By Julie Zollmann, Airokhsh Faiz-Qaisary, Kenza Ben-Azouz, Kim Wilson, and Radha Rajkotia. Refugees resettled in the United States are typically supported quite closely early in their transition as support agencies help them settle into new homes, open bank accounts, get their first jobs, and register their children in school. Agencies monitor whether refugees are “self-sufficient,” meaning that their incomes cover their most essential expenses as quickly as possible. However, little is known about the next stage of refugees’ financial and economic transitions, once refugees are no longer interacting regularly with resettlement agencies. In July 2018, we interviewed 29 refugees who had been resettled two to three years earlier to understand the phases of their financial transition and identify possible opportunities to accelerate refugees’ financial gains.Read more
By Julie Zollmann. Nine voluntary agencies have the official responsibility for resettling refugees into communities throughout the United States. They find their clients new housing, schools, and jobs. They help them get social security numbers and open bank accounts. They play an indispensable role in helping refugees settle into their new homes. But the work of integration, of truly building a life in a new country with a new language, new transportation system, new labor market, and a whole new set of social norms is a much bigger job, one that in many families is being done stoically, even heroically, by young refugees in their teens and early twenties.Read more
By Subin Mulmi, under the supervision of Kim Wilson. The 2015 earthquake in Nepal resulted in the deaths of 8,970 people with 22,302 injured. Several reports have estimated that more than one million houses were destroyed, affecting the lives of six million people. Only a handful of families have been relocated to safer places. Even before the quake, the country was reeling from the effects of the decade-long civil war that claimed the lives of 13,236 people and led to the disappearance of thousands more. In June 2009, the Nepal IDP Working Group reported that up to 70,000 people displaced by the conflict had not yet found durable housing. They remained unable to return home, integrate locally, or resettle elsewhere.Read more
By Jeffrey Ashe, Kim Wilson.
The American Dream—being able to earn a good living, buy a home, send children to school, and build a life in the United States regardless of social stature or place of birth—is an aspiration for most who immigrate to the United States. While new immigrants may be fleeing violence, poverty, and persecution—so called “push factors”—they are also pulled by the prospects of a better life for themselves and their children. Some immigrants arrive in the United States wealthy, educated, and fluent in English. These case studies focus on immigrants who may arrive with a few dollars in their pocket, struggle with English, and sometimes are without legal documents. Our research examines how immigrant households save up in groups to transform income that is irregular, uncertain, and low into regular, predictable, and meaningful sums of cash.
By Ella Duncan, under the supervision of Kim Wilson. New arrivals to America must navigate ongoing identification of what American norms are and make decisions about which norms to embrace, which to merge into previously held norms, and which to discard as a poor fit. Financial norms hold a special place of importance. Deciding how to manage finances in America is directly related to the ability to provide for the well-being of oneself, one’s family, and one’s community. In a series of interviews in the fall of 2019, three Burundian immigrants in southern Maine shared their creative approaches to managing American finances.Read more
Patron Yemery is a Congolese refugee with a hopeful story of grit and determination. At the age of 16, Patron fled his hometown of Bukavu, Congo with his mother and 9 siblings in tow, after the rebel occupation of 2004 threatened his father’s life and his family’s wellbeing.Read more