Analytical Studies Branch Research Paper Series
Patterns and Determinants of Immigrants’ Sense of Belonging to Canada and Their Source Country

by Feng Hou, Grant Schellenberg, Social Analysis and Modelling Division, Statistics Canada
and John Berry, Queen’s University

Release date: October 18, 2016 Correction date: (if required)

Abstract

This study assesses immigrants’ acculturation profiles as measured by their sense of belonging to Canada and their source country. It first examines the relative distribution of immigrants who have a strong sense of belonging to both Canada and their source country; a strong sense of belonging to Canada only; a strong sense of belonging to their source country only; and a weak sense of belonging to Canada and their source country. It further examines four sets of determinants of these acculturation profiles, including source-country socioeconomic and cultural characteristics, immigration entry status, post-migration experience, and demographic characteristics. Using a large nationally representative sample of 7,003 immigrants in Canada from over 100 countries, this study finds that the overwhelming majority of immigrants have a strong sense of belonging to Canada with or without a strong sense of belonging to their source country. Source-country attributes are as important as immigration entry status and post-migration experience in affecting immigrants’ sense of belonging to Canada and their source country.

Key words: immigration, acculturation strategy, sense of belonging

Executive summary

While immigrants’ success in the labour market contributes to the receiving country’s prosperity and to immigrants’ material well-being, their sociocultural and psychological integration are key to the receiving society’s social cohesion and immigrants’ own well-being. This study assesses immigrants’ acculturation profiles as measured by their sense of belonging to Canada and their source country. It first examines the relative distribution of immigrants who have a strong sense of belonging to both Canada and their source country; a strong sense of belonging to Canada only; a strong sense of belonging to their source country only; and a weak sense of belonging to Canada and their source country. It further examines four sets of determinants of these acculturation profiles, including source-country socioeconomic and cultural environment, immigration entry status, post-migration experience, and demographic characteristics.

This study is based on Statistics Canada’s 2013 General Social Survey and focuses on 7,003 immigrants who landed between 1980 and 2012. These immigrants came from 182 source countries, with diverse cultural and ethno-racial backgrounds. The two measures used to define acculturation profiles are derived from two survey questions about sense of belonging. The first question asks, “What about your sense of belonging to Canada?” The second question asks, “What about (your sense of belonging) to your country of origin?” Four possible profiles result from the combination of these two measures:

  1. integrated belonging—strong sense of belonging to both Canada and the source country;
  2. national belonging—strong sense of belonging to Canada only;
  3. source-country belonging—strong sense of belonging to the source country only; and
  4. weak belonging—weak sense of belonging to both Canada and the source country.

Four sets of explanatory variables are selected as the potential determinants of the various combinations of the sense of belonging to Canada and the source country:

  1. source-country socioeconomic and cultural environment, including civil liberty, average life satisfaction and individualism–collectivism;
  2. immigration entry status, including immigration class, age at immigration and official language ability at entry;
  3. post-migration experience, including exposure, labour market outcomes, perceived discrimination and social capital; and
  4. demographic characteristics.

The results show that 93% of immigrants had a very strong or a strong sense of belonging to Canada. Furthermore, a strong sense of belonging to the receiving country is not necessarily incompatible with a sense of belonging to the source country. About 69% of all immigrants had strong sense of belonging to both Canada and their source country (the integrated belonging profile). Another 24% of immigrants had a strong sense of belonging to Canada and a weak sense of belonging to their source country (the national belonging profile). In comparison, very few (3%) had a strong sense of belonging to their source country but a weak sense of belonging to Canada (the source-country belonging profile); and very few (4%) had a weak sense of belonging to both Canada and their source country (the weak belonging profile).

Compared with immigrants in the integrated belonging profile, those in the national belonging profile were characterized by lower levels of civil liberty and life satisfaction in their source countries and by more exposure to Canadian society. Younger age at immigration, more years of residence in Canada, and speaking English or French at home are all significant predictors of the national belonging profile.

The source-country belonging profile was characterized by a high average level of life satisfaction in the source country, older age at immigration, shorter stay in Canada, and perceived discrimination. The weak belonging profile was relatively more prevalent among spouses and dependants of economic principal applicants, or immigrants who came to join their relatives in Canada, and among those who were unemployed, never married, or had very low income.

Overall, this study finds that the overwhelming majority of immigrants had a strong sense of belonging to Canada, with or without a strong sense of belonging to their source country. Source-country attributes were as important as immigration entry status and post-migration experience in affecting immigrants’ sense of belonging to Canada and their source country.

1. Introduction

The continuing rise in the total flows and diversity of international immigration to Western developed countries has raised public and policy concerns about how well immigrants will be integrated into the economic and social fabric of the receiving society. While immigrants’ success in the labour market contributes to the receiving country’s prosperity and immigrants’ material well-being, their sociocultural and psychological integration are key to the receiving society’s social cohesion and immigrants’ own well-being.

A large body of psychological and sociological research has pointed to two fundamental dimensions underlying immigrants’ sociocultural and psychological integration: cultural maintenance (the importance of retaining own-group heritage culture) and participation in the receiving society (Berry 1980, 1997; Phinney 1990; Ward 2013). These two dimensions are independent yet, not necessarily, incompatible with each other. Their intersection leads to four possible acculturation outcomes or profiles: integration, assimilation, separation and marginalization (Berry 1997). The integration profile entails both active engagement with the receiving society and strong attachment to own-group cultural heritage. The assimilation profile involves active engagement with the receiving society, yet little attachment to own-group cultural heritage. The separation profile occurs when immigrants have strong attachment to their cultural heritage but little engagement with the receiving society. The marginalization profile occurs when immigrants are neither active participants in the receiving society nor strongly attached to their heritage culture.

