Population Change and Lifecourse


Research Briefs

PCLC Research/Policy Brief now available in Scholarship@Western

Research Brief No. 24, September 2015
(IN)Visible Minorities in Canadian Health Data and Research

This study examines the nature and extent of data and research on the role of race or visible minority status on health in Canada. Visible minorities represent a rapidly growing segment of Canada’s population. Approximately one in five Canadians is a member of a visible minority group. Policy makers and researchers are often unable to answer important questions related to visible minority health such as: Are visible minority Canadians healthier or less healthy than their white counterparts? Do risk factors for health conditions differ for visible minority and white Canadians? And how do different visible minority groups compare with one another on health outcomes and measures? Our review of the existing literature on visible minority health indicates that there is a paucity of data and research on the health of visible minorities in Canada, alone, and in comparison to ‘mainstream’ (white) Canadians. We recommend that there is a need for basic health data for visible minorities. Many current health surveys are severely limited by small sample sizes of visible minorities. We recommend oversampling visible minorities in standard health surveys such as the Canadian Community Health Survey, or conducting targeted health surveys of visible minorities. Surveys should collect information on key socio-demographic characteristics such as nativity, visible minority status, socioeconomic status, and age-at-arrival for immigrants.

We also recommend that if data were available, researchers consider an intersectionality approach in their analyses. Intersectionality is a flexible holistic approach that takes into account the multiple factors that may affect a visible minority person’s health, including the role of discrimination based on racial status, immigrant characteristics for foreign-born visible minorities, age and the role of ageism for older adults, socioeconomic status, gender (for visible minority women), and geographic place of residence.

Research Brief No. 23, January 2015
Exiting Poverty in Canada

This study investigates the determinants of poverty duration in Canada, and examines which factors may affect women and men differently. It specifically focuses on poverty exit destinations: exits to just above the poverty line versus exits to further above the poverty line. Results show that nearly 25% of poverty spells end within 110% of the poverty line, meaning near poverty. The study also indicates that receiving social assistance, being an immigrant, being disabled, and having pre-school aged children are strongly associated with both a lower probability of exiting poverty, and a lower probability of exiting to higher income levels. Finally, gender differences in the probability of exiting poverty spells appear mainly in terms of education, employment, and changes in marital status.

Research Brief No. 22, October 2014  
New research perspectives on population ageing and healthcare costs in Québec

This research is concerned with the individual determinants associated with the public costs of health care in Quebec, for persons with disabilities, aged 65 and over, and living in private households. Using administrative data, variations in cost for consultations with healthcare professionals and the use of pharmaceuticals has been analysed according to the number and nature of these disabilities. The results show that increased costs are associated with a greater number of disabilities, as well as with certain specific types of disability, such as difficulties in agility, mobility and especially in cognition.

Research Brief No. 21, October 2014  
Academic Performance and Educational Pathways of Allophone Youth: A Comparative Analysis of Montreal, Toronto, and Vancouver

This study examines the academic performance and educational pathways of students who do not speak the language of schooling at home—that is, French in Montreal and English in Toronto and Vancouver. Overall, we discover that these students, who consist of almost exclusively allophones, graduate more or less as other students but, when their personal characteristics are controlled, they appear to succeed much better, especially in Vancouver. However, there are substantial differences in performance between linguistic subgroups of allophones. Further, these subgroups tend to show varied results by city. Educational authorities should therefore pay special attention to the criteria used to allocate funds to schools with a high concentration of these groups, as “one-size fits all” support is not evidence-based.

Research Brief No. 20, September 2014  
Population growth, energy use, and environmental impact: Comparing Canadian and Swedish records on CO2 emissions

Canada and Sweden are both northern countries with predominantly export-oriented economies that have recently witnessed demographic growth and climbing affluence. However, there is a stark contrast in their respective records on greenhouse gas emissions: Sweden is often considered a world leader in emission reduction, while Canada has largely failed to meet international commitments. This study aims to understand the factors responsible for their differing records. It demonstrates that Canada’s relatively rapid population growth, persistent reliance on fossil fuels, and heavy demand for energy have contributed to its increasing level of CO2 emissions. On the other hand, Sweden has managed to move away from fossil fuel dependency and intense energy use while still driving economic activity.

Research Brief No. 19, September 2014  
Homeownership Trends Among Immigrants

This study compares homeownership rates for immigrants and the Canadian-born. Homeownership is a particularly useful indicator of immigrants’ economic progress and long-term commitment to Canada. In general, immigrant households achieve rapid gains in homeownership with longer residence in Canada. Immigrants who have lived in Canada for 20 years or longer have homeownership rates similar to the Canadian-born. Recent immigrants face some initial challenges, but are moving into homeownership and closing the gap in homeownership rates with the Canadian-born and earlier immigrant cohorts. There are socioeconomic and ethnic differences, however, in immigrants’ homeownership rates.

