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The Psychosocial Value of Employment: Evidence from a Refugee Camp

The Psychosocial Value of Employment: Evidence from a Refugee Camp

Date(s) - 10/12/2022
4:00 pm - 5:30 pm

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Boston University Frederick S. Pardee School of Global Studies

Social scientists have long posited that employment may deliver social and psychological benefits beyond the value of income alone. Identifying the psychosocial benefits of employment has implications for a vast range of policies, from assistance schemes for the unemployed to government responses to forcibly displaced communities to a future of automation and the resulting shift away from traditional forms of work.

In a recent study, Reshmaan Hussam, Assistant Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School, and coauthors present a causal estimate of the psychosocial benefits of employment among a population of forcibly displaced people, the Rohingya refugees of Myanmar. They ran a field experiment in which they randomized 745 refugee camp residents of working age into three arms. In the employment arm, they offered participants gainful employment in the form of a surveying assignment for an average of three days per week for two months. The results indicate that employment raises psychosocial wellbeing substantially more than cash alone, as 66 percent of the employed participants were willing to forego cash payments to continue working temporarily for free. Despite material poverty, participants in the study both experienced and recognized a non-monetary, psychosocial value to employment.


Join Reshmaan Hussam on Wednesday, October 12 for an in-person research seminar on the psychosocial value of employment in the context of a refugee camp. This event is part of the Fall 2022 Human Capital Initiative Seminar Series. 

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