International studies find that integration is generally more prevalent than each of the other three possible profiles among immigrants settling in Western countries. The preference for integration is an important empirical finding because, compared with the other three ways of living in the new society, integration has been associated with higher levels of well-being, including self-esteem, life satisfaction, and social competence in living in both societies (Berry 1997; Nguyen and Benet-Martinez 2013).

However, the relative distribution of the four possible outcomes varies greatly depending on the receiving society, the particular immigrant group, how cultural maintenance and participation in the receiving society are measured, and how each measure is operationalized to derive the four profiles (Arends-Toth and Van de Vijver 2007; Rudmin 2003; Schwartz et al. 2010; Ward 2013). It has been generally accepted that in-depth investigation of specific aspects of cultural maintenance and cultural adaptation is critically important for understanding the determinants and consequences of the multifaceted process of immigrant integration (Berry and Sabatier 2011; Ward 2013).

This study focuses on the sense of belonging to Canada and to the source country in order to examine the distribution of the four possible acculturation profiles among immigrants in Canada. In this study, the dimension of ‘retaining heritage group culture’ is operationalized as a ‘sense of belonging to country of origin,’ and the ‘contact and participation’ dimension is operationalized as a ‘sense of belonging to Canada.’ A sense of belonging is a deep-rooted feature of one’s identity that requires substantial psychological investment to develop and change (Berry and Sabatier 2011). More importantly, a sense of belonging to the receiving country, as well as the source country, is directly relevant to a common concern about multiculturalism—whether the development of a strong sense of belonging or commitment to the receiving society can be accomplished, when maintaining one’s heritage culture is actively encouraged and facilitated.

Using a large nationally representative sample of 7,003 immigrants in Canada, from over 100 source countries, this study examines the relative distribution of immigrants, who have:

  • a strong sense of belonging to both Canada and their source country;
  • a strong sense of belonging to Canada only;
  • a strong sense of belonging to their source country only;
  • a weak sense of belonging to Canada and their source country.

This study further examines factors that are associated with these acculturation profiles. Drawing from psychological and sociological literature on immigrant adaptation, this study considers four sets of determinants: source-country socioeconomic and cultural environment; immigration entry status (such as immigration class, age at immigration and official language ability); post-migration experience (including receiving-country receptivity, exposure to the receiving country, economic outcomes and social capital); and demographic characteristics. Previous studies have examined the empirical associations between some of these factors and acculturation profiles for certain specific population groups. However, this study is considered the most comprehensive to date that considers these factors systematically and simultaneously among a highly diverse immigrant population.

The next section briefly reviews previous studies on patterns and determinants of acculturation typologies among immigrant and minority groups. This is followed by a discussion of the data and analytical approaches used in the study. The results section presents descriptive statistics and estimates from multivariate models. The final section summarizes and discusses the findings.

2. Possible acculturation outcomes and determinants

The conceptualization that acculturation involves the interface of maintaining own-group heritage culture (cultural maintenance) and participating in the larger society (cultural adaptation) has been well accepted, and applied in the research on the social–psychological integration of immigrants and minority groups (see overview by Arends-Toth and Van de Vijver 2007; Benet-Martinez 2011, Phinney and Ong 2007; Schwartz et al. 2010; Schimmele and Wu 2015; Ward 2013). However—partly reflecting the fact that acculturation is inherently a complicated process consisting of multiple domains including attitudes, behaviours and identities—previous studies have used a wide variety of measures to capture one or some combinations of these domains (Berry and Sabatier 2011; Ward 2013).

Different ways of measuring and operationalizing cultural maintenance and cultural participation lead to large variations in empirical studies of the estimated relative prevalence of the four possible acculturation profiles (integration, assimilation, separation and marginalization). However, these variations could also originate from different immigrant or minority groups and societal contexts (Arends-Toth and Van de Vijver 2007; Berry and Sabatier 2011). For instance, divergent profiles are revealed even in studies of one specific minority group in Canada. Ravanera and Rajulton (2009) use sense of belonging to the larger society and sense of belonging to one’s ethnic or cultural group to delineate acculturation profiles. They find that among youth aged 15 to 24 with Chinese ethnic background, separation (38%) and integration (34%) are the two dominant profiles, while assimilation accounts for 12% of survey respondents. Noels, Pon and Clément (1996) use self-identification to ethnic or Canadian ways in 22 everyday situations (e.g., listening to music, reading for pleasure and participating in cultural activities) to measure cultural maintenance and cultural adaptation. They find that, among university students with a Chinese ethnic background, assimilation (37%) and separation (35%) are the two dominant profiles, while their integration profile only accounts for 12%. Using a large set of indicators covering ethnic or Canadian affirmation, belonging, kinship, centrality of group membership, cultural values, behaviours and customs, and ethnic evaluation, Chia and Costigan (2006) found that, among university students with Chinese ethnic origins, integration (36%) and marginalization (32%) are the two dominant profiles, while assimilation accounts for about 10% of survey respondents.Note 1 Some research suggests that the integration profile is likely to be more prevalent when cultural maintenance is measured by attitudes than by self-reported behaviors (Ward 2013; Ward and Kus 2012). Other research shows that the prevalence of the integration profile decreases when the measure of the second dimension (involvement with the larger society) is changed from contact with or participation in, to adoption of, and to identification with the culture of the larger society (Berry and Sabatier 2011; Snauwaert et al. 2003).

