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Why Migrants Stay in Small and Mid-Sized Canadian Cities: Towards a New Analytical Framework Using a Life Course Approach (2020)

Posted on:
August 20, 2021

Abstract

"Existing literature on the regionalization of migration in Canada is limited in its understanding of migrants’ decision-making processes regarding their location choices and settlement experiences in small and mid-sized cities because of its urban and mobility bias. While research has primarily focused on migrants’ preference for larger centres, as indicated through their migration to metropolitan cities, there has been little attention paid to cases where immigrants and refugees have voluntarily decided to stay in small and mid-sized Canadian cities for extended periods of time.

This paper proposes an analytical framework to study immobility that centres migrants’ lived experiences and aspirations, using a life-course approach. The author argues that, asking why migrants stay, as opposed to why they leave, allows migration researchers to better understand the nuanced ways in which migrants form decisions to move to, stay in, build their lives in specific cities over time, in destination countries. By shifting the perspective to why some migrants stay in small and mid-sized cities, this paper encourages future research that goes beyond analyses shaped predominantly by methodological nationalism, neoclassical drivers of migration, binary explanations of mobility and immobility, and that which foregrounds the two-way relationship between migrants and local receiving communities in place-making and city-building."

Conclusion

"Throughout Canadian immigration history, immigrants and refugees have voluntarily stayed in small and mid-sized cities. While the flows to those small and mid-sized cities are not as significant as the populations going to larger metropolitan centres, we should not discredit the impact they can have on those communities. Often, their presence, long-term residence, and active involvement in those communities have helped to facilitate change to better welcome other newcomers, including by signalling the need for more diverse services and businesses. Some immigrants and refugees voluntarily stay in small and mid-sized cities because of their positive perceptions of those cities, their attachments to that city over time as they live there, their strong social bonds developed with personal contacts, the quality of life for their families, their ability to secure their livelihoods without stressing about competition with other co-ethnics, and their perceived ability to make social change and improve inclusivity for other newcomers in those cities.

As a result of this gap in research, this paper offers analytical and empirical questions that focus on asking why migrants voluntarily stay in specific cities for extended periods of time, using a life course approach. By asking this question, we aim to challenge existing approaches to studies on the regionalization of migration that rely on methodological nationalism, binary understandings of mobility and immobility, and neoclassical drivers of migration in their analyses. Rather, we aim to promote future research and policy agendas that take into consideration migrants’ dynamic and complex lived experiences, aspirations, and agency in decision-making and place-making processes."

2020_8_Nguyen_Michelle_Why_Migrants_Stay_in_Small_and_Mid-Sized_Canadian_Cities_Towards_a_New_Analytical_Framework_Using_a_Life_Course_Approach

Summary

This paper proposes an analytical framework to study immobility that centres migrants’ lived experiences and aspirations, using a life-course approach. The author argues that, asking why migrants stay, as opposed to why they leave, allows migration researchers to better understand the nuanced ways in which migrants form decisions to move to, stay in, build their lives in specific cities over time, in destination countries.
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