In and Out of the Ethnic Economy: A Longitudinal Analysis of Ethnic Networks and Pathways to Economic Success across Immigrant Categories


  • 1This research was supported by grants from Metropolis British Columbia and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. It was made possible through Statistics Canada providing access to the micro-level data through the Research Data Centre program. The data for this study were accessed at the Inter-University Research Data Centre at the University of British Columbia, with the kind support of Lee Grenon and Cheryl Chunling Fu. We would like to thank Irene Bloemraad, Rich Carpiano, Barry Edmonston, Sylvia Fuller, Tomás Jiménez, Karen Kobayashi, Mark Leach, Sharon Lee, and Gerry Veenstra for helpful comments on earlier drafts of the paper. All mistakes remain the responsibility of the authors.


The economic benefits to immigrants of taking jobs in ethnic workplaces, relative to the open economy, are heavily debated. We examine longitudinally differences across immigrant categories in how the choice of ethnic or non-ethnic workplace influences the ethnic composition of social networks and how these factors impact immigrants’ economic success. Using the Longitudinal Survey of Immigrants to Canada, with data 6 months, 2 years, and 4 years after arrival, we find support for both sides of the ethnic economy debate when it is qualified by immigrant category. While economic immigrants benefit from non-ethnic workplaces, family immigrants face economic penalties in the open economy and do better in ethnic workplaces. We argue that policies sorting immigrants into visa categories do much of the work of leading them into segmented paths of incorporation.