Given that the distribution of acculturation profiles is strongly influenced by the measures of cultural maintenance and participation in the larger society, scholars in the field suggest that it is imperative for studies on acculturation to clearly specify what is being assessed and the implications of the measurements (see Berry and Sabatier 2011; Ward 2013). This study uses two single, straightforward questions on sense of belonging to Canada and to the source country to assess immigrants’ acculturation profiles. Sense of belonging is regarded as the key component of group identity (Ashmore, Deaux and McLaughlin‑Volpe 2004; Phinney and Ong 2007). Sense of belonging is also viewed as a general feeling of inclusion and the desire to be close to the object of positive attachment (Hidalgo and Hernandez 2001; Pearce 2008). For immigrants in particular, sense of belonging to the receiving society reflects whether they feel accepted, secure, and “at home” in their adopted country (Schimmele and Wu 2015; Wu, Hou and Schimmele 2011). Unlike cultural attitudes and behaviours, which are often group-specific, a person’s sense of belonging transcends ethnicity and culture (Ward 2013), and it is a better measure in studies involving diverse immigrant groups.  

Compared with the sophisticated efforts that have been put into the measurement of the acculturation profiles of immigrants, scant attention has been given to the determinants of these acculturation profiles. Which characteristics are associated with immigrants who are classified into each of the acculturation profiles? From the psychological, sociological and economic literature on the socioeconomic acculturation and adaptation of immigrants, this study will consider four sets of factors: source-country attributes; immigrant entry characteristics; post-migration experience; and demographic characteristics. While the social context of the receiving society also plays an influential role, it cannot be examined in this paper, since this study examined only the situation in Canada, meaning comparisons across receiving societies are not possible.

2.1 Source-country attributes

Empirical studies have often found that the attitudes, behaviours and socioeconomic outcomes of immigrants in the receiving country are strongly associated with some characteristics of their source countries. For instance, immigrant women’s fertility, labour force participation and division of household labour in the receiving country are related to source-country cultural values on gender roles (Blau, Kahn and Papps 2011; Frank and Hou 2015), and immigrants’ trust and generosity are correlated with relevant social norms in the source country (Helliwell, Wang and Xu 2015). Few studies have examined which characteristics of the source country would affect immigrants’ acculturation profiles. It is conceivable that source-country socioeconomic conditions and cultural features affect the degree of attachment that immigrants maintain with their homeland. Immigrants from countries with a less favourable socioeconomic environment have more to gain in their quality of life from immigration and thus may be more likely to choose to participate (through integration or assimilation) in the receiving country. Immigrants from countries with similar socioeconomic conditions as the receiving country may be less committed to the new country as evidenced by their high return-migration rates and low rate of taking citizenship in their new country (Aydemir and Robinson 2008; Picot and Hou 2011).

Psychological research is also concerned with the cultural distance between the source country and receiving countries (Berry 1997; Schwartz et al. 2010). Large cultural differences imply more difficulties in cultural learning, greater cultural conflict and poor adaptation (Beiser, Puente and Hou 2015; Berry 1997; Rudmin 2003). In particular, individualism–collectivism has been used to represent systematic differences in cultural values among countries and population groups. Some contend that Western countries are characterized by individualism, while non-Western countries are more collectivist (Triandis 2001). Accordingly, immigrants from non-Western countries in Western destination countries may face cultural barriers to their integration or assimilation into the receiving society (Schwartz, Montgomery and Briones 2006; Schwartz et al. 2010).

2.2 Immigration entry status

The way immigrants are selected and admitted into the receiving country is related to differences across immigrant groups in their motivations for migration, pre-migration circumstances, and human capital and family socioeconomic resources (Hou and Bonikowska 2016). These differences at the time of immigration become the starting point of immigrants’ new lives in the receiving society, which could have long-term implications for their socioeconomic outcomes (Alba and Nee 2003; Portes and Zhou 1993; Vertovec 2007). A distinction has often been noted between voluntary and involuntary migration. Refugees are those who were forced to leave their homeland—many have experienced persecution, violence and hardship, which have enduring detrimental effects on their health and economic outcomes (Beiser 1999). However, the safety and improved living standard resulting from resettlement may make refugees feel grateful to the receiving society. In comparison, economic immigrants leave their source country voluntarily to improve their quality of life, and they are likely more motivated to integrate in the receiving country. Among voluntary immigrants, differences in motivation and socioeconomic resources may also exist between those who actively initiate the immigration process and their spouses, dependants and relatives. The latter group is often described as “tied” immigrants who tend to face more difficulties in the labour market and social integration (Banerjee and Phan 2015; Cobb-Clark and Crossley 2004).

Other entry characteristics also matter. In particular, age at immigration is among the strongest predictor of learning the language of the receiving country, educational attainment and economic outcomes (Rumbaut 2004). Younger age at immigration is likely to be associated with less influence from the source country’s culture and more flexibility and adaptability (Berry 1997). Thus, child immigrants can more easily identify with the receiving country than adult immigrants (Schwartz et al. 2010). Similarly, proficiency in the language of the receiving society affects how smoothly immigrants can participate in cultural and socioeconomic activities in the receiving country (Schwartz et al. 2010).

2.3 Post-migration experience

While many aspects of post-migration experiences could have a bearing on immigrants’ acculturation profiles, the main ones include receiving-society receptivity, exposure, economic outcomes and social capital. Receiving-society receptivity refers to how immigrants are welcomed and treated in the society of settlement. One commonly used indicator is discrimination experienced or perceived by immigrants. Numerous studies have shown the negative effects of perceived discrimination on immigrants’ subjective well-being and mental health (Noh et al. 1999; Rudmin 2003; Ward 2013). Experiencing discrimination and racism discourages a sense of belonging to the receiving country (Reitz and Banerjee 2007). It may also invoke the development of “reactive ethnicity” in the sense that when immigrants feel rejected or unwanted by the larger society, they become more attached to their own ethnic group and heritage culture (Schwartz et al. 2010). Berry et al. (2006) found that when individuals experience discrimination, they become either more oriented to their own group or ambivalent (diffuse) about their attachment to either mainstream society or their own group.

