Section 4 Graduates who moved to the United States

Warning View the most recent version.

Archived information

Archived information is provided for reference, research or recordkeeping purposes. It is not subject to the Government of Canada Web Standards and has not been altered or updated since it was archived. Please "contact-us" to request a format other than those available.

Canada, like most industrialized countries, is faced with an aging population and an expected shortage of skilled workers in some professions. Thus, a possible exodus of highly-educated workers or the threat of a "brain drain" not only out of the country, but also out of the labour market remains an important policy issue.

As previous studies have shown, about one fifth of the 2005 doctoral graduates (21%) intended to leave Canada upon completion of their degree and most of them (57%)1 planned to move to the United States. This section looks at the characteristics of doctoral graduates from Canadian universities who lived in the United States at the time of the National Graduates Survey (NGS) interview in 2007.

A much higher proportion of doctoral graduates lived in the United States in 2007 than was the case for graduates at the bachelor and master's levels

Slightly more than one out of ten 2005 doctoral graduates (12%) were living in the United States in 2007. This proportion is identical to that of the doctoral graduates of the Class of 1995 who were living south of the border two years after graduation, in 19972. Another 4% had moved to the United States after graduation but had returned to Canada by 2007 (Appendix table A.7). The 2007 "returnees" accounted for 24% of those who had moved south of the border after graduation.3

In comparison, the proportions of 2005 graduates at the bachelor and the master's levels who lived in the United States in 2007 were significantly lower at 1.3% and 2.1% respectively. These percentages are similar to those in 1997 for the graduating class of 1995 which posted proportions of 1.7% and 3.2%, respectively (Chart 7).

Chart 7 University graduates who lived in the United States two years after graduation, 1995 and 2005 graduates

About six out of ten doctoral graduates living in the United States in 2007 were Canadian citizens by birth

Of the doctoral graduates from Canadian universities who were living in the United States in 2007, about two-thirds (63%) were males and almost one-third (30%) were single. In contrast, significantly fewer graduates who lived in Canada in 2007 were men (53%) or single (22%).

Graduates who lived south of the border were also significantly younger (30 years old) than those who lived in Canada (33 years old) and almost nine out of ten (87%) were Canadian citizens, of which 59% were Canadian by birth and 28% by naturalization. These proportions are comparable to those of graduates who were living in Canada in 2007, namely 90% (65% by birth and 25% by naturalization).

Life sciences and computer, mathematics and physical sciences graduates posted the highest proportions of doctoral graduates who left Canada for the United States

A higher proportion of 2005 graduates from two fields of study were living in the United States in 2007 compared to the overall proportion who left Canada.

Specifically, almost one in five graduates from the life sciences (17%) — which include agricultural sciences, biological sciences and health sciences – and a same proportion from computer, mathematics and physical sciences (17%) were living in the United states in 2007, compared to 12% of doctoral graduates overall (Appendix tables A.7, A.8.1 and A.8.2).

As shown in Table 2 below, two detailed fields of study contributed the most to these results. About one third of graduates in biochemistry, biophysics and molecular biology (34%) were living in the United States in 2007, which is twice the proportion for all life sciences doctoral graduates. Among graduates from computer, mathematics and physical sciences, graduates in physics posted the highest proportion (28%) of graduates living south of the border.

Doctoral graduates in the health professions and related clinical sciences, on the other hand, were less likely to have left Canada, at 10% (Table 2). These rates were lowest for doctoral graduates in psychology and the social sciences as well as in education and other fields of study (each at about 6%) (Appendix tables A.8.1 and A.8.2).

Table 2
Proportion of doctoral graduates in life sciences and computer, mathematics and physical sciences who lived in the United States in 2007
  Proportion Confidence limits (95%)
lower upper
percent
Graduates in life sciences
Biology, general 23 17 29
Biochemistry, biophysics and molecular biology 34 27 41
Plant biology, cellular biology, microbiological sciences and immunology 13 9 17
Genetics, physiology and related sciences 23E 15 31
Other biological and biomedical sciences 19E 13 25
Health professions and related clinical sciences 10 7 13
Other life sciences 22 17 27
All life sciences graduates 17 15 19
Graduates in computer, mathematics and physical sciences
Computer and information sciences 19E 12 26
Mathematics and statistics 14E 8 20
Chemistry 18 13 23
Physics 28 20 36
Other physical sciences x ... ...
All computer, mathematics and physical sciences graduates 17 14 20
Standard table symbols
... not applicable
x suppressed to meet the confidentiality requirements of the Statistics Act
E use with caution
Source: Statistics Canada, National Graduates Survey (Class of 2005).

Most moved for work-related reasons and a majority were attracted by the quality of research facilities or the commitment to research

About seven out of ten graduates who lived in the United States in 2007 (69%) moved for work-related reasons. Schooling or education-related reasons were reported by 20% of the movers, while one out of ten graduates moved for personal reasons such as marriage, relationship, and family or other reasons. No significant differences in reasons for moving were observed when fields of study or gender were examined.

Chart 8 Reasons why graduates moved to the United States

Quality of the research facilities or the commitment to research was the most commonly-cited factor attracting graduates to the United States. This incentive was reported by a third of graduates, whether they moved for educational (33%) or job-related reasons (35%). Two other frequent job-related reasons for moving to the United States were a greater availability of job in a particular / specialized field or industry (27%) and better career advancement opportunities (24%). Women and men were equally attracted by these three aspects of the job.

