PhD candidate Alice Hoe featured in U of T News story on data-driven research

Alice HoePhD candidate Alice Hoe was recently featured in a U of T news item discussing the role of Big Data in research. Hoe has recently completed her dissertation on immigrant labour market outcomes and will shortly begin a postdoctoral fellowship at York University.  The U of T news piece coincided with a visit to the university from Navdeep Bains, the federal minister of innovation, science and economic development. The full article is available here. We have pasted an excerpt below.


Innovation minister visits StatsCan facility at U of T, emphasizes importance of data-driven research

Canada wants to go big on Big Data to boost innovation and inform policy-making – and researchers from post-secondary institutions like the University of Toronto will play a key role.

Navdeep Bains, the federal minister of innovation, science and economic development, delivered that message at a roundtable discussion Friday with U of T President Meric Gertler and researchers from U of T and McMaster University….

The discussion was held inside U of T’s Research Data Centre, a StatsCan-operated facility on the seventh floor of Robarts Library. The secure facility – users must receive special security clearance, no cellphones or cameras are permitted – makes detailed microdata available to U of T and other researchers on subjects ranging from Canadians’ health to their employment status. It’s part of the Canadian Research Data Centres Network (CRDCN), a network of 16 research data centre clusters located on university campuses across the country…

Alice Hoe, a candidate for a PhD in sociology at U of T, knows how access to the right data can shed light on important social and economic issues. She estimates she spent more than 1,000 hours in the U of T data centre studying labour and income data. Her research is focused on understanding how new immigrants to Canada fare in the job market – a subject she was drawn to after watching her university-educated parents struggle upon arriving in Canada from Taiwan.

“Basically what I’ve found is immigrants are more likely to be in bad jobs, and once they’re in these bad jobs, they’re more likely to stay in them than Canadians who are born here,” Hoe said in an interview earlier this week. “They are also more likely to fall out of employment.”

Economic underperformance among new Canadians is not a new phenomenon. But the situation appears to be getting worse, according to Hoe. She said the problem is tied to a shift in immigration patterns away from Europe toward Asia, Africa and Latin America, suggesting language issues, racial discrimination and challenges associated with the recognition of foreign education and professional credentials are all playing a role.

However, Hoe said it’s become increasingly difficult to get an accurate picture of how new Canadians are faring in the workplace because the survey she relied upon to do her research – the Survey of Labour and Income Dynamics – was scrapped in 2011 and replaced with one that focuses on income.

“You wouldn’t know whether they have access to health and pension benefits, whether they’re unionized with collective bargaining,” said Hoe.

Read the full article.