More exposure to the receiving society is generally associated with stronger identification with and attachment to it. Studies have found that the integration and assimilation profiles are frequent among immigrants with longer residence in the receiving country (Berry 1997; Berry et al. 2006; Schwartz et al. 2010). The extent of exposure to the receiving society is also reflected in the family and in local community settings. The daily use of source-country language at home is associated with the maintenance of heritage culture (Margit et al. 2015). The presence of a large immigrant enclave may reduce immigrants’ participation in and involvement with the larger society, but it may provide sources of support and prevent immigrants from being marginalized (Berry et al. 2006; Murdie and Ghosh 2010; Wu, Schimmele and Hou 2012).

Economic success is a pillar of immigrants’ full participation in the receiving society and may also affect their acculturation profiles. Immigrants’ sense of nationhood hinges on their ability to contribute to the receiving country economically and live a good life (Caron 2014). Conversely, unemployment, poverty, and loss of status relative to pre-migration socioeconomic position are detrimental to immigrants’ psychological adjustment (Aycan and Berry 1996; Beiser and Hou 2001; Berry 1997). The segmented assimilation theory also suggests that, when faced with limited opportunities for economic mobility, some immigrant groups tend to reject the mainstream cultures (Portes and Zhou 1993).

The features of social networks of immigrants can also impinge on their sense of belonging (Schellenberg 2004). Bonding social networks—ties with other members of the same immigrant or ethnic group—may enforce immigrants’ identification with their source country. In contrast, bridging social networks—relationships beyond a tight-knit community—may promote a sense of belonging to the larger society (Pearce 2008).

2.4 Individual demographic characteristics

Race and education have been identified as possible factors affecting immigrants’ acculturation profiles (Berry 1997; Berry et al. 2006). Racial minority status is a crucial feature that sets present-day immigrants apart from earlier waves of European immigrants to North America (Alba and Nee 2003; Portes and Zhou 1993). Racial minorities are more likely to experience discrimination and receive unfair treatment, which may compel them to disengage from or even reject the larger society (Berry 1997; Priest et al. 2013; Schwartz et al. 2010; Wu, Schimmele and Hou 2012). However, one Canadian empirical study shows that visible minority immigrants report a higher sense of belonging to Canada than white immigrants (Reitz and Banerjee 2007). Higher educational attainment improves labour market outcomes and may also facilitate the social participation of immigrants (Berry 1997). However, higher educational levels may be positively associated with individualism and transnationality, and these tendencies may weaken a sense of belonging to the receiving country (Margit et al. 2015; Ryle and Robinson 2006).

Only a few studies have empirically examined the effects of the possible determinants outlined above. A limitation of these studies is that they tend to consider a restricted set of factors, and hence risk missing important covariates. This study examines the association of the four sets of explanatory factors with acculturation profiles in a multivariate model, and thus is able to provide a comprehensive understanding of the possible interconnected relationships among these factors.

3. Data, measures and methods

3.1 Data

This study is based on Statistics Canada’s 2013 General Social Survey (GSS). The GSS is an annual nationally representative household survey targeting the Canadian population aged 15 or older. Each GSS contains standard sociodemographic questions that are common across years, as well as a set of questions focusing on specific social or policy issues. The 2013 GSS focuses on social engagement and social networks. Interviews were conducted via either computer assisted telephone interviewing or electronic questionnaire. Respondents were interviewed in the official language (English or French) of their choice. The overall response rate is 48.1%. The total sample size is 27,695. Survey weights were designed to adjust for non-responses and to account for possible overrepresentation and underrepresentation of geographic areas, age and sex groups. These weights are used in descriptive statistics and multivariate analyses.

The 2013 GSS oversampled immigrants to allow for refined analysis of the immigrant population. There were a total of 8,932 immigrant respondents in the survey. This study focuses on 7,003 immigrants who landed between 1980 and 2012 because immigrants who arrived in this period were in-scope for linking with the Immigrant Landing File (ILF) to obtain their characteristics at the time of immigration. About 19% of these immigrants arrived between 1980 and 1989, 28% arrived between 1990 and 1999, and 53% arrived in 2000 or thereafter. These immigrants came from 182 source countries. About 79 source-country groups had a sample size smaller than 10; 38 groups had a sample size between 10 and 19; 16 groups had sample size between 20 and 29; 34 groups had sample size between 30 and 99; and 15 groups had sample size over 100.

3.2 Measures

The two measures used to define acculturation profiles are from two survey questions about sense of belonging. The first question asks “What about your sense of belonging to Canada? (1) Very strong, (2) somewhat strong, (3) somewhat weak, (4) very weak, (5) no opinion.” The second question asks “What about (your sense of belonging) to your country of origin? (1) Very strong, (2) somewhat strong, (3) somewhat weak, (4) very weak, (5) no opinion.” In delineating the four acculturation profiles, answers (1) and (2) in each question are treated as “strong” while the remainders are “weak.” The combination of these two measures results in four possible profiles: (1) integrated belonging: strong sense of belonging to both Canada and the source country; (2) national belonging: strong sense of belonging to Canada only; (3) source-country belonging: strong sense of belonging to the source country only; and (4) weak belonging: weak sense of belonging to both Canada and the source country.

Four sets of explanatory variables are selected as the potential determinants of the four acculturation profiles: (1) source-country socioeconomic and cultural environment; (2) immigration entry status; (3) post-migration experience; and (4) demographic characteristics.

Source-country socioeconomic and cultural environments are measured by three variables.Note 2 The first measure is the index of civil liberties developed by Freedom House.Note 3 The original civil liberty scale ranges from 1 to 6, with higher scores indicating less civil liberty. For this analysis, the scale is reversed so that higher scores indicate higher levels of civil liberty. Annual country-level data on civil liberty are merged to individual immigrants based on their source country and year of immigration.

