Population Change and Lifecourse


Policy Briefs

PCLC Research/Policy Brief now available in Scholarship@Western

Policy Brief No. 26, January 2016
The Dynamics of First Nations Migration are Shaped by Socio-Economic Inequalities

Migration by First Nations people (both Registered and non-registered Indians) reflects inequalities between First Nation communities, and also between First Nations and the non-Aboriginal Canadian population, in terms of its nature, its intensity and its direction. Residential mobility, within the same community or urban centre, is the commonest form of migration among First Nations, while inter-provincial and international migration concerns a small minority of cases. The net effect of the migratory flows of Registered Indians is movement towards reserves rather than to other rural or urban areas. Improvement in living conditions and the feeling of belonging to a community are the commonest motives for Indian migration. Communities may benefit from or be disadvantaged by these origin-destination flows.

Policy Brief No. 25, May 2015
Are immigrants in better health than native Canadians?

A number of studies have shown that immigrants tend to be in better health than their fellow citizens in their host countries, at least during the initial period following their arrival. Our work, a systematic review which brings together the results of 77 empirical research studies on this question, demonstrates that while the “healthy immigrant” effect is usually found in adult immigrants, it is another matter for children and older people. The extent of the healthy immigrant selection effect is also much more significant in terms of mortality than of morbidity. Our analysis suggests that immigrant health policies should not be “one size fits all” in type, but need to take into account both the age of immigrants and also those particular health indicators in terms of which the immigrants are most vulnerable.

Policy Brief No. 24, May 2015
Are Female Baby Boomers Ready for Retirement?

Due to their life-course socio-economic conditions, many female boomers may suffer large decreases in well-being as they head into retirement. Pension reforms which increase retirement age will disproportionately disadvantage those already in low income. While changes to the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) will reduce losses from poor or sporadic labour force participation, these changes are too late to help the early boomer women. Likewise, while research suggests that improving retirement outcomes must begin with improved labour market conditions, inequitable conditions persist. Therefore, any current policy change will miss helping the early boomers. Finally, with increasing rates of chronic disease and longer lifespans, policy must aim toward health and wellness promotion, providing a wider range of integrated care options, and clear estimates of added costs so that Canadians can adequately prepare for retirement.

Policy Brief No. 23, May 2015
Health Inequalities Among Older Adults: Reconciling Theories and Policy Approaches

Despite universal access to healthcare, there are disparities in older people’s health status in developed countries. These inequalities are rooted in lifelong differences in social and economic status. Government policies to assist older people may end up reinforcing these inequalities if they fail to create a buffer against their effects. However, best case practices and WHO guidance show that policies can also mitigate against the effects of lifelong disadvantage in older age. There is opportunity to design initiatives for older people in Canada that lessen the disparities in health outcomes that we currently see.

Policy Brief No. 22, May 2015
The New Immigration and Ethnic Identity

This knowledge synthesis provides an up-to-date assessment of how the acculturation experiences of the children of immigrants influences their social identities. While other factors affect identity development, this synthesis focuses on the interface between identity and intergroup relations. Most post-1965 immigrants encounter economic circumstances and a “color” barrier that complicate the acculturation process. How these structural forces affect the pathway towards becoming a Canadian or an American is a far-reaching issue. For groups that are able to achieve economic parity with Whites and encounter little racism, their “ethnicity” could recede across generations. Hence, recent immigrants could eventually adopt unhyphenated identities based on a sense of belonging to the host community. In multicultural countries, however, such identificational assimilation is unnecessary for successful incorporation. The children of recent immigrants could instead opt for bicultural identities. The troubling possibility are situations where barriers to immigrant incorporation motive a reactive ethnic solidarity. In these cases, ethnic identity could reflect social divisions and perhaps even ethnic conflict within society.

Policy Brief No. 21, March 2015
An Increasing Age at Retirement May Amplify Socioeconomic Inequalities

Population ageing raises questions about the sustainability of the public pillars of the retirement income system and about inter-generational equity. In response to this, a number of countries have raised the normal retirement age in an attempt to reduce projected future expenditures on their state pension system. In this context, private savings and later retirement represent the best ways of avoiding a major fall in living standards when retiring. Increased life expectancy at age 65 appears to justify this policy trend. But there are substantial differences in life expectancy and healthy life expectancy between people of different socio-economic status, and these seem to be widening. There is a danger that in the name of inter-generational equity, we will in fact be moving towards increased social inequality among the pensioners of the future.

