Small-town immigrants at financial advantage

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Subject: Small-town immigrants at financial advantage
  Small-town immigrants at financial advantage: study
Newcomers achieve income parity with Canadians faster in smaller centres

Meagan Fitzpatrick
Canwest News Service

Saturday, January 26, 2008

OTTAWA -- Where immigrants choose to plant new roots in Canada appears to affect how much they earn, a new study on the economic integration of immigrants reveals.

The Statistics Canada report, published Friday in Perspectives on Labour and Income, says that most immigrants settle in the places where economic integration is slowest -- in large urban areas.

Even after taking into consideration their education level upon arrival, their ability to speak an official language, their admission class and country of origin, the study found that immigrants achieve income parity with Canadians much faster in smaller centres.

"Immigrants living outside the largest urban centres can translate their credentials acquired abroad into a relative income advantage more easily. They are more likely to overcome their lack of ability in an official language, quickly learning English or French, enabling them to increase their ability to generate income faster," Statistics Canada said in the report.

But despite the apparent advantages, immigrants are not small-town people. According to the report, fewer than 1 in 40 immigrants lives in a rural area with a population under 15,000, compared to slightly more than one in five Canadians who choose to live in tiny towns.

The vast majority of immigrants -- about 75 per cent -- make Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver their homes.

While those cities offer other benefits for immigrants, such as social and networking opportunities with other people from their home country, they appear not to help immigrants close the income gap with non-immigrants.

Immigrants in small cities or the countryside integrate quite quickly, especially when they have a university degree, Statistics Canada reports.

On average, immigrants with a degree reach income parity within four years in such areas, and immigrants with only a high school education tend to see better economic integration there as well, the report said.

Statistics Canada used two measures to determine economic integration: the initial income gap between immigrants and Canadians in general, and the rate at which that gap narrows.

For Canadians in general, living in a large metropolitan area means a higher income compared to smaller areas -- but for immigrants, it´s the reverse.

Incomes of immigrants were lowest in the largest urban areas and highest in the small urban areas. The median income for immigrants in small cities was $19,500, in small towns and rural areas it was $18,800, while in the largest urban areas it was $16,800.

The comparable figures for Canadians as a whole are $28,100 in very large urban areas, $30,500 in large cities and $22,500 in small towns and rural areas.

The larger the area, the larger the gap with the incomes of non-immigrants, the study determined.

The study not only found that the economic integration of immigrants is better in small areas than in large cities but that the advantage increases over time. In big cities, the gap started at 37 per cent and decreased at such a slow pace that it took 12 years for it to drop below 10 per cent.

In contrast, the gap only started at 14 per cent in small cities and four years later immigrants were actually earning two per cent more than non-immigrants.

"In small towns and rural areas, the advantage of immigrants is even more pronounced," Statistics Canada said. In their first year of residence, the average income for immigrants was four per cent higher than that of Canadians.

The report should provide ammunition for small communities that are trying to attract immigrants.

"These communities, especially in rural areas, often face declining populations, and immigration can represent a potential means of revitalizing their economies," Statistics Canada said.

? The Vancouver Sun 2008

(in reply to: Small-town immigrants at financial advantage)
Interesting article.

But from my experience and observation, I found the opposite to be true. Not that my situation or location was typical, but some of this defies common sense to me.

My small "centre" was 75,000. Jobs were scarce as the steel industry there was in a downturn for the past decade. The local Canada employment office had lines of people in front each day - loitering, nervously chain smoking in hopes of landing something. The professional job sitiation was not much better.

It was depressing. Downtown basically closed down after dark. Many of the houses around the city center were boarded-up and falling apart. Not much in the way of activities - no concerts, symphonies, plays, theater, or cultural activity. Yes, frequent metallic rock band concerts and plenty of local hockey teams - but that was the main live entertainment.

Nothing in the way of diverse ethnic communities normally found in and around larger cities like Toronto or Montreal. I wondered how immgrants could feel comfortable and adapt easily if so few or no fellow immigrants from their homeland in such a small, narrow-minded, homogenous town.

Yes, house prices were much lower. But without diverse activities and basic needs of life, what quality of life is that?

I found the article didn´t make common sense to me, and sounded like some economist trying to lay out a prize theory without actually understanding of living the experience.

Maybe I´m a metropolitan person needing a bit more sophistication. But I found it´s certainly no bed of roses in a small town, unless you know what to expect.

