Chinese and White immigrants highest homeowners

June 19, 2007

In both Canada and the U.S., Chinese and White immigrants have the highest adjusted homeownership rates of all groups, at times even exceeding comparably positioned native-born households, according to a University of Alberta sociologist who compared rates by skin colour and across countries. Black immigrants, on the other hand, have the lowest rates of all groups, with Filipinos and South Asians situated between these extremes.

Dr. Michael Haan's study is the first to look at homeownership patterns across these two countries over a 30-year period. The paper is published in the journal "International Migration Review."

"I expected it to be easier for immigrants in multicultural Canada to become homeowners," said Haan. "There is a lot of literature on mortgage discrimination and redlining in the United States, so you might expect problems to be more prevalent there. Although research is lacking on housing discrimination in Canada, my results suggest that we're not as different from Americans as we often like to think. Life is getting increasingly difficult for immigrants in both countries."

Many of the differences can be traced back to differences at, or shortly after, time of arrival, says Haan, and not to trends that emerge while in Canada or the United States. "Those first few years in a new country are critical," said Haan. "To understand what's happening there, you have to look at things like wealth, social networks, attitudes towards housing, and knowledge of the real estate market. All of these things matter."

It is important to know why immigrants aren't buying homes as quickly anymore, said Haan, because of the economic and social repercussions. "If you come as a refugee from a small village in Vietnam or Somalia, for example, how are you supposed to immediately secure the credit to get a $300,000 mortgage" Yet, it is important that you do, because owning a home provides better access to good schools, allows for greater interaction with the Canadian community, and is a psychological sign of success."

Although the levels of homeownership differ between groups, the rate at which homes are bought in Canada and the United States is similar, but slowing over time, for whites included. This illustrates that change in the skin colour composition of recent immigrants is not a major reason for falling immigrant homeownership rates in either country. To demonstrate this, Haan reweighs the visible minority composition of more recent arrival cohorts to those of earlier years, and finds negligible differences.
For more information, please contact:
Dr. Michael Haan, Faculty of Arts
University of Alberta, (780)492-0487
Phoebe Dey, Public Affairs
University of Alberta, (780)492-0437

University of Alberta

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