Cookies on this website

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Accept all cookies' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. If you click 'Reject all non-essential cookies' only necessary cookies providing core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility will be enabled. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

Written by Alexander Betts, Louise Bloom, Josiah Kaplan, and Naohiko Omata

© Sven Torfinn/Panos

This new book, published this week by Oxford University Press, is one of the first books to systematically explore the economic lives of refugees.

Refugees have rarely been studied by economists. Despite some pioneering research on the economic lives of refugees, there remains a lack of theory and empirical data through which to understand, and build upon, refugees’ own engagement with markets. Yet understanding these economic systems may hold the key to rethinking our entire approach to refugee assistance. If we can improve our knowledge of the resource allocation systems that shape refugees’ lives and opportunities, then we may be able to understand the mechanisms through which these market-based systems can be made to work better and turn humanitarian challenges into sustainable opportunities.

This book adopts an interdisciplinary approach, based on original qualitative and quantitative data on the economic activities of refugees, in order to begin to build theory on the economic lives of refugees. It focuses on the case of Uganda because it represents a relatively positive case. Unlike other governments in the region, it has taken the positive step to allow refugees the right to work and a significant degree of freedom of movement through its so-called ‘Self-Reliance Strategy’. This allows a unique opportunity to explore what is possible when refugees have basic economic freedoms. The book shows that refugees have complex and varied economic lives, often being highly entrepreneurial and connected to the global economy. The implications are simple but profound: far from being an inevitable burden, refugees have the capacity to help themselves and contribute to their host societies if we let them.

The volume includes:

  • Comparative analysis of the economic lives of refugees across urban areas, protracted refugee camps, and emergency refugee camps
  • Methodology chapter explaining participatory, mixed methods research design
  • Chapters on the role of business and the role of innovation
  • An alternative vision for refugee policy based on supporting the capacities of refugees.

Further details from Oxford University Press here >>

Related content

Alexander Betts People

Naohiko Omata People

Joshiah Kaplan People

Humanitarian Innovation Project Research