Becoming a citizen is a significant milestone in the lives of many immigrants in Canada.

However, a new study by Statistics Canada has found an overall decline in the rate of acquisition of citizenship in the past 20 years.

Moreover, the rate is varied, depending on the personal circumstances of newcomers to the country.

Released on November 13, 2019, the study titled ‘Trends in the Citizenship Rate Among New Immigrants to Canada’ indicates that immigrants with low family incomes and educational attainment, and who are not native speakers of either English or French, experienced a larger decline in citizenship acquisition compared to their more advantaged counterparts.

“When all three of these factors—family income, knowledge of official languages, and educational attainment—are combined, the citizenship rate was more or less constant between 1996 and 2016 for the most advantaged group of recent immigrants (i.e., with a high income, university education, and English or French as a mother tongue),” according to the study. 

The document continued: “In contrast, it declined significantly among the more disadvantaged group (i.e., with a low income, high school or less education and mother tongue not English or French).”

The study was conducted by Feng Hou of Statistics Canada, and Garnett Picot of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada.

The authors used Census data from 1991 to 2016 to review changes in the citizenship rate among recent immigrants who meet the residency requirement to become citizens.

Overall, the “results show that the citizenship rate among recent immigrants peaked in 1996 and declined considerably since then”. 

“This decline primarily occurred after 2006,” according to the study.

The study focused on immigrants aged 18 and older who arrived in Canada five to nine years prior to a given Census.

Summarizing the results in Statistics Canada’s bulletin The Daily, the federal agency stated that among recent immigrants eligible for citizenship, the citizenship rate rose from 68.6 percent in 1991 to 75.4 percent in 1996.

However, the rate declined to 60.4 percent in 2016. Much of the 15 percent decline happened after 2006.

The bulletin noted that lower family income, lower knowledge of official languages, and lower educational levels were “associated with a larger decline in citizenship rates”.

“Among recent immigrants in the lowest family income category (adult-equivalent adjusted income of $10,000 or less), for example, the rate declined from 75.0% in 1996 to 51.5% in 2016,” the Statistics Canada stated. 

“In comparison, the rate among recent immigrants in the highest family income category (over $100,000) dropped from 69.7% to 66.7%,” the bulletin continued.

[Generally, equivalent adult income is obtained by dividing total household income by the number of household members, who are also weighted by need according to their age.]

Statistics Canada also noted that over the period from 1996 to2016, “citizenship rate declined from 69.2% to 61.0% among recent immigrants whose mother tongue was English or French, compared with a decline from 79.7% to 63.4% among immigrants whose mother tongue was not English or French but who could speak English or French”.

“Among recent immigrants with a bachelor's or higher degree, the citizenship rate decreased from 80.9% to 67.1% over the 1996-to-2016 period,” the bulletin likewise stated. “Among high school graduates, the rate declined from 75.7% to 55.4%.”

Going back to the study, Hou and Picot wrote that acquiring citizenship can “benefit both immigrants and receiving countries in many ways”. 

“For example, becoming a citizen gives immigrants the right to vote and enables them to exert political influence, and it may improve immigrants’ economic opportunities,” the authors stated.


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