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“Show Me the Money”: The Returns to Education for Indigenous Canadians


Research has shown a strong link between the acquisition of human capital and success in the labour market as measured through employment income. While this relationship has been demonstrated for the non-Indigenous population, it is not clear whether it necessarily holds true for the Indigenous peoples of Canada. This paper examines the returns to education (as a component of human capital) for the three Indigenous groups in Canada—First Nations, Métis and Inuit. The results of multivariate regression models constructed using data from the 2011 National Household Survey and the 2012 Aboriginal Peoples Survey show that the returns to post-secondary education for Indigenous peoples are significantly positive and, in some instances, comparable to those for the non-Indigenous population.


La littérature scientifique confirme un lien important entre le succès professionnel d’un individu, comme indiqué par le revenu d’emploi, et son acquisition du capital humain. Quoique les résultats de plusieurs études démontrent que ce rapport se tient pour la population non autochtone, ce n’est pas tout à fait certain que le même effet se produit dans la population autochtone. Cet article étudie les gains dus à l’éducation (une composante du capital humain) pour les trois groupes autochtones au Canada: les Premières Nations, les Métis et les Inuits. Selon les résultats de modèles multivariés construits à partir des données de l’Enquête nationale auprès des ménages de 2011 et l’Enquête auprès des peuples autochtones de 2012, nous voyons que pour les autochtones les gains dus à l’éducation postsecondaire, tels que mesurés avec le revenu d’emploi, sont positifs et significatifs et, dans certains cas, comparables aux résultats obtenus pour la population non autochtone.

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Fig. 1

Source: 2012 Aboriginal Peoples Survey, calculations by authors

Fig. 2

Source: 2012 Aboriginal Peoples Survey, calculations by authors

Fig. 3

Source: 2012 Aboriginal Peoples Survey, calculations by authors

Fig. 4

Source: 2011 National Household Survey, calculations by authors

Data Availability

The data (2011 National Household Survey and the 2012 Aboriginal Peoples Survey) for this research are available in the Statistics Canada Research Data Centres. Requests for access may be made through the following link:

Code Availability

All the code for the analysis in this article was prepared by the authors using standard Stata version 12.


  1. 1.

    The Mincer equation shows the relationship between the log of wages (Y) and level of schooling (S). It is expressed as Y = α + βS + ε, where β is the returns to education.

  2. 2.

    While more recent data on Indigenous peoples is available through the 2016 Census, in this section, we refer to the 2011 National Household Survey as it better reflects the demography of our study population, which is drawn from the 2012 Aboriginal Peoples Survey.

  3. 3.

    Age squared was included in the models to ensure a linear relationship with the dependent variable.

  4. 4.

    See in the Sect. 8.

  5. 5.

    Inuit living in large urban centres do not live in Inuit Nunangat, which comprises the four Inuit regions where the large majority of Inuit live.

  6. 6.

    As stated earlier, although the annual earnings premium for Inuit with an advanced degree is statistically significant, the robustness of this result needs to be explored further.

  7. 7.

    In April 2017, Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada announced programs to make investments in post-secondary education for First Nations and Inuit students (Indigenous and Northerrn Affairs Canada, 2017).


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The authors gratefully acknowledge the support of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council. We would also like to recognize the advice and feedback we received from our colleagues on the grant—Michael Haan and Martin Cooke. Finally, we would like to thank the staff of the Carleton Ottawa Outaouais Local Research Data Centre at the University of Ottawa for their support on the project.


This study was funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada under Grant Number 435-2016-0695.

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Correspondence to Gustave Goldmann.

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Goldmann, G., Racine, A. “Show Me the Money”: The Returns to Education for Indigenous Canadians. Can. Stud. Popul. 48, 293–313 (2021).

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  • Indigenous
  • Education
  • Human capital
  • Labour market

Mots clefs

  • autochtone
  • éducation
  • capital humain
  • population active