and a higher proportion speak no English at all. This has translated into lower labor force participation, as measured by the employment rate which has retreated from 62 percent in the 2004 survey to 58 percent this year.
Moreover, the jobs that refugees find are of poorer quality than seen in previous surveys. This year the average age declined about five percent from the year before after considering the effects of inflation. Even more troubling is the dramatic decline in employer-related health benefits: Five years ago, two-thirds of respondents could claim such coverage; today, only one-fifth can make that claim.