Why Urban Aboriginals Report Being Happy: C.D. Howe Institute

TORONTO, July 5, 2012 /CNW/ - Aboriginals living in Canadian cities report high rates of happiness based on their income, education, and network of personal relationships, according to a new report from the C.D. Howe Institute. In "Breaking the Stereotype: Why Urban Aboriginals Score Highly on 'Happiness' Measures," authors Dominique Gross and  John Richards examine why, on average, urban Aboriginals are as "happy" as other Canadians and recommend policies to help more Aboriginals successfully make the transition to city life.

"The fact that the results are similar for Aboriginals and for all Canadians will be surprising to anyone whose image of urban Aboriginals is limited to those living in the poorest neighbourhoods of Canada's cities," notes Richards. "Although poverty and unhappiness exist among urban Aboriginals, those conditions are far from the whole story of urban Aboriginal life."

In their report, the authors analyze the results of a disarmingly simple question: "Overall, are you happy with your life?", one of many questions posed in a 2009 survey by the Environics Institute of a large sample of Aboriginals living in 11 Canadian cities. The highest share of "very happy" urban Aboriginals was in Vancouver (65 percent) and lowest in Montreal (52 percent). Analyzing the reported characteristics of survey respondents, the authors find a positive health assessment increases perceived happiness, as do stable personal relationships. Having a university degree or college diploma and higher income also increases happiness. Finally, community life matters. Feeling a close connection to other First Nations people and having friends increased happiness significantly; the effect independent of whether the friends were Aboriginal.

These results do not mean that urban Canada is the best of all possible worlds for Aboriginals or that all Aboriginals should "go to town" — the reserve should remain an option for those First Nations who opt for it, say the authors. They do suggest, however, the need for policy innovation to facilitate the rural-to-urban transition of Aboriginals who choose to move, primarily by focusing on labour force participation and education outcomes.

They note many countries have experimented with strategies to improve job information and links with employers, such as "one-stop shops" developed through the cooperation of various government agencies, and business involvement in training, mentoring, and labour market advice - in particular for students in high school. Regarding education policy, they emphasize the importance of access to early childhood education for children from marginalized communities and the need for provincial education ministries to promote discretionary Aboriginal education initiatives at the school district level, which has proven successful in British Columbia.

The C. D. Howe Institute is an independent not-for-profit research institute whose mission is to raise living standards by fostering economically sound public policies. It is Canada's trusted source of essential policy intelligence, distinguished by research that is nonpartisan, evidence-based and subject to definitive expert review. It is considered by many to be Canada's most influential think tank.

For the report go to:


SOURCE C.D. Howe Institute

For further information:

John Richards or Dominique Gross, Public Policy School, Simon Fraser University; or Colin Busby, Senior Policy Analyst, C.D. Howe Institute, 416-865-1904; e-mail: cdhowe@cdhowe.org

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