The determinants of the migration decisions of immigrant and non-immigrant physicians in Canada
Authors: James Ted McDonald and Christopher Worswick
Around 25% of practicing physicians in Canada are graduates of medical schools outside of Canada. These physicians are more likely to be working in rural communities, and in particular account for more than half of new physicians starting practice in rural regions. The extent to which particular health regions and provinces are able to retain their physicians is crucial if shortages in the delivery of physician and surgeon services in both the short and longer terms are to be avoided. In this paper, we use data from the confidential master files of the Canadian Census over the years 1991-2006 to study the geographic mobility of immigrant and non-immigrant physicians who are already resident in Canada. We consider both inter- and intra-provincial migration, with a particular focus on migration to and from rural areas of Canada. We exploit the fact that it is possible to link individuals within families in the Census files in order to investigate the impact on the migration decision of the characteristics of a married physician’s spouse. Our results indicate that the magnitude of outflows is substantial and that the retention of immigrant physicians in rural areas and in some provinces will continue to be difficult. We find strong evidence that migration is a family decision, and spousal characteristics (education, age, years in Canada for immigrants) are important. As well, we find that large Canadian cities (mainly in Ontario) are the likely destination for the types of immigrant physicians typically able to be recruited to other areas, implying recruitment efforts of smaller provinces may have significant implications for the size of health care costs in larger provinces.
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