Population Change and Lifecourse

Research Brief #15 - July 2013

Visible Minority Groups Vary in Social Integration


On the basis of the 2001 Ethnic Diversity Survey, this study examines relationship between generation of Canadian residence and social integration. Two subjective (self-reported) measures of integration are used: sense of belonging to Canada and feelings of discomfort living in the host society. The study finds that the relationship between immigrant generation and social integration depends upon demographic and neighbourhood characteristics, as well as upon the city of settlement. The study also illustrates that while sense of belonging does not change across immigrant generations, it is higher for South Asians, lower among Chinese and French Canadians, and similar to the British-origin Canadians for other racial minorities. The study finds that visible minority immigrants are more likely to report feelings of discomfort than the Canadian-born or Whites in Canada. However, the feeling of discomfort decreases as immigrant generation status increases, and, over time, most immigrants are able to adapt and consider Canada their home.

Key Findings

Other Findings

Table 1


While much work has been devoted to understanding the integration of immigrants using indicators such as socioeconomic mobility, language use, and intermarriage, less is known about the subjective well-being of immigrants, that is, how immigrants assess their own happiness and satisfaction.

Previous Canadian studies on the subjective well-being of immigrants have found that both adult and young immigrants report lower levels of life satisfaction than their Canadian-born counterparts, and this is linked with their socioeconomic and ethno-racial status (Burton & Phipps 2010).

This study considers the subjective well-being of immigrants by examining two interrelated factors: (a) sense of belonging to Canada and (b) feeling of discomfort living in the host society.

Sense of belonging to Canada and feeling of discomfort (feeling out of place in the host society) were examined for immigrants, second generation Canadians, and third-plus generation.

The study also sought to determine whether racial status and neighbourhood characteristics, such as concentration of co-ethnics, influenced immigrant social integration in Canadian society.

Study Sample and Methods

The study merges data from the 2001 Census and the data from the Ethnic Diversity Survey (EDS). The sample was restricted to respondents living in Census Metropolitan Areas. Standard regression analysis was used, with generation of Canadian residence as the main independent variable.

Table 2The table here presents the definitions of generations and the corresponding proportion of the metro-politan area population of Canada:

To assess the sense of belonging to Canada, re-spondents were asked: “using a scale of 1 to 5, where 1 is not strong at all and 5 is very strong, how strong is your sense of belonging to Canada?”

The second aspect - feeling of discomfort about living in the host society, was determined in response to the following: “How often do you feel uncomfortable or out of place in Canada now be-cause of your ethnicity, culture, race, skin colour, language, accent or religion? Is it (1) all of the time, (2) most of the time, (3) some of the time, (4) rarely, or (5) never?”



About the Study

This Research Brief is based on Zheng Wu, Christoph M. Schimmele and Feng Hou, ‘Self-perceived
Integration of Immigrants and their Children
’. The full manuscript is available in Canadian Journal of Sociology/Cahiers canadiens de sociologie 37(4) 2012.This brief was prepared by Bharati Sethi, Doctoral Candidate, Faculty of Social Work, Wilfred Laurier University.

For further information, please contact Zheng Wu, University of Victoria.