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Abstract

Participation in ethnic economies has been regarded as an alternative avenue of economic adaptation for immigrants and minorities in major immigrant-receiving countries. This study examines one important dimension of ethnic economies: co-ethnic concentration at the workplace. Using a large national representative sample from Statistics Canada’s 2002 Ethnic Diversity Survey, this study addresses four questions: (1) what is the level of co-ethnic concentration at the workplace for Canada’s minority groups? (2) How do workers who share the same ethnicity with most of their co-workers differ from other workers in socio-demographic characteristics? (3) Is higher level of co-ethnic concentration at the workplace associated with lower earnings? (4) Is higher level of co-ethnic concentration at the workplace associated with higher levels of life satisfaction?

The results show that only a small proportion of immigrants and the Canadian-born work in ethnically homogeneous settings. In Canada’s eight largest metropolitan areas about 10 per cent of non-British/French immigrants share a same ethnic origin with the majority of their co-workers. The level is as high as 20 per cent among Chinese immigrants and 18 per cent among Portuguese immigrants. Among Canadian-born minority groups, the level of co-ethnic workplace concentration is about half the level for immigrants. Immigrant workers in ethnically concentrated settings have much lower educational levels and proficiency in English/French. Immigrant men who work mostly with co-ethnics on average earn about 33 per cent less than workers with few or none co-ethnic coworkers. About two thirds of this gap is attributable to differences in demographic and job characteristics. Meanwhile, immigrant workers in ethnically homogenous settings are less likely to report low levels of life satisfaction than other immigrant workers. Among the Canadian-born, co-ethnic concentration is not consistently associated with earnings and life satisfaction.