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Beyond economics: broadening perspectives on immigration to Canada.


This article reviews and critiques the current immigration policies in Canada, which are increasingly focused primarily on economic considerations. Data from a sample of 182 immigrant Chinese families (including mothers, fathers, and adolescents) are used to illustrate disconnections between immigration policy and the experiences of immigrants to Canada. The current individually-oriented immigration class system does not recognize non-economic motivations for immigration among principal applicants (e.g., for children's future prospects) or the economic contributions of accompanying spouses. We argue for the incorporation of a long-term family-based lens for creating and evaluating immigration policy, one which accounts for the sacrifices parents make for their children and the contributions to Canadian society made by this next generation of Canadians. Furthermore, we caution against adopting policies that, overtime, may limit the cultural diversity of new Canadians. We argue that supporting immigrants' ability to be bicultural promotes multiculturalism, which benefits all of Canadian society.


Cet article fait la critique des politiques d'immigration actuelles au Canada, qui sont de plus en plus axes essentiellement sur des consideratlons economiques. Les donnees provenant d'un echantillon de 182 families immigrantes chinoises (y compris les meres, les peres et les adolescents) sont utilises pour illustrer les deconnexions entre la politique d'immigration et les experiences des immigrants au Canada. Le systeme de classement d'immigration actuel oriente sur l'individu ne tient pas compte des motivations non economiques de l'immigration parmi les demandeurs principaux (par exemple, pour les perspectives d'avenir des enfants) ou les contributions economiques des conjoints accompagnant. Pour la creation et l'evaluation de la politique d'immigration, nous appuierions l'incorporation d'une perspective long terme basee sur la famille, une politique qui prend en compte les sacrifices des parents pour leurs enfants et les contributions a la societe canadienne faite par cette prochaine generation de Canadiens. De plus, nous mettons en garde contre l'adoption de politiques qui, au fil du temps, peuvent limiter la diversite culturelle des nouveaux Canadiens. Nous soutenons que le soutien de la capacite des immigrants de devenir biculturel favorise le multiculturalisme, qui profite a toute la societe canadienne.


For several decades, Canada's immigration discourse has been dominated by the notion of realizing economic benefits from the arrival of newcomers to this country. Because Canada shares a border only with the United States, irregular in-migration, which is generally undesired by receiving states, happens less frequently than elsewhere. Canada's geographic isolation means that economic considerations can be prioritized in Canadian immigration policy to a larger extent than in other countries. Even though Canada upholds the importance of humanitarian migration through its involvement in refugee resettlement and family reunification programs, it has been economic growth, demographic considerations, and labour market needs that have defined Canada's immigration policies.

Three broad issues are addressed in this paper. First, we examine whether the Canadian Government-sanctioned pathways into Canada are the most useful framework for understanding immigrants' trajectories, both pre-arrival and post-arrival. In doing so, we explore whether immigration classes reflect the expected differences in economic contributions to Canada, as well as the extent to which immigration classes intersect with immigrants' motivations for coming to Canada. Second, we explore contributions of family members beyond the principal applicant, including the economic contributions of spouses across immigration classes, and the future prospects of immigrants' children. Third, we consider non-economic ways in which immigrants contribute to Canadian society, particularly in terms of the benefits of multiculturalism.


Economic immigration is part of the three main pillars of Canada's immigration policy that have evolved over the decades: nation-building, the needs of the labour market, and the long-term integration of permanent migrants (Reitz 2013). According to Reitz, Canada's emphasis on immigration as a labour source is presumed to arise from the desire for gross population growth, economic stimulus, and the need to compensate for low birth rates among native-born Canadians. An emphasis on high-skilled immigration has dominated the rhetoric since the 1960s when a point system was established that prioritized applicants with strong language abilities, education, and marketable skills. The Government of Canada's ongoing interest in using immigration for economic growth is reflected in the 2014 Immigration Levels Plan, with an overall target of 63% economic immigrants (Government of Canada 2013d).

Economic immigration pathways to Canada include the Skilled Immigrants program (previously called "Skilled Worker program") and the Business Immigrant program (which includes various entrepreneurial and investment programs). The Skilled Immigrant program is most closely linked to short-term labour market goals. Although this program underwent major changes in 1995 aimed at increasing newcomers' ability to quickly integrate and contribute to Canadian society, immigration policies have generally been unable to react swiftly to labour market fluctuations and difficulties (Green and Green 2004). The Business Immigrant program, until recently, has comprised three categories: entrepreneurs, self-employed persons, and investors. The admission of business immigrants to Canada is more often based on a long-term economic perspective than is the case for the skilled worker program. These pathways assume that those who were successful conducting business abroad can replicate these achievements in Canada and thus make major economic contributions (Hiebert 2002). However, various researchers have argued that business immigrants show lower rates of participation in the Canadian labour market than other immigrant categories (e.g., Hiebert 2002; Ley 2000; Wang and Lo 2005); in 2014, the Government of Canada came to the same conclusion and terminated the Federal Immigrant Investor and Entrepreneur Programs (Government of Canada 2014).

The emphasis on maximizing the economic benefits of new immigrants to Canada remains the priority of recent policy changes. For example, efforts by the Canadian Government to speed up the labour market attachment of newcomers in the skilled immigrant category continue, with recent changes aimed at giving employers themselves a greater say in who is admitted to Canada for permanent residence through the introduction of an Express Entry system (Government of Canada 2013a, 2013c). Other recent policy changes also appear to be driven predominantly by an economic lens. For example, the Start-Up Visa pilot program was begun in 2013 to link immigrant entrepreneurs with experienced Canadian private sector firms in an effort to provide assistance to newcomers in navigating the Canadian business environment (Government of Canada 2013b). In 2014, a restricted Immigrant Investor Venture Capital Pilot program was introduced to replace the Immigrant Investor and Entrepreneur Programs. And starting in early 2015, Canada moved from a 'first-through-the-post' system in which applications are processed in the order received, to a prioritization system in which immigrants are chosen based on the skills that Canadian employers need (Government of Canada 2013a).