The second variable is the average level of life satisfaction reported by respondents in the World Values Survey (WVS).Note 4 This is based on the survey question “All things considered, how satisfied you with your life as a whole are these days?” The answer ranges from 1 (dissatisfied) to 10 (satisfied). Average life satisfaction can be calculated from the WVS for 100 countries. Source countries that did not collect the WVS were assigned the average scores from adjacent countries. The national average across source countries ranges from 3.87 (Tanzania) to 8.37 (Colombia). Of the source countries, 10 had higher average life satisfaction scores than Canada (7.78).

The third variable captures a source country’s prevailing cultural values as measured by the individualism–collectivism scale developed by Geert Hofstede.Note 5 Societies with higher scores in this scale have a stronger preference for a loose-knit social framework in which individuals are expected to take care of only themselves and their immediate families, while those with lower scores have a stronger preference for a tight-knit framework in which individuals can expect their relatives or members of a particular in-group to look after each other. There are 102 source countries with values on this scale. Other source countries were assigned the average scale scores from adjacent countries. The value of the scale ranges from 6 (Guatemala) to 91 (the United States). Among the source countries included in this study, only the United States, Australia (90) and the United Kingdom (89) have higher individualism values than Canada (80).

The three source-country level variables are weakly to moderately correlated, with Pearson’s r ranging from 0.20 (between civil liberty and life satisfaction) to 0.60 (between individualism–collectivism and civil liberty). The inclusion of the three variables in multivariate models does not give rise to multicollinearity.Note 6 

Immigration entry status is captured by three factors. The first is immigration class, coded as economic principal applicants, spouses or dependants of economic principal applicants, the family class, refugees, and others. The second is age at immigration, coded as five categories: 0 to 11, 12 to 17, 18 to 24, 25 to 49, and 50 and older. The third factor is the ability to speak English or French at the time of landing (official language at immigration), coded as speaking English or French, do not speak English or French, and language ability not available.Note 7

Post-migration experience is measured by four sets of factors: receiving-society receptivity; exposure to the receiving society; economic outcomes; and social capital. Receiving-society receptivity is measured by perceived discrimination. This measure is based on a series of questions asking whether respondents have experienced discrimination or been treated unfairly by others in Canada in the past five years because of ethnicity or culture, race or skin colour, religion, language, age, sex, physical appearance (other than skin colour), and disability. The variable is coded as 1 if the respondents have experienced discrimination in any of the eight aspects, and 0 otherwise.Note 8 

Factors representing exposure to the receiving society include years since immigration, speaking a language other than English or French at home (1 if English or French, 0 otherwise), and exposure to own-group immigrant enclave. Individual immigrants’ exposure to an ethnic enclave is measured by the population share of immigrants from the same source regionNote 9 in the local community. Local communities are defined as census tracts in census metropolitan areas and large census agglomeration areas where census tracts are delineated by Statistics Canada, or municipalities in other areas. Alternatively, exposure to an ethnic enclave is defined as a relative measure—the population share of immigrants from the same source region in the local community divided by the corresponding share in the province. The results using these two alternative measures are similar and are not presented here.

Variables representing economic outcomes include employment status and family income. Employment status is coded as three categories: employed, unemployed, and not in the labour force. Family income is coded into six categories: (1) lowest: total family income less than $30,000; (2) lower-middle: $30,000 to $59,999; (3) middle: $60,000 to $99,999; (4) higher-middle: $100,000 to $149,999; (5) highest: $150,000 or more; and (6) family income not reported.

Social capital variables include bonding and bridging social networks. Bonding is derived from the survey question “Think of all the friends you had contact with in the past month, whether the contact was in person, by telephone, by text or by email. Of all these people, how many have the same mother tongue as you?” The variable is coded as 0 (none), 1 (a few), 2 (about half), 3 (most), and (4) all. Bridging is based on a series of questions asking whether the respondent, in the last 12 months, was a member of or participated in a union or professional association; a political party or group; a sports or recreational organization; a cultural, educational or hobby organization; a school group, or neighbourhood, civic or community association; a service club; a seniors’ group; or a youth organization. The bridge variable is derived by counting the number of types of groups, organizations or associations the respondent participated in during the last 12 months, with a score ranging from 0 to 8.

Demographic characteristics include gender (women=1, men=0), visible minority status (visible minorities=1, others=0), marital status, and education. Marital status is coded into five categories: legally married, common-law, widowed, separated or divorced, and never married. Education is divided into four categories: less than high school, high school graduation, some postsecondary education, and university degree.

3.3 Methods

To examine factors associated with different acculturation profiles, the following multinomial logistic regression model is used:

Pr( y i =j )= exp( X i  α j ) 1+ kj exp( X i  α k ) j=1,2,3,4 MathType@MTEF@5@5@+= feaagKart1ev2aqatCvAUfeBSjuyZL2yd9gzLbvyNv2CaerbuLwBLn hiov2DGi1BTfMBaeXatLxBI9gBaerbd9wDYLwzYbItLDharqqtubsr 4rNCHbGeaGqiVCI8FfYJH8YrFfeuY=Hhbbf9v8qqaqFr0xc9pk0xbb a9q8WqFfeaY=biLkVcLq=JHqpepeea0=as0Fb9pgeaYRXxe9vr0=vr 0=vqpWqaaeaabiGaciaacaqabeaadaqaaqaaaOqaaabaaaaaaaaape GaciiuaiaackhadaqadaWdaeaapeGaamyEa8aadaWgaaWcbaWdbiaa dMgaa8aabeaak8qacqGH9aqpcaWGQbaacaGLOaGaayzkaaGaeyypa0 ZaaSaaa8aabaWdbiaabwgacaqG4bGaaeiCamaabmaapaqaaGqad8qa caWFybWdamaaBaaaleaapeGaamyAaiaacckaa8aabeaak8qacqaHXo qypaWaaSbaaSqaa8qacaWGQbaapaqabaaak8qacaGLOaGaayzkaaaa paqaa8qacaaIXaGaey4kaSYaaubeaeqal8aabaWdbiaadUgacqGHGj sUcaWGQbaabeqdpaqaa8qacqGHris5aaGccaqGLbGaaeiEaiaabcha daqadaWdaeaapeGaamiwa8aadaWgaaWcbaWdbiaadMgacaGGGcaapa qabaGcpeGaa8xSd8aadaWgaaWcbaWdbiaadUgaa8aabeaaaOWdbiaa wIcacaGLPaaaaaGaaGjcVlaayIW7caaMi8UaaGjcVlaayIW7caaMi8 UaaGjcVlaayIW7caaMi8UaaGjcVlaayIW7caaMi8UaaGjcVlaayIW7 caaMi8UaaGjcVlaayIW7caaMi8UaaGjcVlaayIW7caaMi8UaamOAai abg2da9iaaigdacaGGSaGaaGOmaiaacYcacaaIZaGaaiilaiaaisda aaa@83DF@

