Kent State Professors to Start Economic Impact Study of Immigrants and Refugees from Somalia

The Linden area of Columbus has over 1,700 foreign-born residents. Of the immigrants and refugees living in the area, more than 35 percent come from Africa, including the easternmost country of Somalia. Until recently, the large community of immigrants and refugees from Somalia have not been recognized for their economic impact or what the community brings to Franklin County.

Drs. Shawn Rohlin and Abdihafit Shaeye, Professors of Economics at Kent State University, are undertaking research to study economic impact of immigrants and refugees from Somalia living in the Linden area. A grant was provided by the Somalia Chamber of Commerce soon after Dr. Linda Robertson, Director of the Read Center for International and Intercultural Education at Kent State University, visited the area with one of the center’s Fulbright Scholars.  

The inquiry for an impact study, as Dr. Robertson recalls, was to provide the Somali community with a chance “to tell their own story.” She notes, “Of course this is a huge issue across the world, not just in the nation. And so if [Kent State University] can do this study, it might be replicable in other parts of the United States. It could help other communities to know the importance of welcoming in immigrants and refugees.”

The grant will provide funding to purchase software that will calculate impact based on income, spending patterns, and local business contributed. “Without [the Somalia] population, there would be a lot less people. And all the businesses that they own would not exist,” said Dr. Rohlin.

The question then becomes how would the economy look without this contribution?

Dr. Rohlin is confident that the findings of this study will demonstrate the importance of refugee and immigrants and that they contribute not only socially and culturally, but also economically. "There is lots of value to immigrants and refugees, including economically, and we are going to quantify this effect for the Somalia population in Columbus," said Dr. Rohlin.

The study will start near the end of spring semester 2019. For further inquiries, please contact Dr. Abdi Shaeye at

POSTED: Tuesday, May 7, 2019 - 1:30pm
UPDATED: Tuesday, May 7, 2019 - 1:31pm
Rebecca Johnson