Since the 1980s, the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) has conducted the Annual Survey of Refugees (ASR), which collects information on refugees during their first five years after arrival in the U.S. The ASR is the only scientifically-collected source of national data on refugees’ progress toward self-sufficiency and integration. ORR uses the ASR results alongside other information sources to fulfill its Congressionally-mandated reporting following the Refugee Act of 1980. Historically, the microdata from these surveys have generally been unavailable to researchers.
In the spring of 2018, ORR completed its 51st Annual Survey of Refugees (ASR). The data from the ASR offer a window into respondents’ first five years in the United States and show the progress that refugee families made towards learning English, participating in the workforce, and establishing permanent residence.
Kind of Data
Sample survey data [ssd]
Unit of Analysis
Households and individuals
- v2.1: Edited, anonymous dataset for licensed distribution.
Demographics; household composition; English training; livelihoods; education; residency status; medical care sources; social assistance; housing.
Livelihood & Social cohesion
Domestic Needs/Household Support
Land and Property
The population of interest – the study population – for the 2017 ASR is defined as refugees entering the U.S. between FY 2012 and FY 2016, inclusive, who are at ages 16 and over at the time of the 2017 ASR interview3. Because the interviews were conducted in early 2018, the population includes a small number of refugees younger than 16 at the time of arrival to the U.S.
While this covers five distinct fiscal years of refugee entrants, there is special policy/analytic interest in collapsing years into three domains as follows:
• Cohort 2 – Refugees entering FY 2014 and FY 2015, and
• Cohort 3 – Refugees entering FY 2016
Producers and sponsors
Office of Refugee Resettlement
Urban Institute (Contractor)
Office of Refugee Resettlement / U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
The 2017 ASR employed a stratified probability sample design of refugees. The first stage of selection was the household (PA) and the second stage was the selection of persons within households. Principal features of the sample design are highlighted below.
The 2017 ASR design replicated the 2016 ASR design, which used a full cross-sectional national sample of refugees entering within the past five years. This section documents the research design, data collection and data processing protocols. It also presents outcomes (e.g., sample sizes) and paradata results such as response rates.
The population of interest - the study population - for the 2017 ASR is defined as refugees entering the U.S. between FY 2013 and FY 2017, inclusive, who are at ages 16 and over at the time of the 2018 ASR interview. Because the interviews were conducted in early 2018, the population includes a small number of refugee respondents younger than 16 at the time of arrival to the U.S.
The 2017 ASR targeted 1,500 completed interviews from refugee households entering the U.S. between FY 2012-2016. The sample was designed to allow for separate estimates and analyses from each of the three designated cohorts. Moreover, the design needed to accommodate both household- and person-level analyses.
The sample was drawn as fresh cross sections by cohort; there was no longitudinal component. The survey objectives required that – in addition to primary stratification by cohort – the sample of households (i.e., PAs) be stratified at least by year of entry and geographic region of origin.
The 2017 ASR sampling frame was ORR’s Refugee Arrivals Data System (RADS) dataset.
The ASR design targeted equal numbers of household interviews by cohort. This means that there was an oversample of households for FY 2016, the most recent year of entry. This allocation prioritizes the statistical precision to cohorts.
Within each of the three cohort strata, the following factors were used for stratification: year of arrival (for cohorts 1 and 2 only), geographic region, native language, age group, gender, and family size at arrival (1, 2, 3+ persons). Missing contact information status was also used as a stratification variable for cohort 3 due to an unusual degree of missing contact information among FY 2017 arrivals. Proportionate stratified samples were drawn independently within cohort.
Deviations from the Sample Design
The 2017 ASR employed a sample management plan integrating the sample design and field protocols to include locating subjects, contacting them and conducting telephone interviews. A sample of 6,006 PAs was released at the start of data collection. A reserve sample of about 4,500 was held in case some portion was needed to meet the interview target of 1,500.
An overall response rate of 25 percent was achieved. The response rate was driven by the ability to locate and speak to (1515+534)/6006 = 32 percent of the sample, meaning that two thirds of the sample could neither be located nor (if located) successfully contacted.
The overall response rates decreased with time since arrival to the U.S., varying from 18 percent for FY 2012-13 refugees to 26 percent for FY 2014-15 refugees and a high of 34 percent for FY 2016 refugees.
Household- and person-level analytic weights were developed for the 2017 ASR to allow for valid statistical estimates of the target refugee population. Both sets of weights are comprised of two components – a base weight reflecting the selection probability and an adjustment that corrects for differential nonresponse and aligns the population to known totals from the sampling frame (RADS universe file).
Specifically, analytic weights incorporate:
• A base (sampling) weight which reflects the refugee household selection probability. The weight itself is simply the reciprocal of the probability of selection; because the sample allocations of each cohort were managed separately, the selection probabilities varied by the size of the population and the amount of sample released into the field;
• A post-stratification adjustment which corrects the sample for differential nonresponse across cohort and demographic subgroups as well as aligning the sample to known population distributions taken from the RADS.
Dates of Data Collection
Data Collection Mode
Data Collection Notes
For the 2018 ASR, revisions to the 2017 survey instruments and materials were translated into 16 different languages, including English. The survey retained an interpreter to conduct interviews in a 17th language, Chaldean. As in the 2017 ASR, the 2018 questionnaire’s household roster was structured around the respondent. Subsequent demographic questions were asked of respondents first, and repeated for other household members only if their responses were reported to be different (qn1gaa, qn1haa, qn1iaa).
Urban Institute (contracted by ORR)
Urban Institute. 2018 Annual Survey of Refugees. Ann Arbor, MI: Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research [distributor], 2020-02-19. https://doi.org/10.3886/E104642V4