Hot! Well-educated, older immigrants prefer Canada to U.S., poll finds

TheGlobeandMail.com – Politics – But among those who have completed only elementary education, the U.S. outstrips Canada by a considerable margin
Published on Tuesday, Jun. 22, 2010.  Last updated on Wednesday, Jun. 23, 2010.  Joe Friesen

With age and wisdom, Canada looks better than the United States as a destination for potential immigrants, new research suggests.

Jack Jedwab, executive director of the Association for Canadian Studies, and Susan Hardwick, a University of Oregon geographer, highlight an analysis done by Gallup researchers Neli Esipova, Julie Ray and Rajesh Srinivasan, who found that although Canada trails the United States as the most desirable global destination, the situation is reversed among those who are well-educated and slightly older.

In the 148-country survey, Gallup found that 41 per cent of those aged 15-24 would choose to migrate to the U.S., compared with only 27 per cent who chose Canada. But the older cohort, those 25-44, chose Canada over the U.S. 48 per cent to 40 per cent.

Among those who have completed only elementary education, the U.S. outstrips Canada by a considerable margin. But among those who have completed secondary education, Canada leads by 59 per cent to 51 per cent.

“The better-educated cohort may be more disposed to coming here because they feel opportunity is not as strong in the U.S. for people with higher levels of education. I would also argue we have a stronger support network, a stronger safety net, which may be a powerful incentive,” Dr. Jedwab said. “Part of it also has to do with people with greater knowledge of Canada, as opposed to the younger, less educated cohort, which has less knowledge of Canada.”

Dr. Jedwab argues the difference in education between immigrants to the two countries may explain why Canadian immigrants do better financially. Immigrants to Canada earned an average of $44,170, in 2006, compared with $34,400 in the U.S.. The gap between immigrant income and the national median income is also much more pronounced in the United States.

“[The findings] say something about the way Canada is perceived abroad by more educated segments of the planet. People have a very high opinion of Canada,” Dr. Jedwab said. “Our selection system and the people who want to come here will continue to support a population that is very highly educated. So Canada will continue to be one of the world’s leaders in the degree of human capital, defined by levels of education, it possesses.”

As for the United States, it remains attractive to less-skilled workers who may see more opportunities for advancement in its wide-open economy.

“The lower-skilled immigrants, who are younger and have less education, may have less knowledge about Canada, may feel based on their expectations mobility opportunities are better in the US, starting from that point,” Dr. Jedwab said.

The other side of the coin, however, is that as Canada continues to attract highly educated immigrants it may have difficulty finding skilled work for them. Dr. Jedwab recast Canadian immigration stats for ease of comparison with the United States and found that 35.5 per cent of immigrants admitted to Canada in 2009 were primary economic migrants, compared to just 12.7 per cent in the United States. The U.S., in its family migration, also receives more unskilled labour than Canada, Dr. Jedwab suggested.

“That could create differential expectations in the two countries, where we have a high ratio of people who we’re trying to recruit for the knowledge economy,” Dr. Jedwab said. “If we can’t meet their expectations over time that will create some issues for us.”

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