(in reply to: Small-town immigrants at financial advantage)
It would be interested to see what they consider ´small´. I agree 75,000 one industry town could be tough- for ANYONE! You would not want to try and settle in Port Alberni right now.
(in reply to: Small-town immigrants at financial advantage)

I´m not that surprized with this report. I think it is possible.

That may be even true for the USA.


In my observations, in USA the mega cities has most of the low income immigrants+majority of the illegala. Smaller & mid size cities are got less share of them, they get mostly the white collar ones. So, if you try to take income stat then big cities will be in the lower side. In my cirle there are hundreds of profesionals and most of them are posted outside the mega cities.

In Canada I think similar (if not exact same) trend presents. May be even more. As immigrants rarely want to move to the smaller cities (reasons may be debated). They only move when they can manage good jobs by any ways. So, naturally their income pattern should look better. For an example, if you go to London ON you´ll find lot of immigrant doctors. So in that city out of few immigrants they contribute a lot to show a high immigrant income profile. Specially at the transitional stage (looking for almost 0 income) they wouldn´t chose the smaller cities.

This report seems realistic with little practical value t me. If someone would try to interpret this as a magic sol´n for the immigrant job problem then that would be very funny. This report also doesn´t tell that if immigrants move to the smaller cities then they would be better of. In reality that would be similar to eliminate proverty by killing the poors. Though no doubt immigrants should be evenly distributed over the the entire country.

By the way, I personaly hate the mega city life and enjoy the quiet smaller cities.

(in reply to: Small-town immigrants at financial advantage)

Statistically, the report may be correct. But I question those numbers. Here in the U.S., professionals always earn higher salaries in the large metropolitan areas versus smaller towns. It´s a matter of competition and demand among employers that doesn´t exist in rural areas.

But in my opinion, the bigger issue is overall quality of life, which as you say, the report didn´t care to address.
What kind of health care can one expect in a small village where doctors don´t want to live versus say Toronto or Vancouver? That in itself is a quality of life issue. (In this case, possibly life or death.) Where will new immigrants feel more comofrtable? I say in a diverse city that is probably more tolerant of foreign manners, traditions, and cultures than a small rural village.

So if we are to believe the report that 10-15% more money is possible in the smaller centres, than that along with cheap housing would have to be the main reasons for immigrants to move there. But I don´t think that´s what immigrants are primarily intersted in. Hence we see them choosing diverse cities for the kind of opportunities and lifestyle they can get only there.

I also personally prefer the quiet life, but I find that city suburban life can provide both nicely. Peacefulnes yet access to culture, opportunities, jobs, and choices unavailable in rural towns.

To me, the conclusion is clear despite the statistical salary differences in the report. That report tries to paint a rosey picture of small town life without taking into account all aspects and needs for immigrants.

(in reply to: Small-town immigrants at financial advantage)

I also fully agree with your basic tone. This report is statistically correct but with no decisive direction; may led to a long one rather.

I also agree that immigrants would naturally prefer to stick into the bigger metropolitan areas. That many guys don´t want to realize why. Some folks bindly blame them for that and hence start blaming them to be involved in a more competitive area for jobs.

This report also reports like you said that Canadians earn more in the bigger cities than the smaller ones, but for the immigrants it is the opposite.

Chpeaer home price can´t be the prime reason. Even not cultural diversity I think. It is again more controlled by job opputunities. Bigger cities offer more jobs, so they tend to go there, at least with the help of their community folks they can manage a surviving job.

Suburban life may be OK, but still I hate to commute 2 hours daily just for work, I rather prefer to cut it in 1 hr. Also, urban sprawl is becoming a growing concern for the planning point of view.

In North America I first spent my student life in a city with less than 30,000. I wouldn´t mind to going back there for the rest of my life. Except some luxurious shopping/resturants I don´t think I would miss anything else there. In return I can be in a place where I wouldn´t have to lock my door even. Have excellent real folks around me. Abundant nature around me. May be I´m generalizing with different choice. The 2nd place I stayed was Austin, TX. Still we remember our golden days there. May be one day I´ll settle there for good.

Anyway, I also think that the purpose of this report is more like what you said in your last sentece.