These concentrated policy efforts to meet economic needs through targeted immigration programs implicitly assume that economic class immigrants make greater economic contributions than immigrants who enter Canada through other means (e.g., family class immigrants). In addition, economic immigration policies are predicated on the idea of the principal applicant as the core figure in the immigration process, yet decisions about immigration are often made with other family members in mind. Even when one person migrates on their own, family-based motivations often exist, such as sending money earned abroad home to other family members, or facilitating their later migration. Thus, the first aim of this paper is to evaluate assumptions about differences in economic contributions based on immigration class, as well as gauge how well Canadian Government-sanctioned immigration classes map onto the self-reported motivations of the immigrants themselves.


Family scholars argue that migration patterns are more complex than simplistic links to individual economic factors would suggest. The family unit as a whole, including social networks and well-being across generations, has to be considered in order to gain a comprehensive understanding of migration (Fong, Li, and Chan 2014; Ryan, Sales, Tilki, and Siara 2009). Despite the family nature of immigration, analysis of immigration policy has almost exclusively focused on the principal applicant, and immigrant outcomes of any kind (economic or otherwise) are rarely assessed beyond the principal applicant. This may be short-sighted, as the single largest group of newcomers since the 1990s consists of spouses and dependents of economic principal applicants (e.g., accounting for 40% of all newcomers in 2008; CIC 2012a, 43). Thus, the second aim of this paper is to evaluate the current and future contributions of the spouses and dependents of principal applicants.

The few analyses that include information on the spouses of principal applicants point to their important contributions. For example, an analytical report by the Toronto Immigrant Employment Data Initiative indicated that the economic contributions of wives of male skilled immigrants had caught up with their spouses and with men who came under the family class within four years of landing in Canada (Shields et al. 2010). Accounting for the economic contributions of spouses and other dependents is also essential to evaluating the impact of business class immigrants. For example, according to findings from the longitudinal immigration database (IMDB), the spouses and dependents of investors demonstrate strong growth in employment earnings over time, exceeding their principal applicant counterpart after 15 years in Canada (CIC 2012c, 8). Similarly, among entrepreneurs, employment earnings are slightly higher for spouses and dependents than for principal applicants, and they increase consistently for spouses and dependents during the first five years in Canada (CIC 2012b, 7).

Another frequently neglected aspect of immigration policy is the performance of second-generation immigrants--the children of those who immigrate to Canada. These children are the next generation of Canadians and therefore a key avenue for economic advancement and population growth. Immigrants' children have the linguistic and cultural knowledge needed to make valuable contributions to Canadian society. Their education in Canada, in particular, provides both human and social capital that contributes to their employment success (Reitz 2013). Nonetheless, the second generation is largely absent from the Canadian Government's discourse around immigration policy.

Existing data suggest positive developmental pathways for children of immigrants in Canada. For example, individuals with immigrant parents demonstrate higher educational attainment than those with native-born parents (Hansen and Kucera 2004; Palameta 2007). In addition, second-generation Canadians demonstrate high rates of employment and low incidence of reliance on government support programs (Picot 2008). Importantly, the earnings disadvantages of first-generation immigrants are only weakly or not at all passed on to their children (Picot 2008, 19).


Our third aim is to highlight contributions of immigrants to Canadian society beyond economic ones. Immigrants from around the globe contribute to Canada's multicultural composition. Evaluations of immigration policy should consider the extent to which newcomers develop bicultural competence. The ability of new Canadians to simultaneously become part of the mainstream society and maintain their cultural distinctiveness is associated with better psychological and sociocultural adjustment (e.g., Nguyen and Benet-Martinez 2013). We propose that bicultural individuals are well-positioned to contribute to Canada's multicultural mosaic. That is, when integration into Canadian society exists alongside support for upholding important meaningful beliefs and practices from the heritage culture, the whole society benefits because these bicultural individuals advance Canada's multiculturalism goals.

Canada formalized its interest in and value for multiculturalism with the Canadian Multiculturalism Act of 1988. This act is designed to protect and promote multiculturalism through various means, such as encouraging the celebration of diverse cultural backgrounds and improving the quality of intercultural relations (Berry 2013). Currently, the multicultural make-up of Canadian society is promoted by the government and citizens alike as a source of pride. For example, the website of Citizenship and Immigration Canada (2012d) states;
   Our diversity is a national asset. Recent advances in technology
   have made international communications more important than ever.
   Canadians who speak many languages and understand many cultures
   make it easier for Canada to participate globally in areas of
   education, trade and diplomacy, (para. 7)

One of the most widely studied benefits of multiculturalism on the individual level is creativity. It has been consistently shown that multicultural experience can foster creativity both in an experimentally controlled setting and in the real world (e.g., Leung and Chiu 2010; Leung, Maddux, Galinsky, and Chiu 2008). Bicultural individuals demonstrate greater originality and generate more unique and novel ideas (e.g., Saad, Rodica, Damian, Benet-Martinez, Moons, and Robins 2013). Multicultural experience also enhances dyadic creativity in group settings (Tadmor, Satterstrom, Jang, and Polzer 2012). This has important implications in an organizational setting; culturally diverse work teams are more creative and innovative than mono-cultural teams (e.g., McLeod, Lobel, and Cox 1996). In addition, these competencies translate into other employment advantages, such as being skilled in different negotiation styles (Berry 1998). In general, an organization enriched with multicultural experience tends to have greater potential to generate innovative ideas, as well as flexible and effective solutions in response to problems.

Cognitive benefits of multiculturalism are also evident. Interaction with people from different cultural backgrounds offers opportunities to acquire and integrate different perspectives, as well as to learn to resolve inconsistencies among these different angles (e.g., Valentine, Prentice, Torres, and Arellano 2012). This allows the individual to adjust the knowledge structure to which they are accustomed and promotes greater cognitive flexibility (Tadmor, Tetlock, and Peng 2009). Consistently, in school settings, interactions across ethnicities strengthen students' problem solving, critical thinking, and writing abilities (Gurin, Dey, Hurtado, and Gurin 2002). Both immigrant and non-immigrant students appear to benefit. For example, in a longitudinal study of European countries, the percentage of immigrant students within a nation was found to be significantly associated with all students' academic performance, controlling for other significant predictors of academic performance such as socioeconomic status (Konan, Chatard, Selimbegovi, and Mugny 2010).

