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)



This paper evaluates the impact of inflows of Syrian refugees into Jordan on housing conditions and rental incomes for Jordanian nationals. By the end of 2019, when this paper was written, Jordan hosted 660,000 registered Syrian refugees, of whom 80 percent lived outside official refugee camps. The 2015 Population Census of Jordan put the number of Syrians in Jordan much higher at 1.3 million, of which 953,000 were recorded as refugees.

The authors employ a ‘difference-in-differences’ approach to evaluate the change in housing conditions and rental prices in areas with relatively higher flows of Syrian refugees compared to areas with relatively lower flows of Syrian refugees. The analysis is based on three main sources of data: (1) data on numbers of Syrian refugees by locality (and districts) from the 2004 and 2015 population censuses; (b) data on housing and living conditions from the 2010 and 2016 waves of the Jordan Labor Market Panel Survey (JLMPS); and (3) data on housing conditions and rent from the 2006 and 2013 rounds of the Jordan Household Expenditure and Income Survey (HEIS).

To measure housing quality, the authors draw on data from JLMPS to construct a housing quality index (HQI), taking into account: floor type, water facility type (public, well, tanker or other), type of heating (central heating, gas, kerosene, electric, solar, wood and coal or others), type of sewage (public system, ground absorbency, none), garbage (open/closed dumpster, burnt or buried, public collector and other).

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 decreases the housing quality index (HQI) by 0.18 standard deviations. There is, however, no significant effect of refugees on dwelling area 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 are more pronounced among poorer and lower-educated households, i.e. groups who may be in competition with refugees for housing. The low educated (and to a lesser extent the poor) are also affected negatively by the influx of refugees in terms of number of rooms per household member.
  • The refugee influx induces locals to move across localities. The probability that individuals change 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 low-end rental housing.


Jordan | Syria