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Do Refugee Students Affect Peers' Academic Achievement?

The debate over resettling refugees often devolves into concerns that an influx of new students will overwhelm local schools.  In a new working paper, researcher Camila Morales of the University of Texas at Dallas found that an increase in refugee students is linked to a statistically significant increase in the math scores for other students in that grade and has no significant effect on the English scores.

To estimate the impact on broader academic outcomes, the researcher used data from Georgia, a state that resettled more than 37,000 refugees between 2002 and 2018, with large populations from such countries as Myanmar, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Bhutan. Morales reviewed records for students in grades 3 through 8 in Georgia districts with the highest inflow of refugees between 2008 and 2017.

The results refutes the narrative that refugee students drag down achievement for others. Instead, extra funding and support services for these children may spill over to help other students. Policymakers and educators should continue to explore ways of integrating refugee students in schools in ways that furthers the academic outcomes of all students.

-Robert Nishimwe