Data on Canadian Immigrants from 'Shithole' Countries Might Surprise Trump

By Magesan, Arvind; of, Associate Professor et al. | The Canadian Press, January 15, 2018 | Go to article overview

Data on Canadian Immigrants from 'Shithole' Countries Might Surprise Trump


Magesan, Arvind, of, Associate Professor, Calgary, University of, The Canadian Press


Data on Canadian immigrants from 'shithole' countries might surprise Trump

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This article was originally published on The Conversation, an independent and nonprofit source of news, analysis and commentary from academic experts. Disclosure information is available on the original site.

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Author: Arvind Magesan, Associate Professor of Economics, University of Calgary

Defenders of Donald Trump say his "shithole countries" remark regarding people from Africa, Haiti and other nations was just Trump being Trump -- the president may have used salty language, but it's really just his way of saying the United States should have a merit-based immigration system like Canada's.

A generous interpretation of Trump's comments are that immigrants from certain so-called "shithole" countries -- African nations, Haiti and El Salvador -- are not typically highly skilled or economically self-reliant, and if admitted would need to depend on the state.

In fact, Trump apologists -- and the president himself -- might be surprised by what the economic data says about immigrants who come to Canada from the "shithole" countries.

John Fredericks, who was Trump's campaign chair in Virginia, told CNN that immigrants from those countries "come into the United States and they do nothing to increase the prosperity of the American worker. They lower wages or go on welfare and extend our entitlement system .... Australia and Canada have a merit-based system. You know why they do that? Because they want to bring people into their country who are going to enhance the prosperity of their citizens."

Trump himself tweeted a similar sentiment.

The conclusion we are expected to make, it seems, is that if the United States was to adopt a purely merit-based system, immigrants would not come from these countries -- they would come from countries like Norway, and immigrants from these Norway-like countries would not put pressure on blue-collar U.S. workers because they would be highly skilled and, more importantly, they wouldn't be a drain on the system because they would be economically self-reliant.

A merit-based system

Canada offers an opportunity to take a look at this hypothesis because our points-based immigration system screens immigrants on merit to a large degree. So when we screen immigrants on merit, who do we let in and how do they do?

The first thing to note is that Canada admits many immigrants from the "shithole" countries.

Data from the 2016 Census shows over the last five years there have been more than twice as many immigrants from Central America and the Caribbean (which includes Haiti and El Salvador) than there were from the U.S. There were also more immigrants from the African continent than from the U.S. and North and Western Europe combined.

Clearly a merit-based system does not mean we only admit people from the "Norways" of the world -- and in fact, the census data shows only 230 people immigrated from Norway over the five-year period.

The next question is how do these immigrants fare?

To look more closely at this, I used individual 2011 Canadian census data (detailed 2016 data isn't yet available) to look at three groups: Canadians whose families have been here for three generations or longer; immigrants from the "Norways" of the world (Northern and Western Europe, including the U.K., Germany, and Scandanavia) and immigrants from Trump's "shithole" countries (Central America, the Caribbean, Africa).

I looked at the skill levels of the different groups, as measured by their education level, and then at their economic self-sufficiency: Employment, wages and how much they receive in transfers and employment benefits from the government. …

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