Black Canadians with degrees earn less

By Salima Stanley-Bhanji

Blacks of working age are less likely to be university educated according to a recent report from Statistics Canada.

The report, Blacks In Canada: A Long History, is based on 2001 census statistics.

"Using the 2001 census data, when we compared the black population to the total population there were some discrepancies," said Kelly Tran, co-author of the report, Statistics Canada analyst and University of Calgary sociology graduate.

While Canadian-born blacks, aged 25 to 54, are just as likely to be university educated as Canadians in general in the same age bracket, only 20 per cent of foreign-born blacks in Canada receive a university education compared to 32 per cent of all foreign-born Canadians.

Furthermore, in 2001, foreign-born blacks earned $28,700 per year on average, while other foreign-born Canadians averaged $34,800 in yearly earnings.

The census results also showed blacks face specific challenges.

"Based on the report, black children are more likely to live in a one-parent home and a low-income home," said Tran.

"Where money is an issue, education is not a high priority in some cases," said U of C student Abdi Abdi.

Born in Ethiopia and of Somalian heritage, Abdi and his family moved from Ethiopia to Ontario in 1983. Currently studying law, Abdi is the recipient of the Dr. Irma Parhad Scholarship and received his undergraduate in psychology from Western Ontario University where he was a dean’s list student.

"Economic disadvantages, I think, stem from the fact that most blacks live in large urban populations," said Abdi. "Most blacks living in urban areas come from large families so they may feel that they have to drop out of school to earn money to help the family."

At the university level, the U of C has issued a statement on principles of conduct that is discussed at both student and faculty orientations.

"It references the importance of our commitment to ‘respect, appreciate and encourage diversity,’" said Associate Vice-President Student Affairs Dr. Peggy Patterson. "We have also ensured that there are high quality services for graduate and undergraduate students, particularly those who are among the minority here."

However, when the black population in Canada is so diverse, the value of the report itself is questionable.

Nearly half of the black population is born in Canada, but Tran explains many are born outside of Canada in the Caribbean and Africa and elsewhere so cultural traditions vary.

"I find it hard to identify with other blacks culturally, because my culture is pretty specific to a certain area in Africa," said Abdi.

Abdi admits, however, there is some basis for his identification with other blacks.

"We share a feeling of what it is to be a minority," he explained. "A little isolated, sometimes an outsider."

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