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What is New Brunswick’s Internal Migration Rate?: It Depends on the Data Source


In this paper, we compare estimates of population attraction and retention, or rather, internal migration, based on three datasets: the long-form Census of Canada, the Longitudinal Administrative Databank (LAD), and the Medicare Client Registry. We find that the administrative data sources (especially the LAD) produce much higher rates of internal migration than the Census, and that the Census and Medicare Client Registry are more closely aligned when it comes to estimating internal migration. We discuss the strengths and limitations of each approach and conclude with some recommendations for appropriate usage of all three files.


Dans cet article, nous comparons les estimations de l'attraction et de la rétention de la population, ou plutôt de migration interne, à partir de trois ensembles de données: le formulaire détaillé du Recensement du Canada, la banque de données administratives longitudinales (DAL) et le registre des clients de l'assurance-maladie. Nous trouvons que les sources de données administratives (en particulier la DAL) produisent des taux de migration interne beaucoup plus élevés que le recensement. De plus, nous constatons que le recensement et le registre des clients de l’assurance-maladie sont alignés plus étroitement en ce qui concerne les estimations de la migration interne. Nous discutons des forces et des limites de ces approches et concluons avec quelques recommandations pour une utilisation convenable des trois fichiers.

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Data Availability

The Longitudinal Administrative Databank and Censuses of Canada are available in all Statistics Canada Research Data Centres. The Medicare Client Registry can be accessed at the New Brunswick Institute for Research, Data, and Training.

Code Availability

Code is available upon request.


  1. 1.

    Sampling percentage varies according to census year. The National Household Survey which, unlike the census, was voluntary, issued a long-form questionnaire to a third of all Canadian households instead of the usual 20% sample (25% for 2016) collected through the mandatory long-form version.

  2. 2.

    The long-form census questionnaire includes the population that lives in private households. Individuals that reside outside of Canada and in collective dwellings (e.g. institutions, residences, nursing homes, etc.) are excluded from the long-form sample.

  3. 3.

    Furthermore, immigrant status, immigrant country of last residence and year of landing are self-reported. Recent linkages by Statistics Canada have combined Census files with Federal immigrant landing records which provide administrative data on those granted permanent residency in Canada.

  4. 4.

    Administrative data are data collected on individuals by governments and public bodies in the course of administering government programs where the primary purposes for data collection are monitoring, reporting and assessment.

  5. 5.

    It is important to emphasize that the Federal immigration landing records give the date on which permanent residents are granted their residence visa at a Canadian border crossing. The data at which (and the location where) immigrants actually move to and settle in Canada is not observed in the landing records, a limitation discussed later in this paper.

  6. 6.

    Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada has recently entered into a data sharing agreement with NB-IRDT in New Brunswick that allows landing records to be linked at the individual level to Medicare registry data, allowing a validated identification of permanent residents in NB regardless of year of arrival and province of initial landing (for arrivals after 1982).

  7. 7.

    In the NB data, a death in NB would be recorded in the Vital Statistics linked file which is also part of the analytic file used here. In the LAD, there may be a notation that a tax filing is for a deceased person, but this is not always the case.

  8. 8.

    A census subdivision is a census measurement of geography that encompasses municipalities, or can be treated as municipalities, according to the provinces and territories.

  9. 9.

    Non-filing in the previous year or 5 years are used for in-migration; individuals that have no tax records in the LAD (i.e. a non-filer) are removed from the final sample.

  10. 10.

    There are two CMAs in New Brunswick: Moncton and Saint John.


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All the authors contributed to the development of this manuscript.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Michael Haan.

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Calhoun, A., Haan, M., McDonald, J.T. et al. What is New Brunswick’s Internal Migration Rate?: It Depends on the Data Source. Can. Stud. Popul. (2021).

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  • Internal migration
  • Data quality
  • New Brunswick
  • Administrative data