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Immigrants' children more likely to graduate from university

Statistics Canada's new study. Close-knit South American family has played major role in her success, student says


SHANNON PROUDFOOT, Canwest News Service

Published: 8 hours ago


The odds of celebrating a university graduation vary widely for young adults in Canada, largely depending on where their parents were born, according to a new study from Statistics Canada.


The children of immigrants are more likely to toss a graduation cap in the air than their peers with Canadian-born parents.


However, the children of Chinese immigrants are almost three times more likely to graduate from university than those of Latin American immigrants, the report finds, at 70 per cent compared to 24 per cent.


By comparison, about 28 per cent of the children of Canadian-born parents get university degrees.


Children of Indian parents and those from other Asian countries and Africa have graduation rates above 50 per cent, while about 25 per cent of children with parents from European countries like Germany, Portugal and the Netherlands get degrees.


"The children of almost all immigrant groups have either similar or higher university completion rates than the children of Canadian-born parents," says Teresa Abada, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Western Ontario who conducted the study for Statistics Canada.


Some of this can be explained by the fact immigrant parents are more likely to have university educations themselves and to live in big cities, she said, and those characteristics are associated with higher university graduation rates for their children.


But even taking those factors into account, the children of immigrants - especially those from China or India - still fare better than others in education, Abada said.


The scope of this study didn't allow researchers to discover why this might be, but similar research in the U.S. "suggests a sense of obligation to one's parents to do well academically" is at work, she said.


University of Calgary students' union president Dalmy Baez says her close-knit South American family has played a major role in her success at school, whether it was 2 a.m. trips to photocopy campaign posters or cheering from the sidelines at debates and sporting events.


Her Chilean mother and Paraguayan father met in Montreal after both immigrated to Canada and later moved to Calgary to raise Baez, 21, and her three siblings. Two of the Baez children attended university and two didn't, she said, though all have enjoyed success in their own fields.


"I wasn't really sure if I was going to go to university," she said. "The second I started showing interest in school and subjects, they both became incredibly supportive and encouraging."


Baez expects to graduate with a degree in political science and a minor in communications this spring and says she'll likely pursue a career in politics afterward. She and her siblings share a house in Calgary that they bought with their parents' help and now pay the mortgage on.


A shortage of funds for post-secondary school can be a major barrier for the children of immigrants, Baez said, but for her parents it was crucial that their children get the most out of the life they built in Canada.


"Our parents wanted us to take advantage of the opportunities we had here and they certainly weren't going to let us get away with not," she said.

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