where the probability of being in one of four possible profiles depends on the selected four sets of explanatory variables ( X i MathType@MTEF@5@5@+= feaagKart1ev2aaatCvAUfeBSjuyZL2yd9gzLbvyNv2CaerbuLwBLn hiov2DGi1BTfMBaeXatLxBI9gBaerbd9wDYLwzYbItLDharqqtubsr 4rNCHbGeaGqiVu0Je9sqqrpepC0xbbL8F4rqqrFfpeea0xe9Lq=Jc9 vqaqpepm0xbba9pwe9Q8fs0=yqaqpepae9pg0FirpepeKkFr0xfr=x fr=xb9adbaqaaeGaciGaaiaabeqaamaabaabaaGcbaaeaaaaaaaaa8 qacaWGybWdamaaBaaaleaapeGaamyAaaWdaeqaaaaa@383B@ ) discussed in the previous section. The vector of coefficients α MathType@MTEF@5@5@+= feaagKart1ev2aqatCvAUfeBSjuyZL2yd9gzLbvyNv2CaerbuLwBLn hiov2DGi1BTfMBaeXatLxBI9gBaerbd9wDYLwzYbItLDharqqtubsr 4rNCHbGeaGqiVu0Je9sqqrpepC0xbbL8F4rqqrFfpeea0xe9Lq=Jc9 vqaqpepm0xbba9pwe9Q8fs0=yqaqpepae9pg0FirpepeKkFr0xfr=x fr=xb9adbaqaaeGaciGaaiaabeqaamaabaabaaGcbaGaeqySdegaaa@3796@  corresponds to alternative profiles 1, 2, and 3. The reference group is the integrated belonging profile. 

Since source-country attributes are measured at the source-country group level, clustered standard errors are estimated to correct the correlated error terms within a group (Blau, Kahn and Papps 2011). Such a model is equivalent to a fixed-intercept model with level 1 covariates and level 2 predictors within the framework of Hierarchical Linear Models. This approach essentially first estimates the mean outcome for each group adjusted for differences in individual-level characteristics across groups, and then regresses the mean outcome on country-level predictors. 

4. Results

4.1 The distribution of acculturation profiles

Before discussing the distribution of acculturation profiles, a few observations about the two measures used to delineate acculturation profiles are warranted. First, sense of belonging to Canada and sense of belonging to the source country are positively yet weakly correlated (r=0.13, p < 0.0001). This correlation suggests that the two dimensions are essentially independent, and not opposite to each other. In other words, a strong sense of belonging to Canada is not incompatible with a strong sense of belonging to the source country. This is a well-established finding in the acculturation literature, particularly in traditional immigrant countries such as the United States and Canada (e.g., Benet-Martinez 2011; Berry 1997; Berry et al. 2006; Costigan, Su and Hua 2009; Snauwaert et al. 2003). Second, immigrants were more likely to report a “very strong sense of belonging to Canada” and less likely to report a weak sense of belonging to Canada than the Canadian-born population (Chart 1). This difference is attributable to an even larger difference between immigrants and the Canadian-born in the province of Quebec. In the rest of Canada, immigrants were slightly less likely to report a “very strong” sense of belonging to Canada than the Canadian-born.Note 10 Third, more immigrants reported a strong sense of belonging to Canada (93%) than a strong sense of belonging to their source country (72%). In particular, 63% of immigrants reported a “very strong” sense of belonging to Canada, while 38% of immigrants reported “very strong” sense of belonging to their source country.

Based on the intersection of the two sense of belonging measures, 69% of immigrants had a strong sense of belonging to both Canada and their source country (integration, or the integrated belonging profile); 24% of immigrants had a strong sense of belonging to Canada and a weak sense of belonging to their source country (assimilation, or the national belonging profile); 3% had a strong sense of belonging to their source country and a weak sense of belonging to Canada (separation, or the source-country belonging profile); and 4% had a weak sense of belonging to both Canada and their source country (marginalization, or the weak belonging profile).

Chart 1 Sense of Belonging to Canada by immigration status

Data table for Chart 1
Data table for chat 1
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for chat 1. The information is grouped by Sense of belonging (appearing as row headers), Canada, Quebec, Rest of Canada, Canadian-born and Immigrants, calculated using percent units of measure (appearing as column headers).
Sense of belonging Canada Quebec Rest of Canada
Canadian-born Immigrants Canadian-born Immigrants Canadian-born Immigrants
percent
Very strong 62.0 66.8 40.5 69.3 69.4 66.4
Somewhat strong 27.7 26.5 39.1 24.3 23.7 26.9
Somewhat weak 5.6 3.4 11.8 3.7 3.4 3.4
Very weak 2.3 0.7 6.3 1.3 1.0 0.6
No opinion 2.4 2.5 2.3 1.5 2.4 2.7

Among immigrants who reported a strong sense of belonging to both Canada and their source country, 41.3% reported a “very strong” sense of belonging to both Canada and their source country (fully integrated belonging); 27.0% reported a “very strong” sense of belonging to Canada and a “somewhat strong” sense of belonging to their source country (integrated with stronger national belonging); 11.5% reported a “somewhat strong” sense of belonging to Canada and a “very strong” sense of belonging to their source country (integrated with stronger source-country belonging); and 20.2% reported a “somewhat strong” sense of belonging to both Canada and their source country (moderately integrated).

