“Integrating Refugees: The Role of Language Training and Work Incentives”
Giovanni Peri, UC Davis
Abstract: Social and economic integration of refugees are key to their personal success and to producing positive effects in the host country. We evaluate the effects of a reform that substantially expanded language training for immigrants who obtained refugee status in Denmark on or after January 1, 1999. The same reform also temporarily decreased welfare benefits for a subgroup of them. Using a regression discontinuity design around the cutoff date we find positive and significant employment and earnings effects on the treated group, relative to the untreated group. Employment increased by 23 percent (4 percentage points) and yearly earnings increased by 34 percent (USD 2,500) when measured eighteen years after the start of the language program. We do not find any labor market effect of the reduction of welfare benefits. We find, however, evidence of temporarily higher property crimes for the group subject to lower benefits. The labor market effects are much stronger for individuals with Arabic/Dari mother language, consistently with a more crucial role of language training for speakers of languages that are very different from Danish. Finally, male children of treated refugees were more likely to complete lower secondary school and less likely to commit crime.
Bio: Giovanni Peri has expertise in labor economics, urban economics and the economics of international migrations. In addition to his appointment in the Department of Economics, he is a Research Associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and the founding director of the UC Davis Migration Research Cluster.