Publication Date


Advisor(s) - Committee Chair

Dr. Douglas C. Smith (Director), Dr. Amy Cappiccie, Dr. Ric Keaster, Dr. John White, Dr. Jun Yan

Degree Program

Educational Leadership Doctoral Program

Degree Type

Doctor of Education


Refugees face different circumstances than other immigrants regarding housing in initial resettlement in the U.S. Refugees have no choice of their initial residence as this is determined in advance by the resettlement agency. Refugees who belong to minority ethnic groups and who have little education or skills may experience discrimination and hostility from local citizens. Resettlement areas that are high in population density, rental units, minorities, crime, unemployment, inadequate transportation, and low income may present additional barriers to cultural and economic assimilation.

This mixed-method study had a twofold purpose. The first was to describe quantitatively how the initial resettlement address affects the refugee assimilation within a mid-sized city allowing for neighborhood demographics. According to assimilation theory, refugees would normally move out of the initial housing into better housing when possible. Using the local resettlement agency database combined with demographics from the 2000 and 2010 U.S. Census, Burmese and Iraqis who arrived between January of 2008 and February 2011 were identified through mapping with GIS geospatial data.Maps were created and combined with Census block and block group level data for neighborhood demographics. Two primary, two secondary, and two tertiary clusters of Burmese and Iraqi housing were identified and evaluated through Kernel Density in 3D.

Total numbers of household moves are tracked within the study period by use of Environmental System Research Institute (ESRI) ArcObjects programming. The researcher found that Burmese often stay within the original resettlement complex or move to those clusters inhabited by other Burmese. The GIS data for the Iraqi refugees was incomplete. However, interviews revealed that Iraqis move quickly and break contact with the refugee agency, resulting in minimal movement data for the second group.

The second purpose was to identify needs, strengths, gaps in services, and projects for refugees by conducting a qualitative analysis through semi-structured interviews of educational and community leaders. Nineteen interviews were conducted among leaders in education, health, social work, and spiritualism. Needs reported were English language, transportation, skills, and cultural knowledge, in particular for the Burmese. Strengths included workforce, diversity, and positive attitudes. Both groups report innovative projects in progress.


Bilingual, Multilingual, and Multicultural Education | Demography, Population, and Ecology | Race and Ethnicity