When do refugees return home? Evidence from Syrian displacement in Mashreq

Lori Beaman, Harun Onder, Stefanie Onder*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


This paper provides an empirical analysis of refugee returns to Syria. Since 2011, about 5.6 million Syrians – more than a quarter of the country's pre-conflict population – have been registered as refugees. By mid-2018, only about 1.8 percent of them had returned to Syria voluntarily. This paper compiles a novel data set with administrative data for 2 million refugees, existing and new household surveys, a new conflict-events database, and nightlights data for Syria to analyze the correlates of these returns. A reduction in conflict intensity and an increase in luminosity in Syria increase the likelihood of spontaneous return. Moreover, the patterns of who returns and when differ between high and low conflict areas of Syria. Finally, we show there is a positive association between better conditions faced by refugees in exile and the likelihood of return to Syria.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number102802
JournalJournal of Development Economics
StatePublished - Mar 2022


  • Forced displacement
  • Refugees
  • Return migration

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Development
  • Economics and Econometrics


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