July 18, 1996 * Vol . 6, No. 6

Study finds racial wage disparity

By Jo Moss

You may have been born, raised and educated in Canada, but if you're a man from a visible minority, your chances of getting ahead work-wise are significantly better if you live in Vancouver, than if you live in Toronto or Montreal, an SFU economics professor has found.

But wherever you live in Canada, even on the West Coast, it's bad news, Krishna Pendakur says.

In a recently-released study, Pendakur found that Canadian-born men from visible minorities earned, on average, eight and a half per cent less than their white counterparts. In Vancouver, the exact figure was four per cent, in Montreal it leapt to 17 per cent and in Toronto it was nine per cent.

Pendakur conducted the earnings-gap survey of 340,000 individuals using data from the 1991 Canadian census with his brother Ravi, a sociologist who works for the federal heritage department. Comparisons in earnings were made between males of the same age and educational background working in the same jobs in the same industries.

"I was surprised," Pendakur says, adding he hadn't expected to find any difference in earnings between white and non-white men who had spent their whole lives in Canada. "Eight and a half per cent is a big number. What the results suggest is that the labor market is not fair."

Krishna and Ravi Pendakur also found sharp earning differences between white and non-white immigrant men. Visible minority immigrants earned, on average, 16 per cent less. The accepted explanation has been language, education and cultural differences, Pendakur says. "You can't apply that statement to the eight and a half per cent earnings gap in visible minority men who are born and socialized here in Canada."

The study found no significant differences between the earnings of Canadian-born or immigrant women, white or non-white, suggesting that being a woman from a visible minority isn't necessarily a double negative, Pendakur says. "Across the board, we found women's earnings generally lower than men's."

So why do visible minority men fare better in Vancouver? Pendakur says it's hard to tell. "It could be because Vancouver is a more integrated community and we're more tolerant," he said. "On the other hand, you could argue that Vancouver has a fair number of segregated communities and within those enclaves, there's no discrimination so business is good."

The study, which tracked 39 different ethnic groups, showed that blacks in Canada fared the worst of any visible minority. They can expect to earn 16 per cent less than white Canadian-born men. Despite the distribution of ethnic communities across Canada - Montreal has, for example, a large black population - Pendakur said the composition of visible minorities had no bearing on differences in earnings between the three cities. "We looked at that factor and it doesn't explain it away," he says emphatically.

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