Policy Brief No. 20, March 2015
The Oldest Old: A New Reality in Canada’s Population

Canadians aged 85 and over (the Oldest Old) form a distinct group which is destined to grow as a proportion of the country’s population. This is a demographic reality which needs to be taken into account in policy making.

Policy Brief No. 19, December 2014
Caregiver Assessment: An Essential Component of Continuing Care Policy

Family and friend caregivers are the backbone of Canada’s health and social care systems. The support they provide is indispensable in enabling individuals with long-term health issues to remain in their communities. Caregivers take on a challenging role—one that can impact their physical and mental health, social activities, personal finances, employment and relationships (Health Council of Canada, 2012; Keefe, 2011). Caregivers’ health and wellbeing has repercussions for the care recipient, their family, their communities and the health care system. To support this critical role, caregivers need to be understood as partners in care, but also as potential individual clients of health and social care systems in and of themselves.

Caregiver assessments are a key tool to identify and provide such understanding. Such assessments are used by health care practitioners to evaluate the degree and urgency of risk to the health and wellbeing of caregivers or to the deterioration of the caregiving situation. Through assessments, practitioners can more efficiently and appropriately target interventions and supports such as psycho-social counseling and prepare for changes in care. This Policy Brief makes the case for the integration of caregiver assessment in home and long term care services and provides research-based evidence from the literature and studies using the Caregivers’ Aspirations, Realities, and Expectations Tool (C.A.R.E. Tool). Home and long term care policy can no longer afford to remain solely focused on persons needing care. Recognizing caregivers as partners and clients is crucial to supporting the care situation. In this, assessment tools have a critical role to play.

Policy Brief No. 18, November 2014
The Dynamics of Inequality among Canadian Children

This study characterizes income inequality and mobility of Canadian children between the ages of 4/5 and 14/15. There is considerable inequality of family income. Moreover, income position is especially persistent for children at the bottom and top of the distribution; this is unfair and may be perpetuated into adulthood. Finally, family structure is very important for children’s material well-being; for example, they experience a considerable drop in income position upon parental separation/ divorce. It is recommended that such children be protected, perhaps through advance maintenance payments.

Policy Brief No. 17, November 2014
Language Training and Education Help Adult New Immigrants Exit Poverty

New immigrants to Canada are particularly vulnerable to poverty, but a study of data from the Longitudinal Survey of Immigrants to Canada finds participation in English/French language training has a positive impact. The federally-funded official language training, a unique feature of Canada’s immigrant settlement policy, helps new immigrants overcome their initial economic hardships. In addition, education in Canada helps low-income adult newcomers with international postsecondary credentials lift their families out of poverty. As the highly educated comprise a majority of entering immigrants, facilitating their ability to return to school is a promising policy option for their economic well-being.

Policy Brief No. 16, October 2014
Annual Levels of Immigration and Immigrant Entry Earnings in Canada

The annual level of immigration is a critical component of a country’s immigration policy. This study considers the influence of immigration levels on immigrant entry earnings in Canada. We find that from 1982-2010, a 10% increase in the size of a cohort of entering immigrants is associated with a 0.8% decline in entry earnings among immigrant men from that cohort, and a 0.3% earnings decline among immigrant women.

Policy Brief No. 15, April 2014
Quebec, Daycare, and Household Strategies of Couples with Young Children

In 1997, Quebec adopted a policy providing universal pre-school daycare for five dollars per day. Comparing Quebec to the rest of Canada, we use 1996, 2001, and 2006 Canadian census data to determine the impact of this policy on couples’ strategies for combining employment and child care. We find that, in addition to increasing mothers’ labour force participation, the policy reduced the number of families in Quebec with a traditional division of labour, particularly for common-law couples. However, we also find that the policy does not increase the proportion of families with egalitarian work and child care arrangements.

Policy Brief No. 14, March 2014
The Underutilization of Immigrant Skills: Trends and Policy Issues

Since 1996, the problem of underutilization of immigrant skills in Canada has grown significantly. University-educated immigrants are more numerous, yet our census analysis shows that their access to skilled occupations in the professions and management declined between 1996 and 2006. In these years, the value of work lost to the Canadian economy from immigrant skill underutilization grew from about $4.80 billion to $11.37 billion, annually. Given the significance of immigration for economic development, the evaluation of current policies and consideration of future directions seem urgent.

Policy Brief No. 13, February 2014 
Future Canadian Workers: More Educated and More Culturally Diversified

This article charts the future transformations of the Canadian labor force population using a microsimulation projection model. The model takes into account differentials in demographic behavior and labor force participation of individuals according to their ethnocultural and educational characteristics. Results of the microsimulation show that Canada's labor force population will continue to increase, but at a slower rate than in the recent past. By 2031, almost one third of the country's total labor force could be foreign-born, and almost all its future increase is expected to be fuelled by university graduates, while the less-educated labor force is projected to decline. All projection scenarios show that Canada’s overall participation rate will decline due to the retirement of the Boomers and the slow growth of the workforce. The analyses suggest that the most pertinent driver to be addressed is the differential in the labor force participation rates of the Canadian-born white population and immigrants and visible minorities.

Policy Brief No. 12, August 2013
Quebec’s Family Policies Benefit Childbearing and Work

The uniqueness of Quebec in Canada, and its attempt to be in control of its own destiny, also applies to family policy. Specifically, Quebec family policies have helped to increase fertility rates, promote more favourable attitudes toward child care, led to more people using child care in Quebec than the rest of Canada, improved people’s satisfaction with child care, and allowed more women with young children to participate in paid work than the rest of Canada. However, the child development indicators have not progressed as positively in Quebec when compared to the rest of Canada. This suggests that universal programs may make it difficult to focus on helping disadvantaged children, who would most benefit from early child care.

Policy Brief No. 11, May 2013
British Columbia ESL Policy Reform: Reduces Costs and Maintains Student Outcomes

English as a Second Language (ESL) reform in British Columbia (BC) has led to a slight increase in standardized tests reading scores of students from Kindergarten to Grade12, while also reducing costs. ESL is a program aimed at helping young immigrants whose home language is not English to improve their language skills in order to do better at school. Students' relative standings in standardized tests in the province were compared before and after the implementation of the reform. The prediction that the reform would have adverse effects was not supported. The reform, implemented in 1999 in BC, limited supplementary funding to five years per student and increased the value of the annual funding supplement for ESL students. The reform was found to have a dramatic impact on the exit rate of ESL programs at the end of the fifth year.

Policy Brief No. 10, November 2012
The Town with No Poverty: Health Effects of Guaranteed Annual Income

Guaranteed Annual Income (GAI) has been advocated and opposed in both the United States and Canada as a means to fight poverty since the 1960s, but how does GAI influence specific health and social outcomes? In examining data from a town involved in a Canadian GAI field experiment, we primarily found that a relatively modest GAI can improve population health at the community level. Considering the increasing burden of health care costs in Canada, it is possible that implementing GAI could amount to considerable savings.

Policy Brief No. 9, October 2012
A Canada-US Comparison of the Wage Gap for Highly Educated Immigrants

This policy brief focuses on changes in the wages of university educated new immigrants over the 1980-2005 period in Canada and the United States. Generally speaking, wage outcomes for this group were superior in the U.S. Wages of university educated new immigrants relative to domestic born university graduates declined in Canada over that period but rose in the United States. Also, the university wage premium — the difference in the wages of the university and high school educated — for new immigrants was similar in both countries in 1980, but rose over the next two decades in the United States while staying fairly static in Canada. The vast majority of this difference occurred in the 1990s, and coincided with a larger influx of immigrants to Canada than the United States, relative to the 1980s levels, and more of them arriving with degrees. The paper discusses a number of possible reasons for this divergence in immigrant wages between the two countries.

Policy Brief No. 8, July 2012
Cigarette Taxes and Smoking Participation: Evidence from Canadian Tax Increases

Although cigarette taxes are a popular anti-smoking measure with policy-makers, we find evidence of a varied response to cigarette taxes among different groups of smokers in Canada. In particular, contrary to other studies, we find that the middle age group--the largest group of smokers in our sample--is largely unresponsive to taxes. Our results show there is no “one-size fits all” anti-smoking policy. Knowing socio-demographic characteristics of smokers who respond differently to tax increases will help in designing supplementary anti-smoking measures.