Other common educational reasons for moving to the United Sates were the high academic reputation of the program or institution (29%) and the desire to study with particular colleagues or superiors (26%)4 (Appendix tables A.9.1 and A.9.2).

The vast majority of those who moved for educational reasons intended to take a postdoctoral position after their graduation in 2005

It is interesting to note that more than eight out of ten returnees (84%), i.e. those who moved to the United States after graduation but were living in Canada in 2007, had planned to take a postdoctoral position after their graduation in 2005. Furthermore, the vast majority (95%) of graduates living in the United States in 2007 who had moved for educational reasons had intended to take a postdoctoral position at the time of graduation in 20055. This is in sharp contrast with graduates who never moved to the United States after graduation. Indeed, less than half of the latter group (46%) had plans to be in a postdoctoral position following graduation (Table 3). While the National Graduates Survey does not indicate whether or not graduates who moved to the United States were in fact pursuing postdoctoral studies in 2007, these results suggest that the majority of them likely moved to take a postdoctoral position.

Table 3
Proportion of non-movers, movers and returnees who intended to take a postdoctoral position at the time of graduation
  Proportion Confidence limits (95%)
lower upper
percent
Never lived in the United States after graduation 46 44 48
Lived in the United States in 2007 72 65 79
Moved for work-related reasons 68 59 77
Moved for educational reasons 95 87 100
Moved to the United States after graduation but lived in Canada in 2007 84 77 91
Sources: Statistics Canada, National Graduates Survey (Class of 2005) and Survey of Earned Doctorates, 2004/2005 and 2005/2006 linked file.

A job awaited the doctorate graduates who moved to the United States

In addition, nine out of ten graduates who moved to the United States had a job arranged to start right away upon their arrival whether they moved for job or education related reasons. Almost all movers from the fields of computer, mathematics and physical sciences (98%) and life sciences (95%) had a job waiting for them south of the border. In contrast, slightly less than 68% of those who moved to the United States from the education and other fields of study had a job upon arrival (Appendix table A.10).

Furthermore, nine out of ten doctoral graduates living in the United States (92%) were employed in the 2007 survey reference week. This proportion was comparable to the proportion of graduates who were living in Canada in 2007 and who were employed (89%). However, proportionally more male graduates living in the United States were employed compared to their counterparts who were living in Canada, while the proportions were comparable for women. Likewise, the only field of study posting a significant difference between the two groups of graduates was the life sciences: 94% of graduates living in the United States were employed compared to 87% of those living in Canada (Appendix table A.11).

Almost half of the graduates who lived in the United States in 2007 had first moved to three states: California (21%), Massachusetts (14%) and New York (12%).

Whereas only 5% of movers were permanent residents upon their arrival in the United States, this proportion had reached 12% in 2007, an increase of seven percentage points. Of the 84% who were temporary residents in 2007, about a quarter (27%) were planning to become permanent residents in the United States within the next two years (Table 4).

Table 4
Status of graduates upon arrival in the United States and in 2007
  Proportion Confidence limits (95%)
lower upper
percent
Status upon arrival1
Temporary resident (includes students) 92 90 94
Permanent resident 5E 3 7
American citizen 3E 1 5
Status in 20071
Temporary resident (includes students) 84 81 87
Permanent resident 12 9 15
American citizen 4E 2 6
2007 temporary residents who planned to become permanent resident within 2 years
Both sexes 27 23 31
Men 23 18 28
Women 35 28 42
Standard table symbol
E use with caution
1. Percentages may not sum up to 100 due to rounding.
Source: Statistics Canada, National Graduates Survey (Class of 2005).

A majority of movers intended to return to Canada

More than eight out of ten graduates living in the United States in 2007 (83%) intended to return to Canada. This was the case for all doctoral graduates in engineering (100%) and for the great majority of those in the humanities (95%), with most (83%) of them were planning to return within five years or less (Appendix table A.12).


Notes

  1. King, Darren, Judy Eisl-Culkin and Louise Desjardins. 2008. Doctoral Graduates in Canada: Findings from the Survey of Earned Doctorates, 2005/2006. Statistics Canada Catalogue no. 51-595MIE2008069. Ottawa. Statistics Canada and Human Resources and Social Development Canada, 75 p.
  2. 1997 data reported is from: Frank, Jeff and Éric Bélair. 1999. South of the Border: Graduates from the Class of '95 who moved to the United States, an Analysis of Results from the Survey of 1995. Statistics Canada Catalogue no. 81-587-XPB. Ottawa. Statistics Canada and Human Resources Development Canada, 41 p.
  3. 1995 graduates who had moved back to Canada by 1997 were not included in the Survey of 1995 Graduates Who Moved to the United States, conducted in 1999, but were included in the 1997 NGS. Therefore, the proportion of returnees to Canada in 1997 cannot be estimated.
  4. Analysis by gender is not available due to the small sample.
  5. Data from Statistics Canada, National Graduates Survey (Class of 2005) and Survey of Earned Doctorates, 2004/2005 and 2005/2006 linked file.
Date modified: