Published by Communications and Public Affairs (519) 824-4120, Ext. 56982 or 53338
April 17, 2003
More immigrants, minorities calling suburbs home, new study reveals
Canada’s immigrant and minority populations are increasingly settling in the suburbs rather than in major cities, new research by a University of Guelph geography professor reveals.
The study conducted by U of G’s Harald Bauder, along with Bob Sharpe from Wilfrid Laurier University, is the first major study directly comparing the residential patterns of immigrants and other visible minority populations in Canada’s gateway cities: Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver. The research, published in The Canadian Geographer, also looks at the nature of segregation and its links to local housing characteristics.
The findings reveal that to some extent, Canada’s immigrant and visible minority populations remain highly urbanized. More than three quarters of newly arriving immigrants make one of the gateway cities their first destination, and the vast majority of the nation’s visible minorities reside in Toronto, Vancouver or Montreal (compared with about one-third of the total population). But more and more immigrants and visible minorities are making their homes in those cities’ suburban areas, such as Toronto’s Scarborough, Markham, North York and Etobicoke, the study revealed.
Bauder said that although not all newly arriving immigrants are visible minorities, the percentage of immigrants settling in the gateway cities mirrors the visible minority population. In addition, the growth of Canada’s visible minority population in recent decades is related to changes in immigration legislation, the study found. “Our research suggests that many immigrants are skipping what was once called the ‘downtown’ stage of immigration, where they moved to the inner cities first,” Bauder said.
The likely explanation, he said, is simple economics. “It costs a lot of money to live in the city nowadays, and immigrant settlement patterns in Canada are closely related to circumstances in the housing market.”
In Toronto, for example, the study found that visible minority populations are less represented in parts of the city with single detached homes, or in neighbourhoods that have new and expensive housing. “On the other hand, neighbourhoods with high-rise apartment buildings appear to attract visible minority groups,” Bauder said, adding that a substantial proportion of high-rise rental units are located in suburban areas, including Etobicoke, North York, Scarborough and Mississauga. In addition, the Metropolitan Toronto Housing Authority channels some low-income immigrant households to suburban housing complexes, he said.
Vancouver has similar residential patterns, with the majority of immigrants less likely to live in areas with single detached homes or in high-value older neighbourhoods, clustering for the most part in tracts with new, mixed types of housing. In Montreal, however, the type of housing did not seem to play as large of a role in determining where immigrants and visible minorities settle. But segregation among visible minority groups was more apparent in that city, the study found.
Where a person is from also seems to play a role in deciding where to live, said Bauder. Toronto, for example, has more immigrants who are black, Korean and South Asian, while Vancouver has a larger proportion of Chinese and Japanese immigrants. In Montreal, the immigrant population are predominantly black, Arab/West Asian, Latin American, and Southeast Asian.
Bauder added that statistical analyses don’t take into consideration all of the factors that influence decisions about immigration and housing. Initially, lower-cost housing might draw immigrants to a city suburb, but eventually, there are additional attractions. “A particular suburb or community might start to become known as a place where a lot of people speak your language, and there are shops and other businesses that represent your culture. So after a while, it becomes a ‘chicken and egg’ scenario: which came first?”