Hersheena Rajaram ’19 works with a refugee on language skills.

Stephen Wu, the Irma M. and Robert D. Morris Professor of Economics, is the lead author of a paper that appears in the June issue of the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion.

Co-authored with Professor of Sociology Steve Ellingson, Professor of Economics Paul Hagstrom, and Assistant Professor of Sociology Jaime Kucinskas, “Religion and Refugee Well-Being: The Importance of Inclusive Community” focuses on how an inclusive community and the ability to practice one’s religion contribute to refugee happiness.

Using responses from a 2017 survey of more than 600 refugees in Utica, N.Y., to questions both about religion and about happiness with living in their new city, Wu and his co-authors examined how religiosity and sense of inclusion relates to their sense of well-being.

They said that although prior research has suggested that religiosity is associated with greater well-being, this new study showed that “refugee well-being is more strongly related to community factors than to individual religiosity and practice.

“Specifically,” they said, “those who feel free to practice their religion are more likely to report greater happiness with living in their community than others.”

The authors noted that their findings “point to community-level structural and cultural factors, which may counter the negative influences of prejudice and discrimination occurring in the United States during this time period, as well as to refugees’ resilience in the face of the many hardships they face and challenges associated with settling in a new country as members of ethnic and often racial minority groups.”

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