Children of immigrants make more progress in Australia and Canada than in the UK or the US

Young children whose families immigrate to Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States are as prepared and capable of starting school as their native-born counterparts, with one exception: vocabulary and language development.

But the resulting disadvantages in reading skills are overcome to a much greater degree as they progress through school in Australia and Canada than they are in the United Kingdom and the United States.

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Immigration policy should make children a priority

The Obama administration has offered a temporary reprieve from deportation for up to 1 and 3/4 million immigrants who came to the United States as children.

Whatever the immediate merits of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, it signals a much broader principle all immigrant receiving countries should recognize: children experience migration differently than adults, and  public policy can create both great opportunity and great risks for their long-run capacity to become independent and successful adults.

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Immigrants face challenges in finding jobs that are not of their own making

The challenges immigrants face in finding jobs have to do with not just the characteristics and skills they bring to the labour market, but also the state of our economy and the barriers put in their way. More and more tinkering with the selection rules used to admit immigrants will not on its own address these challenges.

In a post on my blog I called for lower rates of immigration during business cycle downturns, and a reader commented by saying:

I arrived in Canada in July 2011 with my family and was called for exactly one job interview a couple of weeks ago. To say I am scarred is putting it mildly. I left a very successful career with the knowledge that it will be difficult to get a similar position but I never anticipated that I would end up feeling invisible and a non-entity with absolutely nothing to offer. Since coming here I have been shelling out money for everything, university fees for my kids and so on. Other than contributing to the Canadian economy through our expenses, I feel immigrants are not considered to be of any particular value.

It struck me how odd and incomplete the public policy response by Canadian opinion makers and governments is to this kind of concern.

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Success in school for child migrants is linked to their age of arrival

Children who migrate to Canada have a better chance of finishing high school if they arrive in the country at a younger age.

In a study published by Statistics Canada I show that immigrant children arriving in Canada after the age of nine are more likely to drop out without finishing high school than those arriving at a younger age.

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