New American Cities- Building Pathways to Refugee Economic Security and Hope

Type: Published Report
Date: November 2023


Santos, J., Braverman Bronstein, A., Chun, D., & Ayinkamiye, R. (2023). New American Cities: Building pathways to refugee economic security and hope.


The Leah Zallman Center for Immigrant Health Research (LZC) at the Institute for Community Health and Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS) are proud to jointly release New American Cities: Building Pathways to Refugee Economic Security and Hope. The report shares findings from a two-year study of LIRS’ flagship New American Cities (NAC) program, a workforce development initiative focused on moving refugee and immigrant workers into family-sustaining jobs so that they can achieve economic self-sufficiency and career advancement.

Findings show that New American Cities boosted refugees’ career trajectories, economic security, and hope, creating more prosperous communities. Many refugees and immigrants bring a wealth of education and job skills with them to United States but tend to be underemployed due to refugee employment programs that have historically lacked the resources and infrastructure to provide career advancement opportunities. In 2021, LIRS sought to address this issue by launching a two-year pilot program to enhance collaboration between local governments, workforce centers, employers, and resettlement agencies. New American Cities filled a gap; approximately 60% of those who completed the program secured new jobs or advanced in their careers.

Of those who entered the New American Cities unemployed, job placements resulted in average hourly wages of $19.63. Those who entered employed but were making less than the federal poverty line, saw their average hourly wages increase by 41%, from $13.56 to $19.08. Finally, those who entered the program earning more than the federal poverty line saw average hourly wages increase by 19%, from $19.84 to $23.53. The report also provides a community-level portrait of program sites in Baltimore, MD; Denver, CO; Fayetteville, AR; Jacksonville, FL; and Utica, NY; outlines components of the program’s model that add value to workforce programs and cities; and calculates New American Cities’ return on investment to participants and communities. On average, participant tax contributions after one year equal $6,700 per person more than they would have without the program. Over 10 years, assuming standard cost of living adjustment increases, the average tax contributions going back to the city equal $86,706 per program participant.

View Publication