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In a new article in World Development, Alexander Betts, Maria Flinder Stierna, Naohiko Omata and Olivier Sterck explore the economic lives of refugees, and analyse the heterogeneity they find.

Whilst refugees’ economic lives are often considered to be relatively homogenous, Betts et al. describe the socio-economic diversity of refugees in East Africa. Using first-hand quantitative and qualitative data collected in Kenya, Uganda, and Ethiopia, they systematically compare 12 refugee subpopulations living in seven refugee camps and the three capital cities.

They find that:

1) Refugee lives are heterogeneous, with significant variation in income, assets, and food security across context, nationality, and household.

2) Refugees’ economic strategies vary, with groups differently reliant upon work, remittances, and aid as sources of income.

3) Refugees’ economic strategies and constraints depend on local and national institutions and on their personal characteristics.

As they explain, describing and understanding sources of within-group variation matters for research and policy. It reveals that one-size-fits-all approaches to refugee assistance are unlikely to be effective unless complemented by contextual understanding and designed with subpopulations in mind.

Read the article here:  The economic lives of refugees