Academic journal article Canadian Ethnic Studies Journal

Racial Variations in Ethnic Identity among the Children of Immigrants in Canada

Academic journal article Canadian Ethnic Studies Journal

Racial Variations in Ethnic Identity among the Children of Immigrants in Canada

Article excerpt


Using data from the Ethnic Diversity Survey, we study the impact of parental human capital, family socialization, co-ethnic friendship, and experience of discrimination on ethnic Identity formation among the children of immigrants from diverse ethnic backgrounds. In addition, we examine the extent to which these factors account for racial variations in ethnic identity attainment. The results show that racial minority children of immigrants are more likely to attain ethnic identity than their white counterparts. We also find racial variation is explained by parental human capital, family socialization, co-ethnic friendship, and past experience of discrimination. We discuss implications of our findings for Canada's multiculturalism policy, which promotes the formation and maintenance of ethnic identity.


Dans cette etude, nous utilisons les donnees de l'Enquete sur la diversite ethnique pour examiner l'impact du capital humain des parents, la socialisation familiale, les rapports entre amis de differentes ethnies, et l'experience de la discrimination sur la formation de l'identite ethnique des enfants d'immigrants de diverses origines ethniques. Nous cherchons aussi a voir si ces facteurs expliquent les variations raciales dans la construction de l'identite ethnique. Les resultats montrent que les enfants d'immigrants de minorite raciale sont plus susceptibles de se forger une identite ethnique que leurs homologues blancs. De plus, les quatre facteurs expliquent la variation raciale. Nous discutons des Implications de nos resultats pour la politique canadienne du multiculturalisme.


Children of racial minority immigrants represent a growing segment of the Canadian population, reflecting the removal of barriers to the entry of immigrants from non-European countries in the 1960s (Reitz 2012). This has created a dramatic shift in immigrant source countries to Asia, Latin America, the Caribbean, and Africa over the last four decades (Boyd and Vickers 2000). As a result, nearly 30% of immigrant offspring today are racial minorities, predominantly South Asians, Chinese, and Blacks (Statistics Canada 2011). We are now finding that some children of the new mix of foreign-born immigrants have different integration outcomes from others. For example, children of Black immigrants tend to attain lower socioeconomic outcomes (e.g., education and earnings), while South Asian and Chinese children are more likely to experience upward mobility than their white counterparts (Abada and Tenkorang 2009; Boyd 2002; Reitz et al. 2011). While the socioeconomic attainment of immigrant offspring has been extensively studied, their psychosocial adaptation or ethnic identity attainment has not, at least in Canada (Walters et al. 2007; Wu et al. 2012). This is problematic, as the policy of multiculturalism posits that maintaining cultural heritage is important; it also assumes whites and racial minorities alike are inclined to preserve their cultural heritage (Moghaddam and Taylor 1987). However, if ethnic identity is unequally attained and maintained along colour lines, the current policy may fail to promote cultural diversity regardless of one's racial and majority/minority status. (1)

This study focuses on the ethnic identity of immigrant offspring from diverse ethnoracial backgrounds in Canada. Admittedly, some studies have dealt with this topic, yet they are largely qualitative and their findings may not be generalizable to the broad second-generation population (Hiller and Chow 2005; Somerville 2008). Moreover, Phinney et al. (2001b) argue that most ethnic identity studies have focused on a single ethnic group, and thus, differences in ethnic identity attainment between different racial groups are underexplored. Therefore, this paper makes two major contributions to the literature. First, it uses nationally representative data to study the determinants of ethnic identity attainment among the growing population of children of immigrants. …

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