4.2 Correlates of acculturation profiles

Table 1 presents the means or proportions of the explanatory variables by acculturation profile. For example, immigrants in the integrated belonging profile came from countries with an average score of 4.20 on the civil liberties scale, while those in the source-country belonging profile came from countries with an average score of 4.70. The difference between the two is statistically significant. The results in Table 1 are bivariate as they do not take any confounding effects of other variables in the analysis into account. Such effects are controlled for in the multivariate results presented in Table 2. This table shows the odds ratios of being in either the national belonging, source-country belonging or weak belonging profile relative to being in the integrated belonging profile—the base group in the comparison. A variable with an odds ratio greater than one implies that immigrants with that characteristic are more likely to be in the corresponding profile than in the integrated belonging profile, while a variable with an odds ratio less than one implies that immigrants with that characteristic are less likely to be in the corresponding profile. The discussion below focuses on these multivariate results.

Source-country attributes

Civil liberties in the source country are significantly correlated with not being in the national belonging profile (Table 2). In other words, immigrants from countries with higher civil liberties are less likely to have a strong sense of belonging to only Canada, and more likely to have a strong sense of belonging to both Canada and their source country. Immigrants from countries with higher life satisfaction are more likely to be in the source-country belonging profile and less likely to be in the national belonging profile, reflecting a stronger sense of belonging to their source country in both cases. In terms of individualism–collectivism, immigrants from countries where prevailing cultural values emphasize individualism are less likely to be in the weak belonging profiles. As noted above, Canada is among the more individualistically oriented countries when assessed using this scale, and immigrants from countries that are also most individualistically oriented are more likely than others to feel a strong sense of belonging to both Canada and their country of origin.

Immigration entry status

Turning to immigration entry status, the acculturation profiles of refugees are not significantly different from those of principal applicants in the economic class (Table 2). Nonetheless, the immigration process appears to matter in another way, as immigrants who came to Canada as family class immigrants or as spouses or dependants of economic principal applicants were more likely to be in the weak belonging profile. This is consistent with the hypothesis that ‘tied’ immigrants face particular challenges in labour market and social integration.

As expected, individuals who immigrated to Canada as children or youth are more likely to have a strong sense of belonging to Canada only and are less likely to have a strong sense of belonging to their country of origin. This is evident in the positive correlation between immigration at a younger age and the national belonging profile and the negative correlation with the source-country belonging profile. Furthermore, individuals who immigrated between the ages of 18 and 24 are less likely than their prime-aged counterparts (aged 25 to 49) to be in the weak belonging profile. The ability to speak English or French upon arrival in Canada is not significantly associated with acculturation profiles. Note that these results are net of the assimilation effects associated with duration of residence in Canada.

Post-migration experience

Turning to post-migration experience, immigrants who report they have experienced discrimination in Canada are significantly more likely to be in the source-country belonging profile. This is consistent with the ‘reactive ethnicity’ hypothesis outlined above. The correlations between years since migration and acculturation profiles are also consistent with expectations; specifically, longer length of residence in Canada is positively associated with a strong sense of belonging to Canada and negatively associated with a strong sense of belonging to the country of origin. This is evident in the correlations with the national belonging and source-country belonging profiles.

While knowledge of English or French upon arrival is not correlated with acculturation profiles, immigrants who speak a language other than English or French at home are less likely to have a strong sense of belonging to Canada only (the national belonging profile). The ethnic enclave indicator is not significantly associated with acculturation profiles.

In terms of post-migration economic outcomes, immigrants who are unemployed or who have a family income under $30,000 are more likely to be in the weak belonging profile, characterized by a weak sense of belonging to both Canada and the country of origin. As noted above, segmented assimilation theory posits that constrained economic opportunity weakens attachment to mainstream cultures, or, in this context, belonging to Canada. While this is evident in the correlation with the weak belonging profile, it is not evident in the correlation between economic outcomes and the source-country belonging profile. Individuals who did not report their family income in the GSS are significantly more likely than others to be in the weak belonging profile. Whether non-response is a result of a weak sense of belonging itself or the result of some other unobserved characteristic cannot be determined with the available data.

Bridging and bonding social capital are the final two post-migration variables included in the model. Contrary to expectations, both indicators are not significantly correlated with any of the acculturation profiles.

Individual demographic characteristics

Lastly, a number of demographic characteristics are associated with acculturation profiles. Women are less likely than men to be in the national belonging profile. Education is generally not significantly associated with acculturation profiles. Immigrants who are visible minorities are more likely than others to have a strong sense of belonging to both Canada and their source country. This is evident in the negative correlations with both the national belonging and weak belonging profiles. In terms of marital status, immigrants who never married are more likely than their married counterparts to be in the weak belonging profile. Divorce and separation are also positively correlated with the national belonging profile.

Overall, the model yields a broad set of significant correlations, indicating that a range of source-country attributes, immigration entry characteristics, post-migration factors and individual sociodemographic characteristics are associated with acculturation profiles when defined in terms of sense of belonging.

