Panel Paper: Learning about Recently Resettled Refugees through a Redesigned Annual Survey of Refugees

Friday, November 9, 2018
Marriott Balcony A - Mezz Level (Marriott Wardman Park)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Hamutal Bernstein1, Robert Santos1, Susan Sherr2, David Dutwin2, Tyler Woods1, Arina Goyle2, Robert Manley2, Nicole Deterding3 and Carolyn Vilter1, (1)Urban Institute, (2)SSRS, (3)U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

In a tumultuous policy environment for the US refugee resettlement program, understanding refugee resettlement in the United States is crucial. The US Office of Refugee Resettlement conducts the Annual Survey of Refugees (ASR) to study the economic self-sufficiency and integration of resettled refugees who entered the U.S. within the past five years. Challenges to surveying this population are myriad, including tremendous linguistic and cultural diversity, mobility and tracing challenges for survey administration, and the current policy context. In 2017, a redesign of the survey was undertaken to improve the usefulness of the data collected and the interview experience for this complex and diverse population. A redesigned questionnaire was developed reflecting the findings of a literature scan on refugee integration research, a review of reference surveys, consultation with experts, and a convened expert’s roundtable. Based on these inputs as well as two site visits to explore service provider perspectives, a revised questionnaire was developed and pretested in fall 2017.

In the Redesign Pretest, 109 refugees took the revised questionnaire and participated in cognitive and in-depth interviews by telephone aimed at understanding refugee comprehension, comfort level, general survey experience, and any differences in these areas across language, length of time in the US, incoming family status, and the gender of the respondent. Interviews were conducted in Arabic, Nepali, Sgaw Karen, Somali, and Kiswahili. The interviews served to validate and inform further revisions to the questionnaire and identify additional concepts important for understanding integration. Interviewers asked respondents about feelings about being interviewed, preferred modes of interview, willingness to be interviewed over time, sensitive and/or difficult topics, and concerns about government sponsorship of the survey.

The Pretest results revealed lessons to inform key questionnaire, administration, and design decisions for future ASR collection. It showed that the ASR has the potential to collect relevant information beyond employment and public benefits use, to capture a wider range of information related to refugee experiences before resettlement, wellbeing, experiences in the receiving community, and barriers and facilitators to integration. Culturally- and linguistically-competent survey administration matching interviewers to respondents by gender, language, and country of origin assist in collecting information from a vulnerable population on sensitive and non-sensitive topics. The Pretest also suggested a number of key administration and design considerations regarding mode, outreach, sample design, additional sources of data, and further research required.