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Assimilation and Economic Success in an Aboriginal Population: Evidence from Canada

Peter Kuhn () and Arthur Sweetman ()

Canadian International Labour Network Working Papers from McMaster University

Abstract: Like immigrants, aboriginal populations are endowed with skills and cultural traits which are not necessarily optimal for economic success in the “majority” culture where they reside. As for immigrants, Aboriginal economic success may thus be enhanced by the acquistion of such skills and traits via greater contact with the majority culture. Using 1991 Canadian Census data, we document three stylized facts that support this assimilation hypothesis: Aboriginal labour market success is greater for Aboriginals whose ancestors intermarried with the non-Aboriginal population, for those who live off Indian reserves, and for those who live outside the Yukon and Northwest Territories. While each of these results, individually, could also be explained by other processes, such as differential discrimination, physical remoteness, and selection, we argue that none of these other processes can provide a convincing explanation of all three.

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