A broad summary of these factors can also be compiled to provide an overview of immigrants in the various acculturation profiles. Compared with immigrants in the integrated belonging profile, those in the national belonging profile, characterized by a strong sense of belonging to Canada and weak sense of belonging to the country of origin, came from source countries with lower levels of civil liberty and life satisfaction. They were also more likely to arrive in Canada as children or youth, to have resided in Canada for a longer period of time, to speak English or French at home, to be employed, and to be divorced or separated.

Immigrants in the source-country belonging profile, characterized by weak belonging to Canada and strong belonging to the country of origin, came from countries with higher levels of life satisfaction. They were also more likely to arrive in Canada as adults, to have resided in Canada for fewer years, and to have reported an experience of discrimination. 

Immigrants in the weak belonging profile, characterized by weak belonging to both Canada and the country of origin, were more likely to be family class immigrants or spouses or dependants of economic principal applicants. They were also more likely to be unemployed, to be in a lower-income family, and to have never married. They were less likely to be a visible minority. They tended to come from countries with lower levels of individualism.

4.3 Looking more closely within the integrated belonging profile

Two further elaborations were run using these data. As noted in Subsection 4.1, 69% of the sample was located in the integrated belonging profile, including those who indicated their sense of belonging to Canada and their country of origin was either very strong or somewhat strong. To examine possible heterogeneity within this group, those who had a very strong sense belonging to both Canada and the source country (i.e., a fully integrated belonging profile) were separated from those who had a somewhat strong sense of belonging to one or both countries. The multinomial model was rerun to check whether the differences between immigrants in the national, source-country or weak belonging profiles on the one hand and immigrants in the fully integrated belonging profile on the other hand were stronger than when all immigrants in the integrated belonging profile were used as the comparison group. The results are reported in Table 3. Overall, the results using all immigrants in the integrated belonging profile and only immigrants in the fully integrated belonging profile as the reference group are qualitatively similar, although the observed differences in some cases were somewhat larger or reached higher levels of statistical significance in the latter results.

A second way of differentiating immigrants in the integrated belonging profile is to separate them into four subgroups: fully integrated belonging (very strong sense of belonging to both Canada and the source country); integrated with stronger national belonging (very strong sense of belonging to Canada and somewhat strong sense of belonging to the source country); integrated with stronger source-country belonging (somewhat strong sense of belonging to Canada and very strong sense of belonging to the source country); and moderately integrated belonging (somewhat strong sense of belonging to both Canada and the source country). The multinomial model was again rerun to contrast the fully integrated belonging profile with the other three subprofiles. The results are presented in Table 4. Most factors that differentiate the broad belonging profiles still matter within the integrated belonging profile. More specifically, compared with the fully integrated belonging profile, those with stronger national belonging were associated with younger age at arrival and fewer bonding social networks, but more bridging social networks. Those with stronger source-country belonging were associated with higher levels of life satisfaction in their source country, perceived experience of discrimination, shorter length of residence in Canada, and not speaking an official language at home. Those in the moderately integrated belonging subgroup were associated with being the spouse or dependant of an economic immigrant, living in a neighbourhood with more co-ethnics, and having less than a high school education.

5. Conclusion and discussion

This study applies Berry’s acculturation framework to the sense of belonging to the receiving country and the source country among immigrants to Canada. These immigrants came from all over the world, with diverse cultural and ethno-racial backgrounds. They were selected and admitted for various purposes—economic immigration, family reunification and humanitarian obligations, and were equipped with different levels of human capital and socioeconomic resources. Despite this vast diversity, 93% of them had very strong or strong sense of belonging to Canada. Furthermore, a strong sense of belonging to the receiving country is not necessarily incompatible with a sense of belonging to the source country. On that note, 69% of all immigrants did indeed have strong sense of belonging to both Canada and their source country (the integrated belonging profile). Another 24% of immigrants had a strong sense of belonging to Canada and a weak sense of belonging to their source country (the national belonging profile). In comparison, very few (3%) had a strong sense of belonging to their source country but a weak sense of belonging to Canada (the source-country belonging profile); and very few (4%) had a weak sense of belonging to both Canada and their source country (the weak belonging profile).

Compared with immigrants in the integrated belonging profile, those in the national belonging profile were characterized by a less favourable socioeconomic environment in their source countries and more exposure to Canadian society. Immigrants from countries with low levels of civil liberty and life satisfaction had a greater tendency to relinquish their attachment to their source countries while developing a strong sense of belonging to Canada. Younger age at immigration, more years of residence in Canada, and speaking English or French at home are all significant predictors of the national belonging profile. The key role of these indicators of exposure to Canadian society in distinguishing the national belonging profile suggests that many immigrants in the integrated belonging profile may gradually weaken their sense of belonging to their source countries and move towards the national belonging profile as their exposure to Canadian society broadens.

The source-country belonging profile was characterized by a favourable socioeconomic environment in the source country, older age at immigration, shorter stay in Canada and perceived discrimination. Immigrants from countries with high levels of life satisfaction had a strong attachment to their source country while having a weak sense of belonging to Canada. The effect of discrimination is consistent with the hypothesis that perceived unfair treatment discourages the sense of belonging to the receiving society.

The weak belonging profile was characterized by tied immigration, economic difficulties and not being in a familial relationship. Spouses and dependants of economic principal applicants, or immigrants who came to join their relatives in Canada, may encounter more barriers to participation and not be as motivated as immigrants who initiated the immigration process. Being unemployed, having very low income and never having married are typical characteristics of marginalization in a society. The association of these characteristics with a weak sense of belonging may not be unique to the immigrant population.

Overall, this analysis of a large national representative survey finds that among immigrants in Canada, integration and assimilation are the predominant profiles of acculturation when measured by the sense of belonging to Canada and the source country. Source-country attributes are as important as individual characteristics and post-migration experience in affecting immigrants’ balancing of their attachment to Canada and their source countries.

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