Who Exactly Are the Syrian Refugees We Have Already Taken?

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People gather to protest the United States's acceptance of Syrian refugees, at the Washington state capitol in Olympia on November 20. David Ryder/Reuters

This article first appeared on the Anything Peaceful site.

This is the demographic information on all 2,234 Syrian refugees admitted to the United States from October 2010 through November 2015, according to the Refugee Processing Center.

Data on religion for all refugees is from the same source; some additional information comes from the American Community Survey.

Gender and Age

Refugees from Syria are overwhelmingly young: 43 percent of all Syrian refugees are children under age 14.

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The gender ratios for Syrian refugees are more balanced: 53 percent are male and 47 percent are female.

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Males aged 14-30, the most potentially dangerous group, are 13 percent of all Syrian refugees.

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Data on religion was collected for all Syrian refugees admitted from fiscal year 2011 to today.

About 96 percent of the refugees are Muslim of any denomination; about 3 percent are Christians of any denomination. About 1 percent are nonreligious or of other faiths.

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The Syrian refugee flow is much more Muslim than the global average. Of all refugees resettled in the United States, 44 percent are Christian, compared with less than 3 percent from Syria.

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Note about worldwide religious data: I suspect there is some double counting.


The Syrian refugees are 87 percent Arab and 10 percent Kurdish, with small representations from other ethnic groups.

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Education Level

Since 43 percent of the Syrian refugees are under 14 and 56 percent are under 20, Syrian refugees tend to be less educated; 9.4 percent have a technical, university, college or graduate school level of education. Since the refugee flow skews young, members of this group should become more educated as they age.

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Adult Syrian-Americans—over age 25 and born in Syria—are more educated than the current refugee flow.

Overall, Syrian-Americans are both more and less educated than the population as a whole; 44 percent of Syrian immigrants have just a high school diploma or less, compared with 38 percent of native-born Americans. But 39 percent of Syrian-Americans have a bachelor's degree or higher, compared with 30 percent of the native-born.

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Sources: American Community Survey, 2014; 1-Year Sample, S0501 and S0201 Syrians


Syrians resettled in the United States are highly concentrated in a few states. Six states (California, Texas, Michigan, Illinois, Arizona and Pennsylvania) have together received more than half of Syrian refugees.

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Twenty states (Arkansas, Colorado, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Oregon, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, Washington and West Virginia) have received fewer than 50 refugees.

Fourteen states (Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Hawaii, Iowa, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Vermont and Wyoming) and Washington, D.C., have not received any.

Alex Nowrasteh is the immigration policy analyst at the Cato Institute's Center for Global Liberty and Prosperity.