Eric Adebayo
Ricardo Meilman Cohn


Syrian refugees to have major impact on B.C. economy—study

December 07, 2015

By Marianne Meadahl

A new report, commissioned by Vancity Credit Union and with data analysis provided by two SFU PhD students, finds that Syrian refugees coming to B.C. over the next few months will contribute an estimated $563 million in local economic activity over the next 20 years.

Economics doctoral students Eric Adebayo, and Ricardo Meilman Cohn, who is also a research assistant at SFU’s Center for Education Research and Policy, spent the past month working on the report, released last week by Vancity.

Among highlights of the report, From Crisis to Community: Syrian Refugees and the B.C. Economy, refugees have higher rates of self-employment, tend to be consumers within their local communities and have a history of helping to grow the local economy.

Key recommendations include the need to coordinate refugee settlement and housing policies, support the skills and educational credentials they arrive with, and ensure they can maximize the full range of settlement and training programs within the first years. The report builds on Vancity’s commitment over the past 20 years to supporting refugees to B.C.

“The Syrian conflict has led to the world's largest humanitarian crisis since World War II,” says Meilman Cohn.

“It’s critical to ensure that the integration of refugees in Canada is successful, as it can result, in the long run, in many different positive spillovers in the labour market and local economies.”  

The pair, both international students, became friends during their first year at SFU and responded together to a request to work on the report for Vancity. “Working together on this was a natural extension of our interests and the work each of us is doing,” says Adebayo. “The results of our analysis support the idea that refugees have much to offer, providing that we are well-prepared to receive and support them.”

Adebayo is currently working on a paper that examines the effects that laws and policies aimed at unauthorized immigrants have on authorized immigrants in the U.S. His earlier work includes a paper examining within-household bargaining power of women in Rwanda, and a report on the effects of micro-hydro-electric power generation on Tanzania.

Meilman Cohn’s research focuses on the economics of education and labor, and applied econometrics. He is currently working on a paper that examines the effect of cash and in-kind food transfers on children's educational attainment in the poor rural areas of Mexico. He has also worked on economic research with the UNDP in Brasilia and Itau Unibanco in Sao Paulo, Brazil, and the World Bank in Washington, D.C.