Moving to a new country can be an overwhelming experience for anyone, but it can be especially tough on children. While immigrant parents may be enthusiastic about the many new open doors Canada can provide for their offspring, this excitement can overshadow the mental and emotional toll immigration takes on children. In a nutshell, newcomer children often struggle with feelings of loneliness as they miss their friends and extended family back home, and may feel pressured to juggle traditional values and customs of parents with the Canadian practices of their peers. Interestingly, despite these problems, immigrant children are much more successful than their parents in Canadian society.😊
Only 24 per cent of white Canadian men between ages 35 and 44 have university degrees, according to Jedwab’s research. That is less than half the university-education rate of Canadians of South Asian, Chinese and Korean background. An internal federal Immigration Department report by Garnett Picot confirms a related trend: The 2016 census shows that 36 per cent of the children of immigrants aged 25 to 35 hold university degrees, compared to just 24 per cent of people in that age bracket with Canadian-born parents.
“Canada fortunately has among the best educational and economic outcomes for the children of immigrants in the western world. This success sets Canada apart from most European nations, and to some extent, the U.S.,” Picot said in his report, titled The Educational and Labour market Outcomes of the Children of Immigrants: A Success to be Preserved.
Like Picot, Canadian leaders celebrate the positive educational results of the offspring of immigrants, the large majority of whom are people of colour. They see it as an example of how large-scale immigration and multiculturalism enriches Canada. The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development in 2016 ranked Canada second only to Korea as the highest educated nation in the world.
At the same time, however, a small number of educators and economists are noting that the 2016 census data also flags some concerns: It points to how there are a range of winners and losers in Canadian higher education and the job market, in which Indigenous people particularly under-perform.
A minority of voices are asking if some young people born in Canada and other Western countries, especially those from the lower and middle classes, are growing discouraged in the face of having to compete with high-achieving offspring of well-educated and skilled immigrants.
Oxford University economist Paul Collier has found that “the success of immigrants can demoralize, rather than inspire” less successful students of British background. “Faced with decades of frustration of their hopes, the dominant narrative of the indigenous (British) underclass has evolved as fatalism: Avoid disappointment by not trying,” Collier writes in Exodus: How Migration is Changing Our World.
Contrary to widespread claims that white males are “privileged” in Canada, an earlier study by Picot and Feng Hou, of the University of Victoria, found that Canada’s 3.2 million women of colour are the most educated group in the country.
“The children of immigrants from many Asian countries, such as China and India, register remarkably high educational outcomes, with 50 of Chinese and 60 per cent of those from India holding university degrees,” Picot says.
When Jedwab zeroed in on the education levels of middle-aged adults in Metro Vancouver, he found 46 per cent of immigrant men and 48 per cent of immigrant women in the city had university degrees. That ratio was 41 per cent for Canadian-born females (between the ages of 35 and 44), and only 31 per cent for Canadian-born males.
As well as being accomplished at universities, a high portion of children of immigrants tend to find success once they venture out to work in Canada.
“On average, the children of immigrants are doing as well or better (as adults) in the labour market than the children of the Canadian-born,” said Picot.
“Furthermore, because of their higher educational attainment, the children of immigrants are more likely to be in professional occupations and less likely to be in blue collar jobs than children with Canadian-born parents.”
The results do not offer good news for all immigrants and their children, though. The studies by Picot and Jedwab show that immigrants to Canada are tending to divide into two polarized groups: Some are unusually strong at the high end of the economic spectrum, others are over-represented at the low end.
Jedwab found immigrants and visible-minority Canadians are far more likely than the Canadian-born and whites to report low incomes. In Metro Vancouver, for instance, Jedwab found almost 15 per cent of immigrants had low incomes, compared to just 9.4 of non-immigrants. In addition, 24 per cent of Metro’s ethnic Chinese reported low incomes, compared to 10 per cent of non-visible minorities.
In an era where some North American academics, activists and media commentators are emphasizing “white male privilege,” the census data raises questions about the usefulness of such a broad concept. It signals contradictions and disagreements over which groups are privileged and which are disadvantaged.
Jedwab, for instance, does not think much of the arguments of those who worry that males who are “non-visible-minority Canadians” (a Statistics Canada category that is largely made up of whites, but also includes aboriginals) are disadvantaged, or under performing. He says many are simply going into blue-collar work.
“In the case of the non-visible-minority male population,” Jedwab said, “there is a growing trend we see towards getting trade certificates, where there is a sense that job opportunities are better.”
Picot’s emphasis is on maintaining the success of immigrants’ children. “Taking steps to maintain the positive attitude of Canadians towards immigration can help, since a population backlash can negatively affect second generation outcomes,” he writes. “Canada is one of the few western nations where researchers, policy developers and the public are little concerned about immigrants ‘stealing the jobs of Canadians.’ This is a prominent issue in most western nations.”
While economists like Collier and educators such as Bennett also appreciate the many achievements of immigrants and people of colour, they don’t necessarily want Western societies to abandon the domestic-born population.
Bennett, a university instructor who maintains the website Educhatter, is concerned about the “lack of motivation” among average students of Canadian background, including whites and Aboriginals. His research has found many are languishing.
Collier says high-immigrant Western countries such as Britain, the U.S. and Canada have never figured out how to address the problems of the under-achieving domestically born. Such countries, he said, have developed either universal programs for everyone, or affirmative-action plans for immigrant, ethnic or other minority groups perceived as vulnerable.
No Western country, he suggests, has ever designed a way to respond to the more nebulous needs of those in the mainstream domestic population — whom many consider to be privileged, but who are under-achieving.