Research Brief No. 18, January 2014  
Marriage or Cohabitation: No Impact on the Children's Academic Success

In Quebec society, cohabitation has become an alternative to marriage in the formation of families. However, very little research has compared the development of the children of cohabiting parents to those of married parents.  Similarly, the effects of separation of a cohabitation arrangement and of a marriage have rarely been distinguished from one another. Using a representative sample of 1,347 children from the Quebec Longitudinal Study of Child Development (ÉLDEQ), this study looks at the links between parental marital status at the time of the children’s birth, the occurrence of separation and children’s Grade One academic performance (as evaluated by teachers and cognitive tests). The moderating role of gender is also examined. Contrary to the observations of American researchers, this study finds no negative association between birth in cohabitation and academic performance in Quebec.  In fact, for girls, somewhat weak positive associations are observed. Lastly, parental separation is sometimes linked to weaker academic performance, but this relationship varies according to marital status at the time of birth and to the gender of the child.

Research Brief No. 17, November 2013  
Rethinking Retirement

Current pension policies in Canada do not take into account rising life expectancy. A Canadian worker in 1950 who retired at age 65 could expect to live 4 years in retirement.  In 2006, a Canadian retiring at age 65 can now expect to have 16 years in retirement. Older workers can be a valuable resource with their years of experience that can be used to train younger replacement workers through the use of partial retirement schemes. Since many older workers would prefer to keep working after age 65, employers would benefit by offering flexible retirement schemes, such as a reduced work week.  Age discrimination and rigid pension and retirement plans  can force many older workers to stop working before they are ready.  Public policy should make it easier for older workers to remain in the workforce, creating flexible policies that help workers at all ages to succeed.

Research Brief No. 16, September 2013  
The Effects of Age and Background on the Fertility Patterns of Child Migrants

This paper challenges the common notion that immigrants have more children than the native-born population. More specifically, immigrants who arrived in Canada, England or France at an early age have about the same number of children as the native-born. By examining child immigrants, the paper is able to attribute this finding to the hypothesis that, with time, immigrants adopt the destination country’s norms. The results also show that the relationship between age at migration and number of children differs for immigrants from certain countries. Likewise, the fertility patterns of child migrants also depend on their destination country.

Research Brief No. 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.

Research Brief No. 14, April 2013  
Family trajectories and support networks for tomorrow's elderly Canadians

For some decades, behaviours affecting parenthood and the lives of couples have changed considerably, upsetting at the same time the family networks of Canadians. In the future, these changes will undeniably have repercussions on the provision of assistance to seniors. In this context, we observe how the stages of married life and parenting have evolved for persons born between 1923 and 1972. In this way, we compare today’s seniors with tomorrow’s, the latter corresponding to the baby-boomers. The results show that the behaviours of the latter individuals have become more diverse and complex compared to those of their predecessors. This raises questions about the family ties that tomorrow’s seniors will maintain.

Research Brief No. 13, March 2013
The Social and Health Service Needs of Aboriginal Peoples in Urban Southern Ontario

The disproportionate needs of urban Aboriginal people make it important for urban social and health service providers to understand the conditions faced by this population. This synthesis paper reviews recent literature on urban Aboriginal populations in order to identify their characteristics and main areas of need. It is meant to inform those who work in health and social service planning and delivery in smaller urban centers, particularly non-Aboriginal service agencies in Southern Ontario. The existing research shows that urbanized First Nations, Métis and Inuit have greater needs for specific health, cultural, justice, financial, and educational services. Furthermore, the literature indicates that it is important that these services are provided in a way that respects, includes, and promotes pride in Aboriginal cultures and histories.

Research Brief No. 12, February 2013  
The Effect of Work Arrangements on Perceived Work-Family Balance

The combined demands of the modern work world and raising a healthy family have many Canadian struggling to find enough time. Canadians are working more and more hours while wages largely remain stagnant. In order to address this growing concern, alternate work arrangements have been increasingly used to help employees strike some degree of work-family balance and decrease related issues of absenteeism and turnover in the workplace. This research explores the effect of three unique work strategies — flexible schedules, shift work and self-employment — on men and women in dual-earner families. It examines each arrangement’s impact on reported satisfaction with balance between family and work lives. Results indicate that using flexible schedules and increasing employees’ enjoyment of their work can help promote work-family balance.

