Chapter 4
International and interprovincial mobility

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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.

While concerns over brain drain were especially current during the periods in which the Classes of 1995 and 2000 graduated,1 more recent analysis notes that the nature of international migration of highly-educated individuals has changed over time, involving "brain churn" rather than brain drain, per se.2 As noted by Dion and Vézina (2010), while migration between the member countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) is on the rise, it is characterized mainly by the temporary flow of researchers, students, managers and computer specialists.

4.1 Graduates who moved to the United States

As previous studies have shown, about one-fifth of the doctoral graduates from the Class of 2005 (21%) intended to leave Canada upon completion of their degrees and most of them (57%)3 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.

More than one-quarter of Ontario graduates who had moved to the United States after graduation had returned to Canada by 2007

Slightly more than one out of ten 2005 Ontario doctoral graduates (13%) were living in the United States in 2007. This proportion is nearly identical to that of the doctoral graduates of the Class of 2000 who were living south of the border two years after graduation, in 2002 (12%) (Appendix table A.7).

Another 5% had moved to the United States after graduation but had returned to Canada by 2007 (Appendix table A.7). Proportionally more Ontario "movers" had returned to Canada than was the case for movers from the other provinces. Indeed, Ontario "returnees" accounted for 27% of those who had moved south of the border after graduation compared to 21% of movers from other provinces.4

There were no substantial differences in the proportions of graduates from Ontario universities living in the United States in 2007 when gender was taken into account, the percentages standing at 14% for men and 11% for women. On the other hand, men in other provinces were more likely to have moved to the United States than women, at 14% and 9%, respectively.

In contrast to the results for doctoral graduates, graduates at the bachelor and the master's levels were much less likely to have lived in the United States two years after graduation, at 1% and 2% respectively for both Ontario and the other provinces (Chart 8).

Chart 8 University graduates who lived in the United States two years after graduation, Classes of 2000 and 2005, Ontario and Canada without Ontario

Most movers to the United States were younger and were males without dependents

More than six doctoral graduates out of ten who were living south of the border in 2007 were males (62% for Ontario and 65% for the other provinces). Movers were less likely to have dependent children than graduates who lived in Canada in 2007. Indeed, about three movers out of ten had children (28% for Ontario graduates and 33% for graduates from other provinces) compared to 44% and 49%, respectively, for graduates who resided in Canada two years after graduation. Male movers were two years younger than their counterparts who lived in Canada two years after graduation (at 31 years and 33 years, respectively). The age difference was larger for women — Ontario female graduates who moved south of the border were 3 years younger than female graduates who lived in Canada (30 years compared to 33 years) while the age gap was 5 years in the female graduates from the other provinces (at 29 years compared to 34 years) (Appendix tables A.8.1 and A.8.2).

On the other hand, there were no substantial differences in the proportions of graduates who were Canadian citizens, whether they were living in Canada or in the United States, nor in whether they had graduated from an Ontario university or from a university in another province, with the percentages ranging between 85% and 92%.

Life sciences and computer, mathematics and physical sciences posted the highest proportions of doctoral graduates who moved to the United States

The proportions of graduates who moved to the United States were slightly above the average in life sciences and computer, mathematics and physical sciences (16% for both fields of study in Ontario and 18% for both fields of study for the other provinces). Ontario engineering graduates also posted slightly above-average proportions, at 16%, though this did not hold true for engineering graduates in the other provinces (Appendix table A.8.1).

One detailed field of study contributed the most to these overall results in life sciences. Ontario graduates in biochemistry, biophysics and molecular biology posted a proportion of 27%, more than twice the average for the province overall (13%). Outside Ontario, the share of movers in that field of study was 17 percentage points higher than the average, at 29% compared to 12% (Table 2).

Whereas no single detailed field of study among computer, mathematics and physical sciences stood out in the case of Ontario graduates, the proportion of doctoral recipients in chemistry, physics and other physical sciences in the other provinces who had moved to the United States was close to twice the overall average, at 23% compared to 12%.

Table 2 Proportion of 2005 doctoral graduates in life sciences and computer, mathematics and physical sciences who lived in the United States in 2007

Graduates from the Class of 2000 who were living in the United States two years after graduation shared similar characteristics with graduates from the Class of 2005. The only notable difference was observed for life sciences graduates outside Ontario who were less likely to have moved than was the case in 2005 (12% compared to 18%).5

Most Ontario graduates moved for work-related reasons

Ontario graduates were more likely than their counterparts from other provinces to have moved to the United States for work-related reasons (74% compared to 64%) (Chart 9). While the proportion of Ontario females who reported this reason for leaving Canada matched that of their male counterparts (75% and 74% respectively), proportionally more male graduates from the other provinces identified work as a reason for the move, at 70% for males compared to 53% for females. In contrast, women were more likely to have moved for schooling or education-related reasons (31%) compared to men (19%).

