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Refugee Children from Poland and Vietnam Economic Trajectories

Researchers: Yoko Yoshida1, Jonathan Amoyaw2, and Rachel McLay1
Affiliation: Dalhousie University1 and the University of Saskatchewan2
Keywords: refugee and immigrant children, economic trajectory, adulthood, family class, economic class, Poland, Vietnam, Canada, employment income, IMDB
Go To: Findings, Graphs


The experiences of refugee children may differ from those of other immigrant children due to forced migration, disruptions to education, exposure to violence, and traumatic experiences, which may have long-term effects on their well-being and economic success in the host country. However, while refugee children may have some experiences in common, they are a highly heterogeneous group. Coming from a variety of different social and political contexts and economic backgrounds, and with varying levels of human capital, many factors are likely to influence the economic trajectories of immigrant and refugee children and youth throughout their adulthood.

This study uses the Longitudinal Immigrant Database (IMDB), which combines information from immigrants’ landing records with their tax files, to look at the employment incomes of those who arrived in Canada as children from Vietnam and Poland—two large source countries of refugees between 1980 and 1994. We follow their economic trajectories through mid-adulthood, tracking results from ages 25 to 45.



  • There is little difference in employment incomes between the landing categories at age 25; however, refugees, both government-assisted (GARs) and privately-sponsored (PSRs), have the lowest earnings trajectories. At age 45, the average earning for GARs and PSRs are below $41,000, while the children of skilled worker immigrants earn nearly $51,000, on average.
  • The children of skilled worker immigrants have the highest earning trajectory.


  • There are no discernible differences in young adulthood across the landing categories in terms of employment income; for all groups, the predicted incomes at age 25 are about $28,000.
  • Refugees tend to increase their earning substantially, and their rate of earning growth exceeds those of children of economic and family class immigrants. For PSRs and GARs, the predicted earnings at age 45 increases to $73,500 and $67,200 respectively, compared to $55,000 for the children of skilled worker and family class immigrants.


  • Refugees are typically seen as uniquely disadvantaged by their circumstances, especially compared to skilled workers and their children. This assumption is reflected in the findings for Vietnamese immigrants, but not for Polish immigrants. These differences in economic outcomes among refugees may point to the negative effects of racialization processes in Canada, or they may reflect important differences in the socioeconomic backgrounds of refugee families, in the context of their departure, and their immigration experiences


Figure 1: Predicted employment incomes by landing category: Vietnam

Figure 2: Predicted employment incomes by landing category: Poland

Figure 1: Predicted employment incomes by landing category: Vietnam

Figure 2: Predicted employment incomes by landing category: Poland

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