Finally, multiculturalism can contribute to positive relationships in a society. Cross-ethnic interactions are associated with individuals' confidence and competence in intercultural communication (e.g., Chang, Denson, Saenz, and Misa 2006), which helps to facilitate effective communication within group settings. Furthermore, individuals who grow up in a multicultural environment show less ethnocentrism (Harrison 2012) and a greater willingness to learn from and work with people from other cultural backgrounds and accept conflicting values from different cultures (e.g., Leung et al. 2008; Tadmor et al. 2009).

These wide-ranging benefits of living in a multicultural society suggest that immigrants' ability to contribute to the social fabric of Canadian life should be considered as an important indicator of successful integration; fostering the diversity of a population through immigration should be an important goal, alongside economic development goals. The benefits of multiculturalism are only realized if immigrants can meaningfully participate in the mainstream culture and retain important aspects of their heritage culture. That is, to achieve multiculturalism, immigrants must adopt a philosophy of biculturalism, in which they are 'doubly engaged' in their heritage culture and the larger society (Berry 2013).


In the current study, we draw on a sample of immigrant Chinese Canadian families as a test case for evaluating some assumptions inherent in Canadian immigration policy and for exploring various methods for defining successful integration. First, we test two hypotheses implicit in Canada's economically-driven immigration policy. The first assumption we evaluate is that economic class immigrants (e.g., skilled immigrants and business immigrants) are more likely to be employed, work longer hours, and earn more money than family class immigrants. We also evaluate the implicit hypothesis that economic immigrants view self-advancement in education or career as the primary motivation for immigrating, and that they experience personal gains in their economic and social standing as a result of having migrated to Canada. Following these analyses, we perform a series of exploratory analyses to describe the economic contributions of spouses and the academic achievements of the children in these families. Evidence for strong contributions by spouses and children would challenge the individually-oriented principal applicant focus of current immigration policy. We conclude by evaluating the cultural orientation of the immigrants in this sample. In light of the value that multiculturalism holds for society, bicultural goals among the individuals in the sample would provide evidence of a crucial non-economic contribution to Canadian society that may be currently undervalued.


We use data collected during 2006-2007 from a sample of immigrant Chinese Canadian families in Vancouver and Victoria, British Columbia to illustrate these issues. This data set has the advantage of including an assessment of a broad array of relevant constructs from multiple members of the same family. These data were originally collected to address questions about acculturation, family relationships, and psychological well-being within immigrant Chinese families. To date, published reports from these data have addressed issues such as predictors of ethnic identity development among the adolescents, psychological correlates of language brokering by the adolescents for their parents, and the relations between parents' acculturation preferences and their ability to work together in the parenting role.

Although the sample is restricted to Chinese immigrants, and therefore has inherent limitations, it is valuable nonetheless as an illustration of the ideas put forward in this paper. First, Mainland China has been one of the top source countries for immigrants to Canada since the 1990s (CIC 2001; WelcomeBC 2014). Second, the Chinese comprise a large proportion of the immigrants to British Columbia. For example, the People's Republic of China (PRC), Hong, Kong, and Taiwan accounted for three of the top four birth places for immigrants in Vancouver between 1986 and 2001 (CIC 2005a). These birthplaces were also well-represented in Victoria during this time period: PRC and Hong Kong were top sending regions from 1986-1995 and Taiwan and PRC were top sending regions from 1996-2001 (CIC 2005b). In addition, Chinese immigrants experience large differences in cultural values and customs between Chinese and Canadian cultures, which can create acculturative stress (Dion and Dion 1996). These factors may make integration more challenging (e.g., language barriers, difficulty having foreign credentials recognized), but they also enhance the contributions Chinese immigrants can make to a multicultural Canadian society.


Data were collected from individuals in 182 immigrant Chinese families (165 fathers, 179 mothers, 181 adolescents). The mothers and fathers in participating families had been married an average of 19 years (SD = 4.2). Consistent with Canada's emphasis on economically-motivated immigration policies, the majority of this sample entered Canada through an economic immigration class (either skilled worker or business class). Specifically, 66.0% of fathers and 59.6% of mothers reported their immigration class to be the skilled worker program, and another 17.6% of fathers and 17.5% of mothers reported their immigration class to be one of the business programs. The remaining participants (16.4% of fathers and 22.8% of mothers) reported the family class as their pathway into Canada.

The majority (86.8%) of parents were married at the time of immigration. In the remaining families (13.2%), the parents emigrated independently and met in Canada. On average, the families had 1.8 children, ranging from 0 to 4. The adolescent participants were, on average, 15 years old (SD--1.7 years), and there were approximately equal numbers of male (48%) and female (52%) adolescents. The majority of adolescents were also born outside of Canada (75%), with 25% Canadian-born. Other demographic information about the participating families is presented in Table 1. As shown in the table, a range of education and income levels were represented.


Two-thirds of the families were recruited randomly by phoning Chinese surnames in Victoria and Vancouver to assess eligibility and interest in taking part in the study. The remaining families were recruited non-randomly, through referrals from other participating families. Although not a national sample, this sample is representative of Chinese immigrants to Canada in the past 20 years in many ways. Immigrants from mainland China were the largest subgroup in this sample (66.1%), followed by immigrants from Taiwan (20.4%) and Hong Kong (13.5%). This breakdown is consistent with the BC provincial statistics, which show that mainland China has remained the largest Chinese birthplace in the past 10 years (WelcomeBC 2014). Our sample is also comparable with national demographics in terms of Chinese immigrants' levels of educational attainment. For example, 29.6% of our participants reported having university education, and 26.6% reported having a college or vocational degree or diploma. Similarly, the 2001 national census reported 22.9% Chinese immigrants with university education, and 17.9% with college education (Statistics Canada 2006).

The percentage of economic immigrants in this sample is consistent with immigration patterns in British Columbia (BC) over the last 20 years. For example, in the mid-1990s, at a time when many participants in the study immigrated to Canada, the business immigration program accounted for over 10% of annual inflow (Ley 2000, 6). In the 15 years between 1984 and 1998, business immigrants from Hong Kong accounted for 30-50% of all immigrants in this category, and by the 1990s, Taiwan contributed another 15-20% of business immigrant landings (ibid., 11). In BC, it is likely that these two source countries supplied 65-80% of all business immigrants from the mid-1980s until the late 1990s (ibid.).

