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The Economics of Attachment: Making a Case for a Relational Approach to Immigrants' Integration in Canada

Abstract

This study examines the influence of immigrants' economic experiences on the degree of their attachment to Canada, against the background of two prevalent explanations of immigrant integration into host societies: the ‘assimilation’ and ‘structural–historical’ approaches—both of which treat integration as rigid, linear and inevitable. The findings of our study suggest that integration is a dynamic process, the content and outcome of which is determined by the nature of the interaction between immigrants and the host society. When such interactions are pleasant and consistent with immigrants' expectations, the final outcome is a strong sense of attachment to the host society. Also, with changes in the former, there will be changes in the latter. In this study, we use the data from the Longitudinal Survey of Immigrants to Canada to examine the validity of a relational perspective of immigrant integration, by measuring the impact of immigrants' economic experiences on the strength of their attachment to Canada. Adopting such a perspective particularly questions the validity of a ‘prescriptive assimilationist’ approach, which asks immigrants to start their lives in the new countries with an intention to assimilate. Viewing the integration process from the relational perspective implies that assimilation could not be suggested as an intentional goal; rather, it should be seen as a possible by-product of the nature of immigrants' experiences, materialized only when such experiences are pleasant and consistent with immigrants' expectations. Built on this alternative view, we then discuss the theoretical and policy implications of the study.

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Correspondence to Abdolmohammad Kazemipur.

Additional information

This study was made possible through a grant by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, and the access to the master files of LSIC data through Statistics Canada's Research Data Centre at the University of Lethbridge. The views expressed in the article will obviously remain those of the authors only. We would also like to acknowledge the research assistance of Martin Russenberger, James Falconer, and Willow Anderson in various stages of the study. The first author would also like to acknowledge the research support he received at Memorial University during his tenure as Stephen Jarislowsky Chair in Culture Change.

Appendix

Appendix

Table 2 The list of variables controlled for in the regression models

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Kazemipur, A., Nakhaie, M.R. The Economics of Attachment: Making a Case for a Relational Approach to Immigrants' Integration in Canada. Int. Migration & Integration 15, 609–632 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12134-013-0284-6

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Keywords

  • Immigration
  • Attachment
  • Canada
  • Economic experiences
  • Sense of belonging
  • Relational