Over the past several decades, small cities throughout upstate New York and mid-America have counted on refugees to fill jobs left open as more Americans flock to the coasts and bigger cities. Now, with the refugee cap at a historic low, economic development in these cities is stalling.
Take Akron, Ohio. Like many Midwestern cities, Akron was hit hard when jobs in the auto and manufacturing industries started disappearing in the early 2000s. Many of its workers left for bigger cities and other opportunities. But between 2007 and 2013, Akron’s foreign-born population increased by 30 percent (more than 2,000 people). In 2013, Akron’s immigrant population held roughly $137 million in disposable income and paid about $17 million in state and local taxes; more than a third of them owned homes.
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