Sunday, October 31, 2010

On unpleasant facts

Munir Sheikh offers an example of the type of information Canadian policymakers will lack if the Cons' choice to gratuitously gut the census is allowed to stand:
Take, for example, the average income levels of groups of immigrants relative to native Canadians from each of the 5-year census cycles beginning with the 1975-79 group and ending with the latest 2000-2004 group.

Data from the long-form census offers two important conclusions. First, economic performance of immigrants, as captured by the earnings of immigrants relative to the native population, is on a downward trend. Second, this gap does not close even after immigrants have been here for up to 20 years. These are unpleasant facts.

A more detailed look at the data indicates some positive recent developments but they appear not to have taken hold. For example, the 1990-94 group of immigrants did marginally better than the 1985-89 group after working for six to 10 years.

Unfortunately, that improvement proved temporary. The 1995-99 group seems to have done better than the 1990-94 group soon after arriving, but their advantage also appears to be slipping away. To make matters worse, the performance of the 2000-04 group has fallen below that of the 1995-99 group.

Governments may look at this long-form census information to monitor the situation and attempt to improve it by changing policies. Some changes have been announced in the recent past, such as those focused on the economic class applicants, the Canada experience class and the provincial nominee programs. Would these changes be effective in improving outcomes and, if yes, by how much?

With the government’s decision to abolish the long-form census, it is not clear how one would get reliable answers to these important questions.

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