Overall, the results for the graduates of the Class of 2000 were similar to those for the Class of 2005 (Chart 9).

Chart 9 Reasons why graduates moved to the United States, Classes of 2000 and 2005, Ontario and Canada without Ontario

No specific factor stood out when Ontario graduates were asked what attracted them to the United States. Most of the main job-related incentives were reported in comparable proportions.6 Among these were: the quality of the research facilities or the commitment to research of the organization (29%); better career advancement opportunities (27%); a greater availability of jobs in a particular field or industry (26%); and a higher salary (26%) (Appendix table A.9).

This is in contrast with graduates from other provinces, where four graduates out of ten were attracted by the quality of the research facilities or the commitment to research (40%). Another frequently-cited job-related reason for moving south of the border for these graduates was the greater availability of jobs (27%). Women and men were equally attracted by these aspects of the job (Appendix table A.9).

Graduates in the rest of Canada from the Class of 2000 were twice as likely as their 2005 counterparts to have been attracted to the United States by a higher salary: 32% compared to 14%. Apart from this group, results were comparable between the Class of 2000 and the Class of 2005.

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

The vast majority of doctoral graduates from the Class of 2005 who moved to the United States had a job waiting for them upon their arrival, the proportions standing at 93% for Ontario graduates and at 90% for graduates from the other provinces (Appendix table A.10).

All Ontario graduates in computer, mathematics and physical sciences had a job arranged to start upon their arrival in the United States. They were followed by graduates in life sciences (98%), the humanities (94%), psychology and social sciences (93%) and engineering (86%).

The results were similar for doctoral graduates from the other provinces: graduates in computer, mathematics and physical sciences posted the highest proportion at 97%, followed by graduates in life sciences (94%), the humanities (88%), psychology and social sciences (85%) and engineering (80%). There were no significant differences between men and women, regardless of the province of study.

In comparison, significantly fewer doctoral graduates from the Class of 2000 had a job arranged to start upon their arrival in the United States. The proportions were 11 percentage points lower for Ontario graduates (82%) as well as for graduates from the other provinces (79%) than was the case for the Class of 2005 (93% and 90%, respectively). This was mostly due to women (66% for Ontario and 70% for the other provinces) and life sciences graduates (77% for Ontario and 78% for the other provinces).

Moreover, nine out of ten 2005 Ontario graduates living in the United States (92%) were still employed two years after graduation, a proportion comparable to that of Ontario graduates who were living in Canada in 2007 (90%). On the other hand, proportionally more graduates from universities in the other provinces who resided in the United States were still employed two years after graduation, compared to their counterparts who lived in Canada (92% and 87%, respectively). Here, however, men were the largest contributors to this finding, posting a gap of 8 percentage points between those who resided in the United States and those who lived in Canada two years after graduation (at 95% and 87%, respectively) (Appendix table A.11).

No differences were observed between these two groups for the Class of 2000, either in Ontario or outside the province.

The majority of graduates who planned to move to the United States at the time of graduation intended to take a postdoctoral position

Graduates in a postdoctoral position can either refer to their situation as pursuing further studies (i.e. an educational activity) or as working (i.e. holding a job). Since the National Graduates Survey does not allow the identification of graduates who were in a postdoctoral position in 2007, using data from the Survey of Earned Doctorates can shed light on their postdoctoral intentions at the time of graduation.

As shown in Table 3, more than two-thirds of Ontario graduates (67%) and four out of five graduates from other provinces (81%) who planned to live in the United States at the time of graduation intended to take a postdoctoral position. This is in sharp contrast with graduates who planned to remain in Canada — about half of graduates who intended to live in Canada (47% of Ontario graduates and 50% of graduates from other provinces) had plans to take a postdoctoral position upon completion of their programs. These results suggest that the majority of graduates who moved to the United States did so to do postdoctoral work.

Table 3 Proportion of 2005 doctoral graduates who intended to take a postdoctoral position by intended country of residence

Half of the movers went to three states

About half of the Ontario graduates who lived in the United States in 2007 had first moved to three states: California (22%), Massachusetts (14%) and New York (13%). Graduates from the other provinces as well as graduates from the Class of 2000 showed similar results.

The vast majority of movers were temporary residents when they arrived in the United States; the proportions stood at 94% for Ontario graduates and 91% for graduates from the other provinces. Of those temporary residents, almost twice as many Ontario graduates (41%) as graduates from other provinces (24%) 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 two years after graduation, Ontario and Canada without Ontario

The majority of movers intended to return to Canada

Plans for permanent residency notwithstanding, more than three-quarters (77%) of Ontario graduates living in the United States in 2007 expected to return to live in Canada. This was true for all doctoral graduates in engineering (100%) and for the majority of graduates in the humanities (91%), life sciences (79%) and psychology and social sciences (73%) (Appendix table A.12).

