Discussion Paper no. 03-08


This paper examines the relationship between family change and economic well-being among recent immigrant families with children to Canada over the 1977-1997 period. Defining recent immigrants as those having migrated within the past decade, this study documents a substantial decline in the average level of economic well being of immigrants who migrated during the 1990s relative to those who migrated in the 1970s and 1980s. Whereas the average income to needs ratio of all Canadian families with children is up modestly over this period, this same generalization is not true when shifting our emphasis to recent immigrants. In this context, to the extent that change in family circumstances is relevant, an increased incidence of lone parenthood has had a net negative effect on the economic well-being of recent immigrants - in a manner that is analogous to other Canadian families. Other changes in family structure and living arrangements appear to be of lesser importance in shaping recent trends, including change in the average number of children per family, the age distribution of the parents of children and the tendency of immigrants to co-reside with family members beyond the immediate nuclear family.