Families were eligible to participate if they migrated from mainland China, Taiwan, or Hong Kong; if the parents were more than 18 years old at the time of immigration; if they had a child between 12 and 18 years old; and if they had been in Canada for at least two years. Participating families were met at their homes by two research assistants, at least one of whom spoke the family's native language. Fathers, mothers, and adolescents independently completed a booklet of questionnaires that asked about their immigration history and employment experiences in Canada, their involvement in Canadian and Chinese cultures, the nature of their relationships within the family, and their personal experience of stress and well-being. The study received approval from the University of Victoria's research ethics board.


Employment and earnings

The demographic questions asked of fathers and mothers included information about economic contributions. Specifically, economic contributions were evaluated in terms of employment status and hours worked. With respect to employment status, participants were asked to indicate if they were employed, yes or no. If employed, they specified how many hours a week they spent in paid employment. If not currently in the labour force, they specified if they were seeking employment or if they were not working by choice (e.g., homemaker, retired). We classified individuals as "employed full-time" ([greater than or equal to] 35 hours), "employed part-time" (< 35 hours), "not in the labour force and looking for work," or "not in the labour force by choice." Participants also indicated their yearly family income by selecting the appropriate income range (see Table 1 for options).

Reasons for immigration

In addition to assessing employment incidence and income, we asked participants to select from a list the most important reason for immigration to Canada. The choices were: a) to pursue my own educational or employment opportunities (23.8% of fathers, 16.0% of mothers), b) for my children's educational opportunities (53.7% of fathers, 59.3% of mothers), c) because my spouse or parents were immigrating (15.1% of fathers, 15.7% of mothers), d) to be reunited with family members who had already emigrated (5.7% of fathers, 7.6% of mothers), or e) other (7.5% of fathers, 5.8% of mothers). The second option, for children's educational opportunities, does not map onto any existing governmental immigration class. For analyses, we combined into one group the parents who said they immigrated because their spouse or parent was immigrating, for family reunification or for other reasons.

Perception of advancement

Participants were asked about their perceptions of how their lives had been impacted by immigration to Canada. Specifically, participants selected one of the following options: my economic circumstances have improved by immigrating to Canada, my economic circumstances are less good in Canada, my economic circumstances have not been strongly affected, or I came to Canada as a young adult (this last option was only endorsed by three fathers and three mothers; these participants were not included in analyses of this variable).

Educational adaptation

Three aspects of the academic achievement of the children were assessed. First, the strength of children's achievement motivation was assessed with the Value of Academic Success scale (Fuligni 1997). Children rated how important six academic goals were to them (e.g., "be one of the best students in your class") on a 5-point scale from 1 (not very important to me), to 5 (quite important to me). Higher scores indicate stronger achievement motivation. Stronger achievement motivation among students has been linked to greater school effort and higher test performance (e.g., Green, Liem, Martin, Colmar, Marsh, and McInerney 2012). Second, children self-reported their grade point averages (GPA) by selecting the grade that best represented their overall achievement (ranging from A+ to F). Past research has found that adolescents' self-reports provide a reasonably valid substitute for objective data (Crockett, Schulenberg, and Petersen 1987). Finally, children and their parents were asked about the highest level of education they hope the children would achieve, selecting from the categories: graduate from high school, graduate from a 2-year college, graduate from a 4-year university, graduate from law, medical, or graduate school.


Each family member was asked about their goals for their cultural orientation in Canada: four questions asked how important it was to maintain their Chinese heritage culture (e.g., "How important is it to you that you continue to follow traditional Chinese values?") and five questions asked how important it was to integrate into Canadian culture (e.g., "How important is it to you that you develop a strong Canadian identity?"). Each item was rated on a scale from 1, not important at all, to 5, of great importance. These questions addressed multiple domains of functioning, including behavioral practices, identification, and values. These goals reflect immigrants' preferences and desires regarding integration into Canadian culture and retention of the Chinese culture; attitudes supportive of biculturalism are seen as an essential condition of actual bicultural functioning.


Immigration Class and Economic Indicators

The first set of analyses addressed the hypothesis that individuals from the economic classes (skilled worker or business class) make greater economic contributions than individuals who entered Canada through the family class. Within the sample, immigration class is confounded with length of time in Canada and age. Specifically, individuals in the family class had been in Canada significantly longer than individuals in the economic classes (skilled worker and business classes). For example, the majority of fathers (70.4%) and mothers (85.0%) in the family class had been in Canada for 10 years or more compared to 31.2% (fathers) and 23.1% (mothers) of parents in the skilled worker class, and 37.9% (fathers) and 36.7% (mothers) of parents in the business class. In addition, fathers in the skilled worker class were significantly younger than fathers in the business class, and mothers in the skilled worker class were significantly younger than mothers in the family class. Therefore, when possible, analyses examining associations between immigration class and economic indicators took into account length of residence in Canada and age.

Employment Status

Cross-tabs between employment status and immigration class tested the hypothesis that participants from the skilled worker and business class would have higher rates of employment than those in the family class. The results revealed significant differences for both fathers, [chi square] (6) = 16.63, p < .01, and mothers, [chi square](6) = 17.38, p < .01. As shown in Table 2, contrary to expectations, individuals in the business class were the least likely to be employed full-time and were the most likely to be employed part-time or not in the labour force. It is noteworthy that fathers from the family class were as likely as those in the skilled worker class to be employed full-time (81.5% and 79.2% respectively). Differences for mothers followed the same overall pattern. Although a lower percentage of mothers were in the work force full-time compared to fathers, those from the business class were most likely to be unemployed by choice. Equal percentages of mothers from the skilled worker class (74.7%) and the family class (75.0%) were employed (part-time or full-time).

Hours of Employment and Income

Next, we used MANOVAs to compare the hours of employment and family income of individuals in the three immigration classes, controlling for length of residence and age. Table 2 presents the mean hours of employment and income level based on immigration class (with relevant controls). These analyses test the hypothesis that participants from the skilled worker and business classes would work more hours and earn more money than those from the family class. For fathers, the results revealed a significant multivariate effect, F(4,292) = 2.52, p < .04, [[eta].sup.2] = .033. The univariate effect for hours of employment was not significant. That is, contrary to expectations, there were no significant differences in average number of hours spent working across different immigration classes, F(2,151) = 0.98, p = 377. The univariate effect for income, in contrast, was significant, F(2, 151) = 4.18, p < .017, [[eta].sup.2] = .054. Bonferroni pairwise comparisons that adjust for multiple comparisons showed that, as expected, skilled worker class fathers reported higher incomes than family class fathers; contrary to expectations, no differences were found between business class fathers and family class fathers.

