Migration shocks and housing: Short-run impact of the Syrian refugee crisis in Jordan

Ibrahim Alhawarin, Ragui Assaad, and Ahmed Elsayed

Journal of Housing Economics, Volume 53 (2021), Article 101761



This paper evaluates the impact of inflows of Syrian refugees into Jordan on housing conditions and rental incomes for Jordanian nationals. At the end of 2019, when this paper was written, Jordan hosted 660,000 registered Syrian refugees, 80 percent of whom lived outside official refugee camps.

The authors exploit the regional variation in inflows of Syrian refugees within Jordan to evaluate the change in housing outcomes in areas with relatively higher flows of refugees compared to areas with relatively lower flows of refugees. The analysis is based on three main sources of data: (1) numbers of Syrian refugees by locality from the 2004 and 2015 population censuses; (b) housing and living conditions from the 2010 and 2016 waves of the Jordan Labor Market Panel Survey; and (3) housing conditions and rent from the 2006 and 2013 rounds of the Jordan Household Expenditure and Income Survey.

To measure housing quality, the authors construct a housing quality index (HQI), considering: type of floor type, type of water facility, type of heating, type of sewage, and garbage disposal method.

Main findings:

  • The Syrian refugee influx had a negative impact on housing quality. A one standard deviation increase in the change of the share of Syrian households at the locality level decreased the housing quality index (HQI) by 0.2 standard deviations. There was, however, no significant effect on dwelling area by refugees, per person or on the probability of home ownership.
  • The refugee influx led to increases in rental prices. A one standard deviation increase in the change of the share of Syrian households at the district level, raised real rents by 13 percent.
  • These effects were more pronounced among poorer and lower-educated households, who were more likely to be in competition with refugees for housing. The low educated (and to a lesser extent the poor) were also affected negatively by the influx of refugees; the number of rooms per household member declined.
  • The refugee influx induced locals to move across localities. The probability that individuals changed their locality during or after 2011 (the beginning of the Syrian civil war) increased more significantly in localities that received above-median inflows of refugees. Residential mobility from these localities increased by about 1.7 percentage point relative to localities that received below-median inflows of refugees.

The analysis suggests that poorer Jordanians are in direct competition with refugees over access to affordable housing. The authors argue that this effect could be mitigated through more inclusive housing finance or greater incentives to increase the supply of affordable rental housing.