Throughout Canada’s history, immigration has played a pivotal role and continues to be a significant contributor to its economy and diversity. Approximately 38 million people live in Canada as of 2021, of whom over 22% are foreign-born.
Immigrants have been welcomed in great numbers in recent years. There were over 340,000 new permanent residents admitted to Canada in 2019. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, Canada admitted over 184,000 new permanent residents in 2020, according to data from Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), a significant decrease from 2019. Most immigrants come from Asia, including India, China, and the Philippines.
A recent study conducted at the University of Toronto, published in the Journal of Health Economics, analyzed data from over 150,000 births in Ontario between 2002 and 2015. The study found that babies of immigrant parents in low-income neighborhoods have a healthier birth rate than babies of non-immigrant parents. In contrast to the popular belief that low-income neighborhoods are inherently unhealthy, this study highlights the potential benefits of cultural ties and family support in low-income neighborhoods.
The study suggests that cultural factors and family ties may play a role in explaining these differences. However, it is unclear why they exist. During pregnancy and after birth, immigrants may be more likely to have strong support networks and adhere to traditional family values and practices, resulting in healthier behaviors. For example, the study found that immigrant mothers were more likely to breastfeed their babies, which is associated with a range of health benefits, including lower rates of infection and chronic disease. Immigrant parents were also less likely to smoke or consume alcohol during pregnancy, which can increase the risk of low birth weight and other health problems. Another factor that may contribute to better health outcomes among immigrant families is access to prenatal care. The study found that immigrant mothers were more likely to receive prenatal care in the first trimester of pregnancy, which is considered critical for promoting healthy fetal development.
The study suggests that public health interventions should take factors, such as strong family ties and cultural practices into account when designing programs to improve health outcomes in low-income neighborhoods. Although more research is needed to fully understand the factors influencing these differences, the findings suggest that a more nuanced approach to public health interventions may improve health outcomes more effectively for all families, regardless of socioeconomic status or cultural background.