A new study suggests immigration has tended to lower wages for educated Canadians, but the influence newcomers have on domestic earnings depends on their skill set.

The Statistics Canada study, entitled "A comparative analysis of the labour market impact of international migration: Canada, Mexico, and the United States," suggests Canada has more highly skilled immigrants compared to the U.S. or Mexico.

In 2001, about four in 10 people with more than an undergraduate degree were immigrants in Canada compared to about one in five in the United States, says the study, which was released Friday.

The StatsCan study found having more highly-skilled workers in Canada has curtailed earnings growth for the most educated Canadian workers relative to the least-educated.

In the U.S., the opposite has happened. Immigrants have depressed the earnings of low-paid Americans and further widened the gap between low and high income earners.

Experts suggest Canada has a higher proportion of educated immigrants because the country's immigration policy focuses on recruiting high-skilled workers.

In comparison, the U.S. has focused on reuniting separated family members, which causes younger immigrants, compared to Canada, to relocate to the U.S.

Data used in this study was taken from the Canadian, Mexican and American censuses, and was restricted to male labour market participants aged 18 to 64.

The study also found:

  • Immigration increased in the male labour force by 13.2 per cent in Canada from 1980 to 2000, compared to 11.1 per cent in the United States;
  • Mexico experienced the opposite effect. The country had a 14.6 per cent loss in the size of its potential male workforce, mostly due to people moving to the U.S.;
  • The decline in the labour market has actually increased the wages earned by those working in Mexico;
  • and a labour supply decline of 10 per cent was estimated to induce a wage increase of 3 per cent to 4 per cent in the country.