The multivariate effect was also significant for mothers, F(4, 334) = 3.65, p < .006, [[eta].sup.2] = .042. The univariate effect for hours of employment was significant, F(2,172) = 3.18,p = .044, [[eta].sup.2] = .097. Contrary to expectations, mothers from the family class worked as many hours as those from the skilled worker class; it was the business class mothers who stood out as working the fewest hours. The results for income also showed a significant univariate effect, F(2,172) = 5.01,p < .01, [[eta].sup.2] = .057. Post-hoc comparisons indicated that, consistent with the hypothesis, mothers in the skilled worker class reported higher family income than those in the family class; contrary to expectations, the business class did not differ from the family class.

Reasons for Immigration

In order to evaluate the congruence between participants' immigration class and their self-reported reasons for immigrating, we performed chi-square analyses on the cross-tabulation of these two constructs. These analyses evaluated the hypothesis that economic class immigrants will be most likely to nominate personal advancement as the reason behind migration, whereas family class immigrants will be most likely to nominate family reunification. The results revealed a significant pattern of differences for both fathers, [chi square](8) = 67.92, p < .001, and mothers, [chi square] (8) = 70.87, p < .001. These results are shown in the bottom of Table 2. Parents in the skilled worker class were more likely than other parents to indicate that they immigrated to pursue their own educational or employment opportunities. Even in this class, however, personal opportunities for advancement were endorsed by a minority of parents (30.5% of fathers and 18.6% of mothers). The largest number of individuals in this class reported that their children's educational opportunities were the most important reason for coming to Canada. Interestingly, the vast majority of parents in the business class also said that they immigrated for their children's educational opportunities. Almost no parents in this category indicated that their own advancement was the strongest motivator. With respect to the family class, as expected, the majority of these parents said that they immigrated because a spouse or parent was immigrating, or to be reunited with family members already in Canada. A quarter of these families, however, reported other primary motivations, mostly related to their own, or their children's, enhanced opportunities.

Perceptions of Advancement

Finally, we assessed the relations between immigration class and perceptions of having advanced economically since immigrating to Canada. These analyses tested the hypothesis that economic class immigrants would be most likely to perceive gains in their economic profile following immigration. A chi-square analysis for fathers' data was significant, [chi square] (4) = 16.24, p < .003. As shown in Table 3, contrary to expectations, only a minority of economic class fathers (20.6% of skilled worker and none of the business class) reported economic improvements. Instead, the largest percentage of economic class fathers (46.7% of skilled worker and 58.6% of business class) reported economic sacrifices associated with immigration. In contrast, the largest percentage of the family class fathers (44%) reported improvements. The chi-square analysis for mothers was also significant, [chi square] (4) = 33.50, p < .001. As with fathers, a minority of skilled worker class mothers (13.1%) and none of the business class mothers reported economic improvements, in contrast to the family class mothers (47.2%). The majority of economic class mothers reported economic sacrifices.

When we repeated these analyses separately for parents who had been in Canada for a short (< 10 years) or long (> 10 years) time, we found that immigration class differences were only evident for longer-term families. For fathers who had been in Canada for fewer than 10 years, almost no one reported economic improvements, regardless of immigration class. Among those who had been in Canada for 10 years or more, however, 64% of fathers in the family class reported improvements, compared to only 37.5% of fathers in the skilled worker class and none of the fathers in the business class. Similar results were found for mothers. Thus, the hypothesis that economic class immigrants would experience the most economic gain was not supported, regardless of time in Canada.

As exploratory analyses, we were also interested in evaluating whether participants' reasons for immigration were linked to their perceptions of how their economic standing had been impacted by immigration to Canada. For both fathers [chi square](4) = 19.42, p < .001, and mothers, [chi square](4) = 25.41, p < .001, there was a significant link between reasons for immigration and perceptions of having made an economic sacrifice. As shown in Table 3, the parents who immigrated for the sake of their children's educational opportunities were most likely to report having made an economic sacrifice. Only a minority of parents who came for family reasons indicated an economic sacrifice. Parents who said they immigrated to pursue their own educational or employment prospects were evenly distributed across groups reporting improvement, no changes, and sacrifices with respect to their economic standing.

These results are related, in part, to the fact that families in our sample who have come to Canada more recently are more likely to have done so for their children's educational prospects (e.g., 71.3% of short-term and 30.4% of long-term fathers), and more recent arrival is more likely to be associated with economic sacrifices. We restricted the sample to longer-term families, and continued to find that fathers who came to Canada for their children's educational prospects were more likely to report economic sacrifices than other fathers. There was no association between reasons for immigration and immigration class among long-term mothers.

Contributions of Family Members

In Table 2, we present data on the employment and earnings of both mothers and fathers in immigrant families within our sample. By examining data for fathers and mothers side by side, we can see that looking only at the principal applicant fails to capture the economic contribution of spouses, in terms of earnings, rates of employment, and hours worked. Family members were not asked who the principal applicant was when they came to Canada. We know, however, about the couples' pre-migration relationship status. Specifically, 74.7% (n = 136) of couples were married and arrived at the same time; 13.2% of couples immigrated independently and met in Canada; and 12.1% of couples were married, but immigrated at different times. Among the couples who were married and immigrated at the same time, it is likely that one was the principal applicant and one was a dependent spouse. Among the 136 couples who immigrated together, 87.2% of fathers and 69.2% of mothers were working part- or full-time. The fact that the majority of both men and women in these couples were earning money in paid employment at the time of our research underscores the economic contributions of dependents.