Similarly, the vast majority of movers from the other provinces (87%) intended to return to Canada. The proportion was comparable to that of Ontario graduates and for graduates in the fields of engineering and the humanities. These fields were followed by psychology and social sciences (90%), and computer, mathematics and physical sciences and life sciences, both at 87%.

In addition, most were planning to return within five years or less, the proportions standing at 80% for Ontario graduates and 84% for graduates from the other provinces.

The overall proportions of doctoral graduates from the Class of 2000 from Ontario and from the other provinces who intended to return to Canada were very similar to those from the Class of 2005. The only substantial difference was observed in engineering where only 71% of Ontario graduates from the Class of 2000 intended to return to the country.

4.2 Interprovincial mobility

In addition to data on graduates who moved to the United States after graduation, the NGS collected information on the graduates' province of residence at three points in time. The first is the province of residence in the 12 months prior to enrolment in the program; the second is the province in which the graduate studied and the third is the province of residence at the time of the 2007 interview. With this information, it is possible to measure mobility both prior to enrolment and after completing the degree in 2005.7

The majority of doctoral graduates studied in their province of origin

Overall, about three-quarters of Ontario graduates in 2005 were non-migrants (74%), i.e. they lived in Ontario at all three points in time. Another 12% were Ontario residents before enrolling in their program, but left the province after graduation, while about 15% had moved to Ontario from elsewhere to complete their doctoral program. Of the latter group, more than half (8%) remained in Ontario after obtaining their degree (Appendix table A.13.1).

Ontario graduates in education and other fields of study were the least likely to have changed provinces before or after their programs, as 91% of them were non-migrants. Graduates in computer, mathematics and physical sciences, as well as those in the humanities, were the most mobile, with over one-third (34% and 39%, respectively) moving into and out of the province before and after their programs.

The percentage of non-migrants did not differ significantly from the overall average of 74% for both Canadian- and foreign-born Ontario graduates and for men and women (Appendix table A.13.2).

Doctoral graduates from the other provinces were more mobile than those who received their degree from an Ontario university. Overall, less than 70% of them were non-migrants and an additional 16% left their province of residence and study after completing their programs (Table 5). More men (18%) than women (13%) left their province of residence and study after graduation. Likewise, more foreign-born graduates (22%) left their province of residence and graduation compared to the Canadian-born (13%).

Table 5 Migration in and out of province of study, Class of 2005, Ontario and Canada without Ontario

Summary

More than six doctoral graduates out of ten who were living south of the border in 2007 were males (62% for Ontario and 65% for the other provinces). Movers to the United States were also less likely to have dependent children than graduates who lived in Canada in 2007. About seven movers out of ten were childless compared to about half of graduates who resided in Canada two years after graduation.

Life sciences and computer, mathematics and physical sciences posted the highest proportions of doctoral graduates who moved to the United States, both for Ontario and the other provinces.

The majority of graduates who planned to move to the United States at the time of graduation intended to take postdoctoral positions. This was true for more than two-thirds of Ontario graduates (67%) and for four out of five graduates from other provinces (81%).

Finally, more than three-quarters of Ontario graduates (77%) and the vast majority of movers from the other provinces (87%) who lived in the United States in 2007 expected to return to live in Canada.


Notes:

  1. See, for example, Zhao, John, Doug Drew and T. Scott Murray. 2000. "Brain Drain and Brain Gain: The Migration of Knowledge Workers from and to Canada." Education Quarterly Review.Vol. 6, no. 3. Statistics Canada Catalogue no. 81-003-XPB.
  2. See Dion, Patrice and Mireille Vézina. 2010. "Emigration from Canada to the United States from 2000 to 2006." Canadian Social Trends.  Vol. 90, no. 2. Statistics Canada Catalogue no. 11-008-X.
  3. 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. 81-595MIE2008069. Ottawa. Statistics Canada and Human Resources and Social Development Canada, 75p.
  4. No comparable data on doctoral graduates from the Class of 1995 who moved to the United States are available.
  5. No further analysis of specific fields of study was done for the Class of 2000 due to small sample size.
  6. No analysis of the specific education related factors was done due to small sample size.
  7. Although information on the interprovincial mobility of graduates from the Classes of 2000 and 1995 are included in Appendix tables A.13.1 and A.13.2, the historical comparability of this information may be affected by the methods used to derive the province of residence at the time of interview.  Therefore, no comparative analysis was done with previous cohorts.
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