Stalled Mobility? Income Inequality and Intergenerational Relationships Among Newcomer South Asian and Chinese Households in York Region

Income equality has declined for newcomers and there is every reason to believe that inter-generational mobility may have also stalled. Evidence suggests that recent migrants are experiencing lower rates of employment and living on the margin of skilled labour for a longer period of time after their arrival than cohorts who landed between 1961 and 1991 (Ruddick, 2003; Green et al, 2016). Racialized migrants are particularly susceptible to experiencing employment precarity and low- income (Fuller, 2015; Galabuzi, 2006). Even though newcomers were doing better financially by 2010 compared to the past thirty years, still the rate of low-income for recent migrants was 2.5 times higher than the rate for the Canadian-born (Statistics Canada, 2014). Racialized newcomers contend with income instability and establishing social supports in finding employment and negotiating family relations. Ethno-racial, diverse, and multi-generational households are the fastest growing form in urban Canada (Statistics Canada, 2017) suggesting that income in/security may be inter-generationally shared in households. Newcomer income insecurity strains may be exacerbated by generational differences, such as in perceptions of how children should integrate into their new country and retain cultural knowledge and tradition (Hassan et al., 2008). South Asian and Chinese women’s greater responsibility for care-giving may reflect cultural discourses of loyalty and filial piety and the lack of affordable child care (Spitzer et al., 2003). There is limited research that addresses what enhances or hinders newcomers’ economic resilience and how, these factors affect their settlement in Canadian society. Clearly there remains a complex story to be told about recent immigrants and their continuing economic vulnerability in Canada. We explore how social, economic and cultural capital and strategies employed by newcomer South Asian and Chinese households impact their survival and inter-generational family relationships. Secondary questions include: How is income inequality differently experienced in the family households of recent Chinese versus South Asian migrants? What new income strategies do newcomers adopt? How do these strategies affect opportunities for income mobility for younger generations? How might inter-generational family relationships be preserved or strained by the income strategies of newcomers?

Knowledge Mobilization is a key aspect of this partnership and we plan to create one information workshop in early 2018 to disseminate our findings from the study on Individual Resilience factors as well as our Resilience Pathways model. This will allow other collaborators to learn and integrate these findings in other ongoing projects within our partnership. Secondly, we will devise a special version of this workshop for Settlement sector and agencies that are integral part of this partnership.

  • Phase One: January 2018-June, 2019
    1. Conceptual Development: Develop a theoretical perspective using life course and intersectionality theories to understand income inequality and intergenerational mobility.
    2. Literature review: Review material on income inequality among newcomers, income strategies employed by newcomers, intergenerational mobility issues among newcomer households, and the links between resilience and strategies.
    3. Develop Demographic Questionnaire and Semi-structured Interview Guide: A brief demographic survey will be developed to be completed by midlife migrants and all consenting members of ‘the family’, 16 years or older to collect basic background information (e.g. gender, age, education, marital status, number of children). We will alter this design as necessary during the follow-up interviews and ensure that participants fill out the questionnaire three times over the course of the project. We will develop a semi-structured Interview Guide written through a life course lens in combination with intersectionality theory. Our guide wil focus participant answers retrospectively in the present and prospectively and prompt for culturally nuanced discussion (see samples in the appendix).
    4. Recruitment of Participants: We will collaborate with our community partners in the South Asian and Chinese communities in York Region to recruit our initial mid-life, low-income participants. Low-income has been identifed as an urgent settlement issue. Chinese (Hong Kong and mainland China) and South Asians (Punjabi and Tamil) represent the two largest sources of recent migrants in York Region. Comparing two different groups at three different points in time will allow us a deeper understanding of how groups use their economic, social and cultural capital as they settle in Canada.
    5. Data Gathering: We will begin by interviewing one mid-life adult (45-64 years) who identifies as lowincome in a household. From that individual, we will snowball sample in order to interview up to four generations within the same households (a minimum of two generations and a maximum of four generations). Our goal is to complete interviews with a total of 40 households, (20 South Asian families and 20 Chinese families), to a maximum of 120 people interviewed. Interviews will be completed over eighteen months, at three points in time, each being six months apart. We hope to be able to interview at least one mid-life newcomer, one youth (age 16 and older) and at least one older adult migrant.
    6. Training of Community Researchers: If necessary, we will train community researchers who will help in data gathering and transcription in relevant languages.
  • Phase Two: July, 2019- December, 2019
    1. Coding and Initial Analysis: NVivo will be used for coding thematical. Tuesday, May 23, 2017
  • Phase Three: January, 2020-September, 2020
    1. Write Up Final Analysis: Jan, 2020 - September, 2020
    2. Write Up Final Reports: Prepare academic and community reports.

Principal Investigators:

  • JNancy Mandell
  • Amber Gazso (
  • Guida Man (
  • Larry Lam (
Community Partners:
  • Human Endeavour
  • First Chinese Senior Association of Vaughan
  • Chinese Canadian National Council
  • Toronto Chapter

What is our approach?