The second generation

We also examined the academic adjustment of the adolescents in the sample with the idea that current achievement (in terms of academic motivation as well as actual grades) is an important indicator of their potential economic contributions in the near future. Our data indicate that the children of immigrant Chinese parents are a high-achieving group. With respect to achievement motivation, on average, the children scored 4.16 (SD = .74) out of a possible 5 points. Children's self-reported grade point averages (GPA) were also high. The majority (62.3%) reported a GPA in the A-range (A+, A, or A-), and another third (32.1%) reported a GPA in the B-range. Only 6.7% of the sample reported a GPA of C+ or below. A MANOVA, controlling for length of residence, evaluated whether there were immigrant class differences in the educational success of the next generation (specifically, in terms of GPA and achievement motivation). The multivariate effect was not significant, F(4,346) = 2.17, p - .07. At a univariate level, children of parents from the business class reported lower GPAs on average than children of parents from the family or skilled worker classes, F(2,173) = 4.27, p < .015. Note, however, that even these "lower" GPAs were still in the B/B+ range. There were no significant differences in achievement motivation related to immigration class, F{2,173) = .556, p = .57. Thus, children of family class immigrants were achieving at a similarly high level as children of economic class immigrants.

Finally, the parents and children reported ambitious educational goals. Almost half (43.7% of children, 50.6% of mothers, and 49.4% of fathers) indicated that their goal was for the child to earn a graduate or professional degree. The majority of the remaining family members set a 4-year university degree as a goal (50.6% of children, 47.8% of mothers, and 50.0% of fathers). A minority of family members selected a 2-year college or vocational degree (4% of children, 1.7% of mothers, and 0.6% of fathers) or a high-school degree (1.7% of children, no mothers or fathers). These educational goals were unrelated to length of residence in Canada or immigration class. Collectively, these results suggest that the adolescents in this sample are poised to make economic contributions to Canadian society, regardless of immigration class.


Our final set of analyses evaluated the acculturation goals of each family member, with the idea that individuals who simultaneously strive to adopt important aspects of Canadian culture and retain elements of their heritage culture will be positioned to make important contributions to multiculturalism in Canada. As shown in Figure 1, fathers, mothers, and children endorsed both Chinese and Canadian goals above the mid-point of the scale (i.e., 2.5). Repeated measures MANOVAs were used to compare Chinese and Canadian goals for each family member, controlling for length of residence in Canada. These analyses showed that fathers, F(1,162) = 29.61, p < .001 [[eta].sup.2] = .155, and mothers, F(1, 173) = 15.64, p < .001 [[eta].sup.2] = .083, endorsed a desire to adopt Canadian culture more highly than their desire to retain Chinese culture. Children's Chinese and Canadian goals did not significantly differ, F(1, 167) = 0.10, p = .920. These results support the ideal of biculturalism, as family members desired both cultural adoption and cultural retention.

The correlations between family members' goals to retain their Chinese heritage and their goals of adopting the Canadian culture were also examined. Positive correlations are consistent with a key proposition of multiculturalism: that goals of ethnic diversity and national social cohesion are compatible (Berry 2013). Negative correlations, in contrast, indicate that the family member perceived the two cultures as incompatible: the more strongly they oriented towards one culture, the less strongly they oriented towards the other. We found consistently positive correlations between Chinese and Canadian goals for fathers, r(165) = .30, p < .01, mothers, r(179) = .33, p < .01, and adolescents, r(181) = .42, p < .01. These correlations were especially strong within the subset of families who had lived in Canada for more than 10 years (correlations of .39, .45, and .44 for father, mothers, and children, respectively), but remained statistically significant and positive even within the sub-sample of families who had been in Canada for a short time (correlations of .26, .19, and .40 for father, mothers, and children, respectively).



The Canadian Government's focus on economic immigration benefits is strong and enduring. Economic motivations are a reasonable and important part of any nation's immigration policy. Questions emerge, however, from the way in which these economic goals are currently constructed in Canadian immigration policy. For example, the intense focus on "economic class" immigration pathways implicitly ignores or undervalues the economic contributions made by newcomers to Canada from other immigration classes. The focus on the economic contributions of principal applicants also fails to take into account the contributions of their spouses and ultimately, their children. Finally, exclusive attention to economics implicitly ignores other important contributions immigrants make to Canada's multicultural society.

Data presented in this paper from one specific sample of immigrant families illustrates areas of discordance between the assumptions that underlie immigration policy and the lived experiences of Chinese immigrants to Canada. The attribution of economic outcomes exclusively to immigrants in economic classes does not fully reflect the reality of the immigration dynamic, as our data show that immigrants in the family class demonstrate many comparable economic contributions, such as similar rates of employment among fathers and mothers from skilled worker and family classes. The data also show differences in the earnings of distinct subsets of economic-class immigrants, something that the Canadian Government also found and cited as a reason for terminating the business class immigration pathways in their previous form. Noteworthy is the fact that the family class immigrants in this sample earn as much in the Canadian labour force as business class immigrants, highlighting the inherent limitations of the implicit dichotomy between "economic" immigration and other classes of immigration.

Data from Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) are also consistent with this conclusion. For example, findings from a longitudinal database (IMDB) demonstrated that in 2008, family-class principal applicants did not lag far behind skilled worker principal applicants in terms of the incidence of employment earnings (CIC 2012a). The former averaged 71% to 76% labour force participation, whereas the latter averaged 73% to 82% (CIC 2012a, 43). There was, however, a considerable difference in the absolute earnings: In total 2008 dollars, skilled workers had much higher average entry employment earnings at $35,630 than family class immigrants, who had average entry employment earnings of $20,940 (CIC 2012a, 44). This wage earnings gap should not distract from the possibility that the economic contributions to Canada of the lower-wage earners are just as important as those of higher-wage earners. Canada needs workers at all levels of skilled and unskilled labour. Further, gender intersects with immigration class in shaping economic contributions. For example, in the Toronto Immigrant Employment Data Initiative database, men who came as principal applicants in the family class were more likely to be in the labour force compared to women who were principal applicants in the skilled immigrant class (Shields et al. 2010).

The reasons that parents gave for immigrating revealed more complex motivations and desires than the Canadian Government-based immigration classes imply, and ignoring the complexity of these motivations can result in an underestimation of the long-term contribution of immigrants. The data clearly indicate that individuals thought beyond economics, and beyond their own individual prospects, when making choices about immigration. Instead, the next generation's welfare was the most common reason for immigration (49.7% of fathers and 56.1% of mothers in the sample). It appears that many immigrants to Canada from this sample have different motivations for immigration and have simply utilized whatever route was available to them (e.g., entrepreneur). Although the existing immigration classes are predominantly defined in terms of individual goals, many immigrant parents in our sample were willing to make personal sacrifices to enhance the prospects of the next generation who, as demonstrated by previous research and our data, tend to be well educated, have high achievement motivation, and integrate successfully into Canadian society. In other words, some prospective immigrants may be excluded from immigrating due to low expected economic contributions, even though their children would likely benefit the Canadian economy.