Research Brief No. 11, December 2012  
How Costs Affect Student Choice of University

This study delves into the link between the cost to attain an undergraduate degree and the choice of university among academically stronger students. By looking at Ontario Undergraduate Application Centre data as well as the average family income in the student’s neighbourhood, researchers were able to conclude that the number of strong registrants at a university does not change substantially when there is a change in the net cost (tuition minus entry scholarship) of attending the institution. Entry scholarships usually are granted solely on the basis of high school grades and are guaranteed to any qualified applicant. There are, however, changes in the type of strong student that registers: when net cost rises, more students from high-income neighbourhoods and fewer from low to medium-income neighbourhoods will apply for the Arts and Science programs. There is no discernible difference in professional programs like Commerce and Engineering. The study also concludes that there are only very small differences among university students from low-, medium- and high-income neighborhoods in the likelihood of winning an entry scholarship.

Research Brief No. 10, December 2012
Analyzing Canadian Women Working after Childbirth as Lifecourse Transition

This research focussed on Canadian mothers who had a first child between 1970 and 1999, and the probability of these mothers working shortly after childbearing. Authors Stéphanie Gaudet, Martin Cooke and Joanna Jacob studied the change and underlying dynamics with two main questions. First, what are the characteristics that affect Canadian women’s employment? And how have women’s employment transitions after the birth of a first child changed over time? The investigators probed the effects of socio-economic characteristics on labor force withdrawal using the 2001 General Social Survey, Cycle 15 on Family History. Employment transition was viewed through a type of lifecourse analysis for six cohorts of mothers over the 30-year span. Gaudet, Cooke and Jacob attempted to understand underlying inter-cohort differences through individual characteristics such as level of education, age at childbearing, employment before childbearing, and spousal income. The researchers concluded that since the mid-1980s, mothers with low educational attainment are largely excluded from the labor market during the two years following the birth of their first child.

Research Brief No. 9, October 2012
Racial Minority Immigrant Offspring Successes in the United States, Canada, and Australia

How well-off are second-generation immigrants in the US, Canada, and Australia? In this study, we examine the successes of immigrant offspring as compared to the respective mainstream populations (third- and higher-generation whites). We also ask whether cross-national differences in the successes of immigrants carry over to their children. We discover that the educational, occupational, and income achievements of second-generation immigrants are very similar for several ethnic groups across these countries. Each country shows common patterns of high achievement for the Chinese and South Asian second generation, less for those of other Asian origins, and still less for Afro-Caribbean blacks.

Research Brief No. 8, September 2012
A Widening Parental Leisure Gap

Who in Canada, the United States, and the United Kingdom have the least time for leisure? Our study finds that the distribution of leisure time today depends not only on gender, as previously found, but also on family and employment status. Since the 1960s, the amount of leisure time available to men and to women has become increasingly similar. However, parents of young children and those employed full-time are having increasingly less time for leisure than nonparents and those who are not employed. These analyses demonstrate the need to qualify accounts of over-work and the double-burden.

Research Brief No. 7, July 2012  
Social Participation in Canada Viewed through a Life Course Approach

The level of participation in civic and public life in Canada fell significantly from 1992 to 2005. This prompted author Stéphanie Gaudet to ask: how has social participation evolved from 1992 to 2005? And, who are the individuals who participated socially in 2005? Previous studies and policy development on social participation have largely neglected the collective dimension of communities and life course approaches. At the heart of Gaudet’s research, therefore, is a need to further understanding of changes in the life courses of Canadians. In turn, this understanding can help policy makers develop finely tuned policies to foster greater individual engagement within communities. In this study, social participation by the individual is operationalized as the gift of time to an organization or other individuals. In essence, this captures formal (volunteer) and informal (mutual aid) engagement with the community. The General Social Survey on Time Use for the years 1992, 1998, and 2005 provides data on social participation changes in the lives of Canadians.

Research Brief No. 6, June 2012
Family Background and Economic Mobility in the United States and Canada

Canadians and Americans have very similar notions of what constitutes the “good life”: largely economic success, stability, health and freedom. They also both believe that the way to achieve that success is through hard work, ambition and personal choices. However, there is a large gap between the ability of Canadians and Americans to achieve a different economic status than their parents. On average, three times more economic inequality is passed on in the United States than in Canada, and the largest gaps occur at the extremes of the spectrum: the richest segment of the population and the poorest. This gap comes about despite similar ideas of what constitutes success and how that success should be attained. In particular, there are significant differences in how Canadians and Americans make monetary and non-monetary investments in children.

