The world’s refugee population has increased sharply in recent years, leading governments to argue over which countries should take in people displaced by war or other calamities. At the core of this debate is cost: refugees are usually considered an economic burden for the countries that take them in. Thus the argument usually comes down to one side arguing that the cost is too great, and the other side arguing that humanitarian need outweighs the cost.
But research conducted by the author as well as studies done by others, shows this central assumption may be wrong: helping refugees doesn’t cost as much as we think it does. In fact, when refugee camps are managed well, helping refugees can help both displaced people and local economies. In one of the camps we studied, the economic activity associated with the refugee camp increased per-capita income
for the host community by as much as a third.