Economic contributions are not limited to principal applicants; spouses also often make economic contributions in their own right. Yet, as Creese, Dyck, and McLaren (2006) note, the family unit is largely absent from the predominant discourse. In this paper we have focused on the direct contributions of spouses in the labour market. Creese and colleagues (2006) emphasize indirect contributions as well, highlighting how other family members enable the primary earner to achieve economic success by managing household responsibilities.

The children of immigrants provide an important index of how well an immigration policy is meeting the needs of a nation. The data presented in this paper strongly suggest that the children of immigrant parents are well on their way to acquiring the education necessary to be strong contributors to Canadian society. The "investment" in new immigrants may not be maximally realized until the second generation. Short-term economic arguments for immigration may be short-sighted; a longer-term view is needed to fully evaluate an immigration policy (e.g., Omidvar and Lopes 2012).

Finally, the exclusive economic argument that is advanced in current discourse around immigration in Canada undervalues the many non-economic contributions that immigrants make to Canadian society. Most family members in the current sample--principal applicants and dependents--are interested in retaining their Chinese culture and concurrently integrating into Canadian culture. Importantly, the benefits of such bicultural individuals to the social fabric of Canadian culture are not limited to their abilities to contribute to Canada's economy. Omidvar and Lopes (2012), for example, highlight the importance of a country's social prosperity, which is closely linked to diversity of its citizenry and the broadening of a country's cultural landscape. These authors specifically mention sports and the arts as fundamental areas of human expression that extend beyond narrow economic definitions of a nation's prosperity.


Our review highlights several considerations that could be addressed in the next evolution of Canada's immigration policy. We argue for a need to widen the lens through which immigration is viewed in Canada. The majority of families in our sample listed their children's prospects in Canada as the strongest motivation for immigrating. Yet the existing immigration pathways do not reflect this reality. This is a fundamental disconnection between the mindset of the potential immigrants and the mindset of policy makers. This disconnection likely leads to a failure to select immigrants on the ideal constellation of criteria, to provide the most needed supports for immigrants following arrival in Canada, and/or to recognize the full contributions made by new Canadians. Greater synergy between the goals of immigrants and the goals of receiving nations will likely enhance the benefits of migration for all concerned.

We encourage definitions of "successful" immigration to be expanded beyond the narrow understanding of economic contribution that is currently embedded in immigration policy. First, newcomers to Canada from all immigration pathways make economic contributions, not only "economic" immigrants. Second, thinking beyond the individual principal applicant also broadens perspectives on "successful" immigration. For example, our analyses have highlighted the contributions made by spouses of principal applicants, as one example of this wider view. Moreover, the evaluation of the "success" of an immigration policy needs to extend beyond a few years, or even beyond the lifetime of the initial applicant. Even when a newcomer has difficulty integrating into Canadian society or achieving desired economic outcomes, his or her children often fare quite well. With this longer-term perspective, one is able to better judge the impact of immigrant selection policies. Families in our sample illustrate this possibility: Many of the parents who were unemployed, or under-employed, came to Canada at an older age for the purpose of providing their children with better educational opportunities. They themselves made sacrifices, both economically and socially, to be in Canada, often for the sake of their children. Their children, in turn, are on a pathway of positive integration into Canadian society. The education and future prospects of immigrant children should not be overlooked in creating and evaluating an immigration policy.

Successful integration is more than securing paid employment. Thinking beyond economics would mean that immigration policy, and the services funded for the immigrant community, take a broad view of the individual as a whole person, embedded within a family. An immigrant who is employed and contributing to the economic engine of Canada, but who is socially isolated, personally unhappy, or in conflict with family members should most likely not count as an overall successful immigration 'statistic.' The health and well-being of adult immigrants is also essential because these individuals are bringing up the next generation of Canadians; their well-being strongly affects their capacity to effectively raise their children.

Furthermore, the ability to contribute to society is not limited to the employment sector. Immigrants to Canada make numerous social, cultural, and interpersonal contributions, in addition or in lieu of economic ones. Principal applicants' dependents also contribute on many levels to Canadian society, and these contributions should be recognized and valued. Thus, an expanded view of immigration success would give weight to immigrants' social and cultural contributions.

The Canadian Government currently appears to be building an immigration policy that increasingly selects for those who are already positioned to do well. Canada may be in a better long-term position if the focus is on attracting a wide variety of immigrants and continuing to provide supports to foster their successful integration. The current increasing emphasis on short-term economic gains may not meet Canada's long-term national interests, in particular as economic immigrants may be the "most mobile and least likely to stay in Canada" (Alboim and Cohl 2012, 60). Failure to attract diverse immigrants will result in a narrowing of source countries for migration to Canada and thus in losing the potential benefits of greater diversity. Over time, Canada's multicultural landscape could be eroded. Recent changes to language requirements that work against applicants from non-English or French-speaking countries are already compromising the attraction of diverse groups of people (Alboim and Cohl 2012). Given that policies for immigrant integration and policies on multiculturalism are closely linked, with multiculturalism arguably having served as a strategy for immigrant integration for a long time (Reitz 2012), the recent changes in Canadian immigration policy could be seen as a convenient response to the inconvenient truth that visible minority immigrants experience more integration problems than Caucasian immigrants (Reitz 2012). Opinion polls show high support for immigration among Canadians, and no appetite for a return to immigration policy based on ethnically-grounded characteristics (Berry 2013; Soroka and Robertson 2010). It is too early to make concrete predictions regarding the medium- to long-term impact of the increasingly selective immigration policies that have been introduced in recent years; however, future research is needed into whether the shifting focus is going to compromise Canada's cultural diversity.

