New tool could help immigrants decide where to live in Canada

Of interest. Useful experiment and it will important to see how much it is used and the extent that it improves immigrant outcomes:

Researchers are working on a new tool that will help newcomers identify which Canadian city they are most likely to be successful in.

Most immigrants end up choosing to live in one of Canada’s major cities. In fact, more than half of all immigrants and recent immigrants to Canada currently live in Toronto, Montreal or Vancouver, according to Statistics Canada.

However, there may be better opportunities for these immigrants elsewhere. Perhaps a film director or a tech worker may be suited to Toronto, but a petroleum engineer may not.

Since 2018, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) has been working on a research project alongside the Immigration Policy Lab (IPL) at Stanford University that may pave the way for this tool, dubbed GeoMatch, to come to fruition.

The project attempts to repurpose an algorithm that is used in resettlement efforts, to work for Canadian immigration. It uses historical data to help immigrants choose where they might thrive the most, IRCC spokesperson Isabelle Dubois told CIC News.

“The study suggested that prospective economic immigrants who followed the GeoMatch recommendation would be more likely to find a well-paying job after they arrived,” Dubois said in an email.

“Currently, newcomers tend to gravitate to cities they’ve heard of— which tend to be the largest. Yet such a tool could help change that by promoting different localities across Canada, beyond major urban centres like Toronto and Vancouver.”

According to their website, GeoMatch uses machine learning capabilities to make its predictions. It considers factors such as previous immigrants’ work history, education as well as personal characteristics. It then finds patterns in the data by focusing on how these factors were related to economic success in different locations.

GeoMatch may then be able to predict an immigrant’s likelihood of success in various locations across Canada.

“Research suggests that an immigrant’s initial arrival location plays a key role in shaping their economic success. Yet immigrants currently lack access to personalized information that would help them identify optimal destinations,” said a report published by the IPL.

The report reiterates that the approach is motivated by data that show an immigrant’s first landing location is influential in their outcomes.

“We find that for many economic immigrants the chosen [first] location is far from optimal in terms of expected income,” the report adds.

The report suggests that many economic immigrants choose Toronto simply because that is all they know of Canada, but they may be in “the wrong place” for their skillset. For example, Toronto is ranked number 20 out of 52 regions in terms of maximizing income in the year after arrival. This means that for many immigrants, there were 19 other regions where they would have likely made a higher income.

Immigrants may, of course, choose not to use the tool. However, it is worth mentioning that GeoMatch takes into consideration not just “data-driven predictions” but immigrants’ location preferences as well.

Source: New tool could help immigrants decide where to live in Canada

New tool could point immigrants to spot in Canada where they’re most likely to succeed

A neat example of algorithms to assist immigrants assess their prospects although human factors such as presence of family members and community-specific food shopping and the like may be more determinate. But good that IRCC is exploring this approach. More sophisticated that the work I was involved in to develop the Canadian Index for Measuring Integration. Some good comments by Harald Bauder and Dan Hiebert:

Where should a newcomer with a background in banking settle in Canada?

What about an immigrant who’s an oil-production engineer?

Or a filmmaker?

Most newcomers flock to major Canadian cities. In doing so, some could be missing out better opportunities elsewhere.

A two-year-old research project between the federal government and Stanford University’s Immigration Policy Lab is offering hope for a tool that might someday point skilled immigrants toward the community in which they’d most likely flourish and enjoy the greatest economic success.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada is eyeing a pilot program to test a matching algorithm that would make recommendations as to where a new immigrant might settle, department spokesperson Remi Lariviere told the Star.

“This type of pilot would allow researchers to see if use of these tools results in real-world benefits for economic immigrants. Testing these expected gains would also allow us to better understand the factors that help immigrants succeed,” he said in an email.

“This research furthers our commitment to evidence-based decision making and enhanced client service — an opportunity to leverage technology and data to benefit newcomers, communities and the country as a whole.”

Dubbed the GeoMatch project, researchers used Canada’s comprehensive historical datasets on immigrants’ background characteristics, economic outcomes and geographic locations to project where an individual skilled immigrant might start a new life.

