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Benefit or Burden? Social Capital, Gender, and the Economic Adaptation of Refugees1


  • 1

    The author would like to acknowledge the financial support of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Maine Department of Labor, which made the research upon which this article is based possible.

  • 2

    I received approvals from the Institutional Review Boards (IRBs) at my university and CCMRIS as a part of this research project. Part of this approval process resulted in CCMRIS granting me a waiver of informed consent for the use of client Social Security Numbers (SSNs) in this research. After using the SSNs to match each client to their labor market histories in Maine, I deleted all identifying information, including SSNs, from the data set. The confidentiality protocols in place ensured that the risks for any refugee included in this data set were minimal, probably no greater than the risks faced in everyday life.


This paper examines the role of co-ethnic social capital on the earnings of refugees, using a unique data set for adult refugees who resettled in Portland, Maine, between 1998 and 2004. Multiple regression models test the effect of access to co-ethnic social capital on the log earnings of refugees in their first and most recent years of work. Results show that over time access to co-ethnic social capital upon arrival decreased earnings for female refugees. The paper concludes with a discussion of the implications of the findings for social capital and immigration research.