It is important to note the limitations of the sample that we used to illustrate our points. First, our data was based on self-reports; independent reports of some indicators of integration, such as achievement, would enrich the conclusions in those areas. Second, our sample was limited to Chinese families living on the West coast and therefore may not generalize to Chinese families elsewhere in Canada or to families from other cultural backgrounds. Further, our sample was small. Although much of the sample was randomly recruited and appears to be representative in terms of education level and immigration class, generalizing to the immigrant population as a whole may be limited. The emerging potential to link data from the National Household's Survey with Immigration Landing Files (Hiebert 2015) presents new opportunities to explore the issues raised in this paper on a national level. Our aim has been to contribute to an expanded conversation about immigration in Canada, rather than to answer questions definitively. We hope similar issues will be pursued in larger nationally representative data sets.


In summary, our results highlight the complex reality of immigration which transcends the immigration streams that the Canadian Government has created based on its perceived needs in this country. Based on our research findings, we present an understanding of immigration that is more aligned with immigrants' motivations than with the Canadian Government's rationale for attracting newcomers. We argue that the current immigration agenda is neither in the best interests of would-be immigrants, nor in the interests of Canada as a country. Our results point to the importance of expanding the lens through which immigration policies are created and evaluated to include a multigenerational family focus that extends over a longer time frame and that accounts for the integration of spouses and children of principal applicants. We also argue for the need to expand our definitions of a successful immigration program to include an appreciation of the contributions that immigrants make beyond purely economic ones, such as their role in the ongoing creation of Canada's multicultural mosaic.


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CATHERINE COSTIGAN, Ph.D., is Associate Professor and Director of Clinical Training at the University of Victoria in the Department of Psychology. Her research focuses on individual adjustment and family relationships in the context of immigration, including identity formation, acculturation, enculturation, and realignments of parent-child, marital, and sibling dynamics. Her recent work has focused on immigrant Chinese families.

SABINE LEHR, Ph.D., is Adjunct Assistant Professor at the University of Victoria in the School of Public Administration, where she teaches predominantly in the area of community development. She is also immigrant services manager at the InterCultural Association of Greater Victoria. In that capacity, she manages the immigrant settlement services department that helps immigrant and refugee newcomers adjust to life in their new environment.

SHEENA MIAO, M.Sc., is a doctoral candidate in clinical psychology at the University of Victoria. Her research focuses on issues related to immigrants' acculturation, parenting, and help-seeking behaviors. For her master's thesis research, she examined psychological, relational, and cultural factors that contribute to the development of controlling parenting in Chinese immigrant families.
TABLE 1. Demographic Information: Means and Standard Deviations or

                                    Fathers        Mothers
                                  (means or %)   (means or %)

Age                               47.16 years    44.79 years
                                  (SD = 5.71)    (SH = 4.74)

Length of Residence in Canada     11.06 years    10.61 years
                                  (SD = 7.07)    (SD = 6.53)

Region of Origin
  Mainland China                      65.2           67.0
  Taiwan                              20.1           20.7
  Hong Kong                           14.6           12.3

Highest Education Achieved
  Less than high school Gr. 12         8.5            6.7
  High school degree                  11.0           14.0
  College/vocational diploma          20.1           33.0
  University degree                   27.4           31.8
  Graduate/professional degree        32.9           14.5

Family Income
(Canadian dollars)
  < $25,000                                  20.8
  $25,001-40,000                             29.2
  $40,001-50,000                             13.5
  $50,001-75,000                             21.3
  > $75,001                                  15.2

TABLE 2. Economic Indicators and Reasons for Immigration as a
Function of Immigration


                                    Fathers (% or Mean & SE)

                                   Skilled   Business   Family
                                   n = 106    n = 27    n = 27

Employment Status
  Full time work                   79.2       44.4      81.5
  Part time work                   12.3       33.3      11.1
  Not working but looking           2.8       11.1       7.4
  Not working by choice             5.7       11.1       0.0

Hours of Employment (a)            36.64      31.59     36.48
                                   (1.40)     (3.28)    (3.13)

Annual Income (a, b)                4.24       3.82      3.35
                                    (.14)      (.30)     (.29)

Reasons for Immigration
  My own education/employment      30.5        3.6       7.7
  Child educational opportunity    49.5       85.7      11.5
  Accompany spouse or parents       8.6        7.1      50.5
  Family reunification              2.9        0.0      23.1
  Other                             8.6        3.6       7.7

                                    Mothers (% or Mean & SE)

                                   Skilled   Business   Family
                                   n = 107    n = 30    n = 40

Employment Status
  Full time work                   55.1       23.3      67.5
  Part time work                   19.6       23.3       7.5
  Not working but looking           9.3       13.3       7.5
  Not working by choice            15.9       40.0      17.5

Hours of Employment (a)            27.69      17.52     25.92
                                   (1.88)     (3.67)    (3.49)

Annual Income (a, b)                4.18       3.49      3.31
                                    (.15)      (.29)     (.28)

Reasons for Immigration
  My own education/employment      18.6        3.3      12.8
  Child educational opportunity    63.7       83.3      15.4
  Accompany spouse or parents       7.8       10.0      41.0
  Family reunification              2.0        0.0      28.2
  Other                             7.8        3.3       2.6

(a) estimated marginal means and standard errors, controlling for
length of residence in Canada and age

(b) scale ranges from 1 (< $10,000) to 7 (> $100,000)

TABLE 3. Percentage within each immigration class and reason for
immigration category reporting improvement, no change, or sacrifices
in their economic standing

                                           Fathers (%)

                                   Improved   Same   Sacrifices

Immigration Class
  Skilled Worker                     20.6     32.7      46.7
  Business                              0     41.4      58.6
  Family                             44.0     28.0      28.0

Reasons for Immigration
  My own education/employment        36.4     30.3      33.3
  Child educational opportunity       7.6     35.4      57.0
  Family reunification               35.5     35.5      29.0

                                           Mothers (%)

                                   Improved   Same   Sacrifices

Immigration Class
  Skilled Worker                     13.1     34.6      52.3
  Business                              0     36.7      63.3
  Family                             47.2     36.1      16.7

Reasons for Immigration
  My own education/employment        23.1     42.3      34.6
  Child educational opportunity       7.4     32.6      60.0
  Family reunification               35.1     45.9      18.9
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Author:Costigan, Catherine; Lehr, Sabine; Miao, Sheena
Publication:Canadian Ethnic Studies Journal
Geographic Code:1CANA
Date:Mar 22, 2016
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