(in reply to: Small-town immigrants at financial advantage)
something to consider - less competition from fellow immigrants with similar credentials for the same job. less competition for similar entry level housing, less competition for the hearts of neighbours who are willing to assist a new Canadian. Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver have hardened their hearts to recent immigrants. you got the skills- fine. you need a house... show me the money. I think there is humanity in the smaller communities you don´t find elsewhere.
(in reply to: Small-town immigrants at financial advantage)
Very interesting... I´ve never been to Canada so I am not very familiar with its towns... Although I am not sure if Canada will be a reality for me yet... I would like to search communities... I think I will rather live in a small town where I can feel safe... and the idea of being able to afford a house is very appealing to me as well as being able to have similar paying jobs as locals.
Could you suggest any small towns to me to check out in, thanks a lot for all the useful info...
Take care

(in reply to: Small-town immigrants at financial advantage)
Very interesting article and discussion. In a way, I´m not surprised by the general tone of the article, that immigrants are more likely to assimilate quicker in a smaller city than a large one. We are constantly surprised at how different small Canadian towns are to American towns, and how different the people are. We´ve found small town Canadians to be open, friendly, and well traveled, not at all isolated, suspicious, and red neckish like we tend to find down here. Of course there are exceptions--Richard, you lived in one, and we´ve lived in one down here (and university towns are nearly always an exception)--but in general we find Canadian towns to be more like European villages than the ugly trashy sprawl of rural America.

I am surprised by the income levels that are stated in the article. Because most immigrants are professionals, the idea of an $18,000 or $23,000 annual salary just isn´t going to afford any sort of familiar lifestyle. Even with lower housing costs, it just isn´t a realistic salary for most immigrants (especially with families or at a certain point in their career). So it is natural to trade higher cost of living for a more sustainable salary in a large city, or at least the gamble of finding one. I don´t doubt that the same would be true south of the border.

We have been shifting our focus onto smaller areas, primarily because housing costs in larger cities are typically beyond our reach and partially because we are at that point in our lives where a smaller community feels like a better fit. We are, however, having difficulty finding that "right" fit, and having a hard time finding a large enough "small center" to sustain us professionally as well as culturally (great school system, walkability, interesting environment). Moncton, NB comes to mind as a good location, though our lack of fluency in French holds us back.

Anyone have suggestions?

Hope you can follow my post-flu ramble, and apologies if it doesn´t make total sense.

As always, enjoying the conversation.

(in reply to: Small-town immigrants at financial advantage)

Canada is a huge country; it literaly has thousands of smaller cities. You at least have to 1st select your province then we may help you. I can give idea about Ontario, Sharon can help in BC.

The points Sharon told all very valid; that´s why I personally love smaller cities. However, all depends on your professional career. If you are a general worker then you can venture to go and settle in any city. Though if a professional worker then I wouldn´t dare to stay in a smaller city that doesn´t have jobs in my field. In that respect, Canadian smaller cities are behind. Canada is mostly mega city based and most of the professional jobs are also there.

(in reply to: Small-town immigrants at financial advantage)

It looks like you aren´t aware of the immigrnats financial condition in Canada. You may be surprized to know that most of the studies report immigrants poverty rate more thas 35% (considering 10-12K/single, 18K/family as the poverty line).

"Analysis of census data as of 2000 shows that immigrant incomes were at 80% of the national average after 10 years of residing in Canada. In previous decades, immigrant income levels did rise to the national average after 10 years, but in recent years the situation has deteriorated. A 2003 study published by Statistics Canada noted that "in 1980 recent immigrants had low-income rates 1.4 times that of Canadian born, by 2000 they were 2.5 times higher, at 35.8%."[6] The study noted that the deterioration was widespread and affected most types of immigrants. The 2003 study explains that the low-income rate among non-immigrants declined in the 1990s, but this was more than offset by the income profile of new immigrants, resulting in a net rise in Canada´s total low-income rate. An updated January 2007 study by Statistics Canada, explains that the deterioration continued into the next decade, with the low-income rate of recent immigrants reaching rates of 3.5 times that of Canadian born in 2002 and 2003, before edging back to 3.2 times in 2004. The 2007 study explains that this deterioration has occurred even though Canada implemented changes in 1993 to encourage more highly educated immigrants, with 45% of new immigrants having university degrees as of 2004, compared to 13% in the early 1990s."

In short, Canada is now accepting more educated immigrants but low income rate is increasing. It doesn´t matter you are professional or not. We all know that Canada got economic boom in the recent years but it has very little effect for the immigrants, helping porbably just to counter a total disaster.


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