Are Refugees a Burden? Impacts of Refugee Inflows on Host’s Consumption Expenditures

Sandra Rozo and Micaela Sviastchiy

September 11, 2018


This paper examines the impacts of Syrian refugee inflows on consumption expenditures and incomes of Jordanian nationals. The 2015 Housing and Population Census identifies 1.3 million Syrian refugees in Jordan; approximately 650,000 have registered as refugees. Exploiting the fact that Syrian refugees locate disproportionately in regions closer to the three largest refugee camps, the authors compare Jordanian nationals living in areas closer and farther away from the three main refugee camps, before and after the Syrian conflict onset in 2011. They find that:

  • Jordanians living closer to the refugee camps experience changes in the composition of their consumption expenditures, but not in the overall level of consumption expenditures. Expenditure on housing increases while expenditure on non-durables (including food) and health care falls. Higher expenditures on housing are accompanied by worse dwelling quality for young individuals working in the informal sector.
  • Jordanians located closer to the refugee camps have higher property and rental income, lower self-employed income, and experience no changes in their salaried income.
  • Jordanians closer to refugee camps own fewer assets (mostly luxury goods) relative to individuals who live farther away from the camps.
  • There is no evidence that changes in the pattern of consumption expenditures (away from non-durables and health care) have consequences for access to health or education, or children’s development outcomes.

Since more than 80 percent of Syrian refugees in Jordan live outside refugee camps, the authors suggest that the observed increments in housing expenses could be due largely to the demand shock that the higher population may be having in housing markets, given a static housing supply. The authors argue that addressing increasing housing expenditures is crucial to prevent welfare losses in the host population and prevent tensions between Jordanian hosts and refugees. They advocate for further research to examine the effectiveness of different approaches to increase the supply of quality housing for refugees.