Press Release Archive 2011 - 1999

Professor Hopes to Uncover Insights About Immigrants

2006. 07. 27.

Immigration is a hot topic in the United States, with much of the focus on the country's southern border, but what about immigrants from north of the border? It is questions about Canadian immigrants that Albertson College of Idaho sociology professor Robin Lorentzen is hoping to answer. For the past three years she has been working to understand the culture of Canada, attending conferences and visiting the country. This year, she dedicated her sabbatical in part to research on Canadians who choose to make the move south.

'What really prompted my interest is how little we know about Canadians,' Lorentzen said. 'We have such close ties, but we are oblivious to their culture and their economic impact on the U.S.'

The trade relationship between the U.S. and Canada is the largest in the world, with $1.6 billion crossing between the two countries daily. Canada happens to be Idaho's second largest export market behind China. In terms of energy, Canada is second only to Saudi Arabia in proven oil reserves and the U.S. – Canadian energy trade relationship is worth $50 billion. Money isn't the only thing crossing the border. More than 300,000 people make the trek each day.

'The economic relationship between Canada and the U.S. is just enormously important,' said Lorentzen. 'About 5.2 million jobs are supported by US-Canada trade and the Canada trade market is huge for the U.S.'

In addition to not realizing how economically important Canada is to the U.S., Lorentzen says there are significant cultural differences between the two neighbors, even if the differences may not be obvious.

'Part of the reason we tend to ignore Canadians is because we just assume they are like us - same culture, language, values more or less - but in reality they are far more like people in Europe and the United Kingdom," Lorentzen said. 'We're both British in origin but we had a revolution and they didn't. In Canada, capital punishment has long been banned; Canadians have nationalized health care; there is a very firm separation of church and state; same sex marriage is legal; and abortion has long been legal and is not an issue.'

Even with so many cultural differences, thousands of Canadians make the move south, and Lorentzen wants to find out who they are and why they move. To that end, she began mailing out surveys to Canadians living in Idaho in January.

'I particularly wanted to look at Canadians in Idaho because they blend in so well,' she said. 'I wanted to know how they are different from Idahoans and Canadians back home.'

The trickiest part of completing the study thus far is finding the Canadians. Lorentzen knows they are here, the 2000 census estimated there were 4,542 Canadian born people living in Idaho, but even Canadians living in the state don't know of many other Canadians living here.

'So I asked everyone I know, 'Do you know a Canadian?' everyone from my dentist, clerks in stores, and friends,' she said. 'Many people were surprised to find out that they actually knew Canadians.'

Slowly, Lorentzen is getting results. So far she has found that there are some differences between native Idahoans and Canadians who reside in the state. According to her research, Lorentzen says Canadian immigrants tend to be far better educated, with a vast majority achieving an undergraduate or graduate degree. Most are also married, with very few divorced and few single. Perhaps the biggest difference Lorentzen has discovered thus far has to do with religion.

'The Canadians are much more like Europeans then Idahoans when it comes to religion,' she said. 'Only about 25% consider themselves religious, while the other 75% splits between somewhat religious and not at all religious.'

Politically, most Canadian immigrants see themselves as being significantly more liberal then their Idaho neighbors, however most of those who have migrated are more conservative then those who remain in Canada.

Canadians who migrate to Idaho tend to be primarily from two provinces, Alberta and Ontario. And when they come, they tend to stay and become either permanent residents or dual citizens.

'Studying Canada has allowed me to better understand my own society and how to teach students about it,' Lorentzen said. 'I can say to them, 'here are people who are like us, who are getting on in the world in a different way and it behooves us to know more about them.''

Lorentzen is continuing to send out and collect survey data. She is looking for additional Canadians living in Idaho to take the survey. For more information, contact Lorentzen by calling (208) 459-5221 or e-mail [email protected].

Are you Canadian, do you want to be counted?
You can contact Robin Lorentzen, PhD by calling (208) 459-5221 or e-mailing [email protected]
The survey is for people who are from Canada and are now living in Idaho.