Literacy and the Labour Market: Cognitive Skills and Immigrant Earnings - ARCHIVED

Articles and reports: 89-552-M2008020


Considerable research effort has been devoted to understanding earnings differences between immigrant and Canadian-born workers. Previous studies have established that immigrants typically earn less than Canadian-born workers with the same amount of education and work experience. The low earnings of immigrants are often attributed to the specificity of human capital to the country where it originates - in other words, education or work experience in the country of origin cannot be directly transferred to the host country, resulting in well qualified immigrants holding low paying jobs. Another possibility is that employers in the host country discriminate against immigrants. This paper uses data from the Canadian component of the International Adult Literacy and Skills Survey (IALSS), which includes both standard demographic and labour market information for the Canadian born and immigrants and results from tests of literacy, numeracy and problem-solving skills, to investigate these issues. Interpreting the test scores as direct measurements of cognitive skills, the authors provide a closer examination of explanations for low immigrant earnings than has previously been possible. In addition, the data include more precise information on where education was obtained and age of migration than is available in most previous studies, further enabling scrutiny of immigrant-Canadian born earnings differentials.

Issue Number: 2008020
Author(s): Bonikowska, Aneta; Green, David A.; Riddell, W. Craig
FormatRelease dateMore information
HTMLJuly 21, 2008
PDFJuly 21, 2008