Policy Brief No. 7, March 2012
Age Discrimination and Paid Work

With the aging of the Canadian population, many changes will be required in the domain of work and retirement. While considerable transformations have been made in recent years that improve the situation for older workers, such as the creation of legislation to eliminate the use of mandatory retirement in most areas, ageism and age discrimination still persist. Employers continue to have negative attitudes toward older workers and these attitudes can be seen in the training, hiring, and retention of older employees. Age discrimination is difficult to prove and thus most cases are not pursued. Older women face even greater challenges in the workforce, and both men and women experience the most difficulty when searching for new employment. Policy changes are suggested here that seek to improve the situation for older workers.

Policy Brief No. 6, January 2012
Age of Pension Eligibility, Life Expectancy, and Social Policy

As the baby-boom generation retires over the next two decades, there will be a sharp increase in the fraction of the population eligible to receive public pension benefits. This increase would happen even without ongoing reductions in mortality rates and the resultant increases in life expectancy. However, reductions in mortality mean that the impact will be even greater, especially if no offsetting adjustment is made to the age at which people are eligible to receive pension benefits. Continued gains in life expectancy, when not accompanied by an extension of working life, result in increasingly large fractions of the human lifespan being spent in retirement. That, in turn, gives rise to concerns about prospective increases in public pension costs and the level of support expected from the post-baby-boom generation. At the same time, the age at which benefits are payable affects the age of retirement.

Policy Brief No. 5, December 2011
The Social and Health Consequences of Family/Friend Caregiving

The retrenchment of health care and other public support services coupled with economic and demographic changes have increased demands on family/friend caregivers. Family/friend caregivers are expected to do more with less. Yet the social and health consequences of providing family/friend care can undermine caregivers’ own wellbeing. A better understanding of these non-economic costs is important to preserving this vital resource. The impact caregiving has on the health and social well-being of family/friend caregivers aged 45 and older in Canada is described using Statistics Canada’s 2007 General Social Survey (GSS). More than 1.3 million Canadians incurred social costs. Overall, a higher proportion of women than men incurred social consequences: spending less time on social activities, cancelling holiday plans and spending less time than desired with their spouse/partner and their children. Twice as many women as men reported that assisting someone had caused their health to suffer, regardless of caregiver, care receiver or dyad characteristics.

Policy Brief No. 4, November 2011
What Determines Success in University

High school grade point average is the major determinant of success in university. This is the main finding of a study commissioned by the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario. The study examines persistence and success using a rich administrative data set that links information on individual students at four Ontario universities with information on the high school performance of individual students, the high school that the student attended, and the neighbourhood in which the student grew up. The explanatory power of the high school grade point average (GPA) greatly dominates that of other variables such as university program, gender, and neighbourhood and high school characteristics. High school and neighbourhood have weak links with success in university, with students from low income neighbourhoods and weaker high schools appearing to be almost as well prepared for university as students from more advantaged background but the same high school grades.

Policy Brief No. 3, April 2011
Employment Consequences of Family/Friend Caregiving in Canada

There are more than 2.3M employed family/friend caregivers in Canada. Their multiple competing demands come with the risk of such negative employment consequences as missing work days, reducing work hours or foregoing job opportunities. These care related employment consequences have economic costs for caregivers, their families and their employers. Using Statistics Canada’s 2007 General Social Survey (GSS), we describe the characteristics of employed family/friend caregivers age 45 and older in Canada and the impact caregiving has on their employment.

Policy Brief No. 2, January 2011 
Gender Differences in Family/Friend Caregiving in Canada

Family/friend caregivers comprise the backbone of the Canadian health care system. They provide 70-80% of care to individuals with a chronic health problem or disability at an estimated value of $25-26 billion annually. For those who develop policies and programs to support the family/friend care sector, it is critical to understand the characteristics of current family/friend caregivers. Using data from Statistics Canada’s 2007 General Social Survey (GSS) on family, social support, and retirement, we describe the characteristics of family/friend caregivers age 45 and older in Canada.

Policy Brief No. 1, November 2009
Cognitive Function, Aging, and Paid Work

In the context of an aging population and aging workforce, we consider the relationship between cognitive function and paid work. Cognitive function is maintained for most adults as they age, and there is evidence of a positive relationship between stimulating and engaging work environments and both levels of cognitive function and their maintenance over time. At the same time, irregular and long work hours are associated with poorer cognitive outcomes. However, the relationship between paid work and cognitive function is complex; education and training as well as health status are also related to cognitive function and work. We discuss implications for policy makers and areas where further research is required.