Research Brief No. 5, February 2012
The changing impact of motherhood on employment across generations of Canadian women

Women’s work histories are closely interwoven with motherhood, as shown by previous studies that have examined Canadian women’s family histories in relation to their movements of entry into—and exit from—the labour market. These studies have either supported or reinforced, at least implicitly, the existence of an incompatibility between motherhood and paid work. The results of these studies are interesting in that they provided a broad picture of how Canadian women adapted their work lives according to family events. However, the image they reveal is static and incomplete, failing to highlight the changes experienced among recent generations of women. We examined the relationships between motherhood and women’s entry and exit from the workplace and how it has evolved across the generations, by studying women born between 1937 and 1976. Studying the various generations of women allows us to consider a range of possible strategies open to women, given the constraints and opportunities of institutional and social settings across generations. These changes are studied on the basis of retrospective data from Statistics Canada’s 2001 General Social Survey on family history.

Research Brief No. 4, February 2012
An International Comparison of Lifetime Inequality: How Continental Europe Resembles North America

Is earnings inequality in North America as high as previous research has suggested? And how does North America compare to Europe? Previous studies on this topic have found a higher level of earnings inequality in North America than in Continental Europe. However, these studies have focused largely on earnings in a single year. In their forthcoming study on earnings inequality, authors Audra Bowlus and Jean-Marc Robin develop a new methodology for investigating and comparing earnings inequality in North America and Europe. The methodology developed by Bowlus and Robin constructs a measure of lifetime earnings in order to compare lifetime earnings inequality across countries. By focusing on lifetime earnings, the authors find that earnings inequality is smaller in North America than single‑year earnings comparisons would suggest. In fact, due to cross‑country differences in how earnings change over an individual’s lifetime, there may be no difference in lifetime earnings inequality between North America and Europe.

Research Brief No. 3, January 2012
Disability and Support Networks of Older Canadians

The percentage of older Canadians requiring assistance with health-related tasks due to a longterm health condition increases sharply with age (Chen & Wilkins, 1998). As the first of the Boomers reach age 65 in 2011, it is of great interest to identify trends in disability and support network usage, to better predict future needs and resources within community care. This project used data from five national datasets to investigate the global disability rate and examine sociodemographic characteristics associated with disability and the use of informal and formal support networks to assist older adults with a health problem in performing everyday activities. No significant trend in levels of disability was identified for the period 1994/95-2000/01 when controlling for socio-demographic variables (age, sex, education, marital status, region of residence, and country of origin), suggesting stability in disability rates over time. Analysis of support network utilization revealed socio-demographic characteristics associated with need and receipt of formal and informal support; strong correlations were found for age and disability level.

Research Brief No. 2, December 2009
Models of Earning and Caring: Trends, Determinants and Implications

Families in Canada have undergone changes regarding the ways in which they earn a living and care for each other. Data taken from Statistics Canada time use surveys of 1986, 1992, 1998, and 2005 show changes in the average number of hours of paid and unpaid work completed by men and women. The shared roles model accounts for approximately one quarter of couples, and these report higher average measures of happiness and life satisfaction. Analysis of the various models shows that life course questions, as well as structural and cultural considerations are relevant. In particular, the presence of children, the relative resources of men and women, rural vs. urban lifestyle, language and religion all play a role in determining the models. The indicators of well-being and social support show mixed results across models. However, when one takes happiness and life satisfaction as an indicator, the shared model seems to have more positive implications for both men and women. Therefore, we propose a focus on social policies that promote equal opportunities in the broader society, and structural supports for gender egalitarianism in households. Given the aspirations for relationships based on mutuality and sharing, we propose that these supports would facilitate a continued increase in the number of families in the shared model.

Research Brief No. 1, September 2009
Social Inclusion of the Oldest-Old: Toward Supportive Housing Policies

Although most seniors aged 85+ live relatively independently in the community, research on this age group tends to focus on the negative aspects of aging. This study looks instead at seniors aged 85 and older who are living well and semi-independently in their communities with the help of an informal care provider. The study aims to identify the mechanisms that allow them to live with dignity and autonomy in their own homes and remain socially included in their communities. We conducted in-depth, semi-structured interviews with 16 individuals aged 85 to 94 years and their primary informal support-persons in Southwestern Ontario, from Hamilton to Chatham. The result is evidence-based information about how the “oldest-old” and their caregivers manage to overcome problems seniors experience with daily tasks such as mobility, transportation and cooking. The research identifies optimal environments in which these “caring relationships” can be sustained and in which seniors can flexibly manage daily life and continue to stay in their own homes.