Roundtable: Growing the Data and Evidence Base on Domestic Refugee Resettlement
(Population and Migration Issues)

Friday, November 3, 2017: 8:30 AM-10:00 AM
Ogden (Hyatt Regency Chicago)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Roundtable Organizers:  Robin A Ghertner, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation
Moderators:  Erica Meade, U.S. Department of Health & Human Services
Speakers:  Nicole Deterding, University of Wisconsin - Madison, Jeremy Ferwerda, Dartmouth College, Sam Elkin, MEF Associates and Demetra Nightingale, Johns Hopkins University

The United States’ refugee resettlement program is the world’s largest, but empirical research on refugee integration and evaluation of program effectiveness is remarkably thin. No peer-reviewed studies describe refugee integration using nationally-representative data; and, no rigorous evaluations of resettlement program components exist. There are many reasons for the dearth of research, including a lack of representative data; limited financial support for research and evaluation; and limited evaluation capacity among resettlement agencies. This roundtable presents four innovative efforts to address these limitations. Presenters will discuss a prospective research agenda on refugee resettlement to guide federal and state policy, and engage participants in discussions about future research opportunities. The first presenter will discuss the redesign of the Annual Survey of Refugees (ASR), the only nationally-representative survey of U.S. refugees. Sponsored by the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the ASR collects information on refugees’ experiences during their first five years in the U.S. The ASR supports ORR’s Congressionally-mandated reporting requirements, but survey data have not been publicly available. The ASR was last updated in 1993; the survey is being redesigned to update survey research methods, improve measurement of self-sufficiency and integration, and adapt to changing demographics and policy interests. The presenter will discuss survey redesign efforts and plans to release restricted-use data for research use. The second presenter will share results from an HHS-sponsored study of the intersection between Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and Refugee Cash Assistance (RCA) services. The study explores how state and local systems provide financial support and employment services to newly-arrived refugees. States implement a variety of models to deliver services; this presentation describes how programs connect to provide services addressing refugees’ diverse needs; the types of service coordination that exist among programs; and promising approaches to helping refugees achieve economic self-sufficiency. Site visits to eight states and a survey of State Refugee Coordinators inform the study’s findings. The third presenter will provide an overview of a project to build ORR’s program evaluation capacity. This project—part of a longer-term effort to establish an evidence base for resettlement programs—provides ORR with options to improve their approach to assessing program performance, outcomes, and impacts; increase evaluation capacity; and expand the use of data and evidence throughout the system. Project components include a needs assessment of current evaluation capacity; an analysis of the statutory and regulatory framework for conducting evaluations; and practical recommendations for building evaluation capacity. The final presenter will discuss efforts to improve refugee integration by optimizing the initial resettlement environment. Although practitioners have accumulated substantial knowledge concerning the contextual factors shaping refugees’ resettlement success, systematic evidence remains scant because resettlement agencies report outcomes for only the first 90 days after arrival. The Stanford Immigration Policy Lab (IPL) combined administrative data with targeted surveys, creating an innovative solution to measuring and assessing the role that the resettlement environment plays in shaping refugee success over the short- and long-term.

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