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Project Objective

The overall aim of this project is to develop a deeper understanding of the factors and dynamics influencing immigrant attraction and retention in small and mid-sized cities. Focusing on immigrant agency, we explore how the intersection of place-based factors and immigrants’ life course stage and age influence their preferences and migration decision making over time.

An international research partnership will be developed to investigate and compare eight selected small and mid-sized cities: four in Canada, two in Australia, and two in New Zealand. The project aims to produce useable knowledge that can help government and community stakeholders to improve policies and programs related to immigration and integration.


Research questions

  1. What role do intersecting place-based, life course and age-related factors play in influencing immigrants’ decisions to move to and stay in small and mid-sized cities?  
  2. How can a comparative framework of community and immigrant experiences be used to further understanding of immigrant attraction and retention in small and mid-sized cities?
  3. What can be done by policymakers, community organizations and cultural associations to further the success of policies, programs and initiatives designed to support immigrant attraction and retention?  


Many small and mid-sized cities in Canada, Australia, and New Zealand have looked to international migration to offset the impacts of population decline and fill labour shortages in regional areas. Despite policy interventions and local strategies to improve immigration outcomes to smaller centres, attracting and retaining immigrants has continued to be a challenge for many communities as immigrants generally prefer to live in larger cities (Hyndman, Schuurman, & Fiedler, 2006; Stump, 2019; Fang and Sapeha, 2018).

Studies have been carried out in Canada, Australia and New Zealand to identify which factors are most important for attracting and retaining newcomers in regional centres (Akbari, 2020; Sayers & Poulter, 2016; Taylor, Bell, & Gerritsen, 2014; van Kooy, Wickes, & Ali, 2019; Walton-Roberts, 2011). The findings from these studies, however, have been inconclusive. Many focus on singular factors such as the importance of employment or housing availability and are based on single-city case studies. Moreover, life course and age-related factors have been largely overlooked. More in-depth, comparative research is therefore needed to understand the factors influencing immigrant attraction and retention.



Upon its completion, this project will have:

  • created new interdisciplinary knowledge on factors influencing immigrant attraction and retention in small and mid-sized cities
  • developed a framework for comparing small and mid-sized cities
  • developed community-based methodologies for understanding immigration and integration in non-metropolitan contexts 
  • contributed new understandings of what works (and what does not) with respect to federal and provincial government policies and programs seeking to attract and retain newcomers in small and mid-sized cities.
  • provided recommendations to policymakers and other key stakeholders on how to successfully attract and retain immigrants in small and mid-sized cities.