Bringing the Economy Home

Refugees In Idaho: A Look At The Numbers

Source: Idaho Office for Refugees

This week, StateImpact Idaho has been reporting on a little-known program called the International Organization for Migration U.S. Refugee Travel Loan Program.  It’s a federally-funded program that provides loans to refugees, allowing them travel to the United States.

Yesterday’s story described the bind some refugees and refugee families find themselves in when they arrive in the U.S. owing thousands of dollars that are supposed to be repaid within four years.

Stepping back from that particular aspect of refugees’ integration, today we’re looking at the composition of Idaho’s refugee population.  Prior to the recession, this state was viewed as a favorable place for refugee resettlement.  As the above chart shows, resettlement agencies brought increasing numbers of refugees to Idaho even as the recession began to take hold.  Since 2009, the number has been reduced, in part because refugees have had difficulties finding work.

As Jan Reeves of the Idaho Office for Refugees told StateImpact in January, 2009 was the low point for refugee employment in Idaho.  That year, just 55 percent of the state’s employable caseload found work, down from 95 percent in 2005.  By 2011, the employment rate had begun to recover, rising to 73 percent.

Where are refugees coming from when they find themselves in Idaho?  According to statistics from the Idaho Office for Refugees, about 5,700 refugees came to the state from between 2002 and 2012.  The largest number, 926, came from Bhutan; 780 came from Iraq; 658 came from Uzbekistan; 562 came from Burma and 529 came from Somalia.   The greatest share of Idaho’s refugees — 34 percent over the last decade — came from the Near East and South Asia.


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