Study: Education and earnings of childhood immigrants

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1986 to 2006

Immigrants who arrived in Canada at age 12 or younger were more likely than their Canadian-born counterparts to obtain a university education by the time they were aged 25 to 34. Furthermore, this difference increased successively from those who arrived in the 1960s to those who arrived in the 1980s.

Among male childhood immigrants who arrived in the 1980s, nearly 32% held a university degree by the age of 25 to 34, compared with just over 20% of the Canadian-born comparison group. Male childhood immigrants who arrived in the 1960s had a university completion rate about 6 percentage points higher than their Canadian-born peers.

The pattern was similar among women, although the share of women with a university degree increased faster than the share of men, for both childhood immigrants and the Canadian-born.

Childhood immigrants represented about 26% of immigrants who arrived in Canada in the 1960s, 24% in the 1970s and 21% in the 1980s.

The increasing gap in educational attainment between successive cohorts of childhood immigrants relative to similarly-aged Canadian-born was associated with the shift in the composition of source countries for immigrants. The composition has been shifting towards countries from which children of immigrant parents have traditionally had high education levels.

In terms of earnings, male childhood immigrants who arrived in the 1960s had weekly wages about 2% lower than the Canadian-born with similar socio-demographic characteristics. This gap disappeared for the 1970s and 1980s cohorts.

Female childhood immigrants who arrived in the 1960s and 1970s had similar earnings to the Canadian-born comparison group. However, the 1980s cohort had higher earnings than the Canadian-born comparison group.

Note: This study used data from six Canadian censuses between 1971 and 2006 to examine cohort differences in the educational attainment and earnings of childhood immigrants who arrived in Canada in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s. Childhood immigrants are defined as those who were born abroad and immigrated to Canada at the age of 12 or younger. Their educational attainment and earnings were examined when they reached the age of 25 to 34. A comparison group consisted of similarly-aged Canadian-born individuals who reported Canadian, British or French ethnic origin. In comparing earnings of childhood immigrants and the Canadian-born peers, differences in education, potential years of experience, full-time employment status, mother tongue, and region of residence were taken into account.

The research paper "Reversal of Fortunes or Continued Success? Cohort Differences in Education and Earnings of Childhood Immigrants," part of Analytical Studies Research Paper Series (11F0019M2011330, free), is now available from the Key resource module of our website under Publications.

Similar studies from the Social Analysis Division are available at (www.statcan.gc.ca/socialanalysis).

For more information, or to enquire about the concepts, methods or data quality of this release, contact Aneta Bonikowska (613-951-8043) or Feng Hou (613-951-4337), Social Analysis Division.