Machine learning methods were employed to figure out how immigrants’ backgrounds, qualifications and skillsets were related to taxable earnings in different cities, while accounting for local trends, such as population and unemployment over time.

The models were then used to predict how newcomers with similar profiles would fare across possible destinations and what their expected earnings would be. The locations would be ranked based on the person’s unique profile.

“An immigrant’s initial arrival location plays a key role in shaping their economic success. Yet immigrants currently lack access to personalized information that would help them identify optimal destinations,” says a report about the pilot that was recently obtained by the Star.

“Instead, they often rely on availability heuristics, which can lead to the selection of suboptimal landing locations, lower earnings, elevated out-migration rates and concentration in the most well-known locations,” added the study completed last summer after two years of number crunching and sophisticated modelling.

About a quarter of economic immigrants settle in one of Canada’s four largest cities, with 31 per cent of all newcomers alone destined for Toronto.

“If initial settlement patterns concentrate immigrants in a few prominent landing regions, many areas of the country may not experience the economic growth associated with immigration,” the report pointed out. “Undue concentration may impose costs in the form of congestion in local services, housing, and labour markets.”

Researchers sifted through Canada’s longitudinal immigration database and income tax records to identify 203,290 principal applicants who arrived in the country between 2012 and 2017 under the federal skilled worker program, federal skilled trades program and the Canadian Experience Class.

They tracked the individuals’ annual incomes at the end of their first full year in Canada and predicated the modelling of their economic outcomes at a particular location on a long list of predictors: age at arrival, continent of birth, education, family status, gender, intended occupation, skill level, language ability, having studied or worked in Canada, arrival year and immigration category.

Researchers found that many economic immigrants were in what might be considered the wrong place.

For instance, the report says, among economic immigrants who chose to settle in Toronto, the city only ranked around 20th on average out of the 52 selected regions across Canada in terms of maximizing expected income in the year after arrival.

“In other words, the data suggest that for the average economic immigrant who settled in Toronto, there were 19 other (places) where that immigrant had a higher expected income than in Toronto,” it explains, adding that the same trend appeared from coast to coast.

Assuming only 10 per cent of immigrants would follow a recommendation, the models suggested an average gain of $1,100 in expected annual employment income for the 2015 and 2016 skilled immigrant cohort just by settling in a better suited place. That amounted to a gain of $55 million in total income, the report says.

However, researchers also warned against the “compositional effects” such as the concentration of immigrants with a similar profile in one location, which could lower the expected incomes due to saturation. Other issues, such as an individual’s personal abilities or motivation, were also not taken into account.

The use of artificial intelligence to assist immigrant settlement is an interesting idea as it puts expected income and geography as key considerations for settlement, said Ryerson University professor Harald Bauder

“It’s not revolutionizing the immigration system. It’s another tool in our tool box to better match local market conditions with what immigrants can bring to Canada,” says Bauder, director of Ryerson’s graduate program in immigration and settlement studies.

“This mechanism is probably too complex for immigrants themselves to see how a particular location is identified. It just spits out the ranking of locations, then the person wonders how I got this ranking. Is it because of my particular education? My particular country of origin? The information doesn’t seem to be clear or accessible to the end-users.”

New immigrants often gravitate toward a destination where they have family or friends or based on the perceived availability of jobs and personal preferences regarding climate, city size and cultural diversity.

“This tool will help those who are sufficiently detached, do not have family here and are willing to go anywhere,” says Daniel Hiebert, a University of British Columbia professor who specializes in immigration policy.

“People who exercise that kind of rational detachment will simply take that advice and lead to beneficial outcomes.”

But Hiebert has reservations as to how well the modelling can predict the future success of new immigrants when they are basing the advice and recommendations on the data of the past.

“This kind of future thinking is really difficult for these models to predict. There’s too much unknown to have a good sense about the future,” he says. “These models can predict yesterday and maybe sort of today, but they cannot predict tomorrow.”

Source: New tool could point immigrants to spot in Canada where they’re most likely to succeed