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The Rise in Low-income Rates Among Immigrants in Canada

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  • Hou, Feng
  • Picot, Garnett

Abstract

This study uses census data to focus on low-income among immigrants, and asks a number of questions: (1) have low-income rates increased among successive cohorts of entering immigrants, both in absolute terms and relative to the Canadian born (they have), (2) is this increase due to changes in their characteristics (e.g. education, age, source country, language etc.), (3) do low-income rates fall as new immigrants acquire Canadian experience, and are there signs that low-income rates fall faster among the more recent entering cohorts with the higher entry level rates, resulting in some "catch-up", and (4) in the major Canadian cities, to what extent was the deterioration in the city level low-income rates during the 1990s concentrated among immigrants? The analysis covers the period from 1980 to 2000, and focuses on change between 1980 to 1990, and 1990 to 2000, years that are roughly at business cycle peaks. The study finds that low-income rates among "recent" immigrants (in Canada for less than five years) almost doubled between 1980 and 1995, and then fell during the strong recovery of the late 1990s. However, when focusing on outcomes at business cycle peaks (1980, 1990 and 2000) to establish comparable long-term, low-income rates rose continuously for each successive cohort of immigrants. Furthermore, the gap at entry in their low-income rate relative to the Canadian-born also rose over the 1980-2000 period. The changing composition of "recent" immigrants with respect to language, source country, family type and age accounted for, at most, half of the rise in the low-income rate among this group, and likely substantially less than that. Most of the increase was a result of the widespread rise in low-income among recent immigrants in all age groups, family types, language groups, education groups, and most of the more significant (numerically) source regions, notably Africa and the Asian source regions. The peak to peak rise in the low-income rate between 1980 and 2000 was not restricted to recent immigrants, and was observed (to a lesser extent) among immigrants who had been in Canada for up to 20 years. Low-income rates among immigrants tend to fall with time spent in Canada. Furthermore, among the more recent entering cohorts with the higher low-income rates at entry, the rate of decline is faster. There is evidence of a "catch-up" (to earlier cohorts) among the more recent entering cohorts. However, low-income rates remain higher among immigrant cohorts of the late 1980s and early 1990s than among their counterparts in the 1970s (comparing groups with a comparable number of years in Canada). The rise in the low-income rates in the three major Canadian cities, and in Ontario and B.C. during the 1990s in particular, was largely concentrated among the immigrant population. Basically, low-income rates have been falling over the past two decades among the Canadian born, and rising among immigrants. A discussion of

Suggested Citation

  • Hou, Feng & Picot, Garnett, 2003. "The Rise in Low-income Rates Among Immigrants in Canada," Analytical Studies Branch Research Paper Series 2003198e, Statistics Canada, Analytical Studies Branch.
  • Handle: RePEc:stc:stcp3e:2003198e
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    References listed on IDEAS

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