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Between 1990 and 2022, the United States welcomed over 2.1 million refugees and accepted over 800,000 asylees. While the purpose of granting visas to refugees and asylees is humanitarian, they do impact the United States economically. This analysis estimates the fiscal impact of refugees and asylees on federal, state, and local governments from 2005 to 2019.

Key Points

  • The net fiscal impact of refugees and asylees was positive over the 15-year period, at $123.8 billion. This means that refugees and asylees contributed more revenue than they cost in expenditures to the government. The net fiscal benefit to the federal government was estimated at $31.5 billion, and the net fiscal benefit to state and local governments was estimated at $92.3 billion.
  • Governmental expenditures on refugees and asylees totaled an estimated $457.2 billion over the 15-year period. Expenditures by the federal government represented 72.5 percent of the total, at $331.5 billion. State and local government expenditures were 27.5 percent of the total, at $125.7 billion.
  • Refugees and asylees contributed an estimated $581 billion in revenue to federal, state, and local governments. They contributed an estimated $363 billion to the federal government through payroll, income, and excise taxes, and $218 billion to state and local governments, through income, sales, and property taxes.
  • Including refugees and asylees and their spouses and children under age 18, most of whom are U.S. citizens, expenditures totaled $723.4 billion. Refugees, asylees, and their immediate families contributed an estimated $739.4 billion in revenue to all levels of government.
  • When compared with the total U.S. population on a per capita basis, refugees and asylees had a comparable net fiscal impact.

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