Douglas Todd: In Canada, South Asians four times as likely to buy a home


Analysis: South Asians in Canada are more likely than others to buy a home, be born outside the country, have a master’s degree and shop online, according to a survey.

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South Asians in Canada are far more inclined to buy a home than others, according to a large-scale consumer research report.

The two million people who make up Canada’s South Asian population, which mostly consists of immigrants and is concentrated in Toronto and Vancouver, also have far more high-level educational degrees, according to the recent survey of almost 3,500 South Asian adults.

“Home ownership is very important to South Asians. They’re four times more likely to buy a home than the average Canadian, because they’re told by their parents that renting is just throwing away your money,” said Rahul Sethi, a director with Vivintel, which conducted the poll.

“In South Asia, there’s this prestige about owning land, being a homeowner. A few years after you arrive in Canada, it’s also seen as a key way to grow income,” said Sethi, 38, a Toronto resident who came to Canada with his family when he was six.


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Similarly, ethnic Chinese people in Canada are four times more likely to buy homes than the general population, said Sethi, referring to an earlier ethnic consumer survey. (The surveys are sold to media, retail and advertising companies.)

The relative newness of South Asian culture in Canada is illustrated by the fact that more than nine out of 10 South Asian adults in Canada were not born in this country, according to the survey. Of those not born here, almost 60 per cent are Canadian citizens, almost 37 per cent are permanent residents, and about four per cent are international students or guest workers.

In Metro Vancouver, South Asians are the third-largest ethnic group after Caucasians and ethnic Chinese. South Asians account for 300,000 Metro Vancouver residents, or about 12 per cent of the population, focused particularly in suburbs such as Surrey.

The one million South Asian residents of Greater Toronto make up 17 per cent of that region’s population.

South Asians tend to be highly educated, earning their university degrees in India, Pakistan or Sri Lanka, as well as Canada.

“Compared to the average Canadian adult, South Asians are 2.2 times more likely on average to have a higher degree (than a bachelors), with those arriving within the last 10 years nearly 2.4 times more likely,” says a report on the Vivintel survey, which was conducted in Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton.

The strong levels of higher education among South Asians tie into discussions about how to compare the value of degrees from a foreign country to those earned in Canada. Stories abound about people who come from India or Pakistan with masters degrees or PhDs who aren’t able to get jobs in their chosen profession.


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Many South Asians want to preserve their culture, religion and traditions in Canada.

Six out of 10 said they “most often eat traditional South Asian food” and another 58 per cent said “religion is a very important part of my life.” Even though such cultural loyalties decline among second-generation South Asians, they are generally higher than those for ethnic Chinese Canadians.

Sethi and several other South Asian employees of Vivintel helped develop the survey questions to capture the spiritual and commercial value of South Asia’s many festivals.

They found Diwali is not only by far the most important religious holiday for South Asians in Canada, it’s also their “fourth largest shopping event,” after Black Friday, Christmas and Boxing Day.

VANCOUVER, BC - October 27, 2019  - A woman serves meals during Diwali Mela at Lakshmi Narayan Temple in Surrey, BC, October 27, 2019.   (Arlen Redekop / PNG staff photo) (story by reporter [PNG Merlin Archive]
A consumer survey found Diwali is not only by far the most important festival for South Asians in Canada, it’s also the “fourth largest shopping event.” Photo by Arlen Redekop /PNG

Of South Asians in Canada, those of Punjabi background are most inclined to hold onto their language. In Metro Vancouver, 36 per cent of Punjabi Canadians born here speak Punjabi, which is a much larger portion than those from other minority ethnicities.

Vivintel surveys have probed deeply into how ethnic Chinese and South Asians in Canada interact with TV and radio stations, newspapers, social media forums and online shopping outlets, including those operating in Canada’s non-official languages.

While Vivintel discovered The Vancouver Sun is the most popular English-language newspaper in Metro, read by 35 per cent of the region’s South Asian adults, 10 other news sources aim exclusively at the South Asian population.


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They range from The Times of India and the Punjabi Star at the top (each read by 18 per cent of local South Asians) down to the Indo-Canadian Voice and South Asian Post (each read by nine per cent).

The survey found South Asians are fans of online shopping. While 40 per cent of all Canadian adults agree that “online shopping makes my life easier,” the margin jumped to 55 per cent for South Asians.

Since Vivintel’s surveys attempt to provide companies and advertisers with marketing data, they ask respondents how they feel about wealth and luxury.

Thirty-seven per cent of South Asian respondents agreed that “being successful means being rich,” while another 51 per cent said “my main goal is to make as much money as possible.”

Thirty-seven per cent of South Asians said they would pay more for products that “elevate their status,” compared to nine per cent of the general adult population.

The survey found people with roots in India, particularly Punjabis, account for three of four South Asians in the Canada, followed by Pakistanis at 12 per cent and Sri Lankans at nine per cent. The first group is by far the most prevalent in Metro Vancouver.


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