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The economic and social outcomes of immigrants and their children is a major policy concern to Canada. There are many reasons for this: about one in five persons living in Canada is foreign born, a share that is second only to that of Australia. Furthermore, in 2005, Canada, the United States and Australia posted their highest immigration rates in 15 years. It is unlikely that these historically high immigration levels will decline in the near future. Driven by the belief that labour shortages are pending as a result of a slow-down in population growth and the retirements of the very large 'baby-boom' generation, governments in these countries, including Canada, are expressing the desire for more highly skilled immigrants, not fewer.

These high immigration levels have introduced a significant change in Canada's social and economic landscapes. In Toronto, for example, almost half of the population (47.3%) is foreign born, the highest share for any major city in the developed world, including New York, Miami and Sydney. In Canada's three largest cities combined—Toronto, Montréal and Vancouver— there were only six neighbourhoods1 in 1981 within which a single visible-minority ethnic group accounted for over 30% of the population; by 2001, this had increased to 254 neighbourhoods, driven largely by the increase in immigration from regions such as China, India and Africa.

Research as early as the late 1980s suggested that the traditional pattern of immigrant earnings growth had been changing. During their first few years in Canada, immigrants traditionally earned significantly less than their Canadian-born counterparts, but their earnings had slowly caught up with and, in some cases, surpassed those of their Canadian-born colleagues as their time in Canada increased. Research in the late 1980s and early 1990s indicated that the earnings gap at entry between immigrants and their native-born counterparts was increasing, and that the traditional 'catch-up' was anything but certain. This uncertainty regarding economic outcomes, and the reasons for these changes, combined with increasing concern with social integration of immigrants in many member countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, has raised the interest in economic and social integration issues in Canada.

Statistics Canada has responded to the need for policy-relevant information on this important topic in a number of ways. First, increased resources have been allocated to the analysis of immigrant-integration issues, not only to describe immigrant outcomes but also to try to identify the factors behind the observed trends. Effective dissemination of the results is an important part of this activity. Second, new datasets, largely longitudinal, have been developed to provide better data on issues that the research suggested were important, thereby allowing even more relevant analysis to be conducted. Finally, key variables have been added to existing surveys that enable us to address pressing questions.

From 2002 to 2008, some 64 research articles on immigration issues have been produced and released by Statistics Canada (see chronological bibliography in the Appendix). The vast majority of these articles address integration issues of one sort or another. Roughly speaking, they can be classified into the following topics:

32 papers on economic integration

11 papers on spatial integration

7 papers on social integration

7 papers on demographic characteristics

7 papers on immigrant health outcomes

This paper discusses the measurement issues, summarizes some of the recent research on immigrant outcomes, reviews related data development activities, asks why 'social cohesion' has been little affected by rising immigration, and then provides concluding comments.


1 A neighbourhood is a census tract that has a population of from 3,000 to 5,000 people.