by Paula Arriagada

This study was funded by Women and Gender Equality Canada (WAGE).

Overview of the study.

Postsecondary education is associated with better labour market outcomes, including higher employment rates and earnings. The educational attainment among Canadians has increased significantly in the last two decades, especially among women. Notably, Indigenous women have also made significant gains in every level of the educational system. However, the disparities in educational attainment between Indigenous people and the non-Indigenous population persist. This study examines the educational attainment and labour market outcomes of First Nations, Métis, and Inuit women with a bachelor’s degree or higher, primarily between the ages of 25 to 64, using data from the 2006 and 2016 Censuses of Population, the 2017 Aboriginal Peoples Survey and the 2018 National Graduates Survey. Comparisons are made across Indigenous identity groups, and between the
sexes, as well as to the non-Indigenous population.

• In 2016, half (52%) of Indigenous women aged 25 to 64 had a postsecondary qualification, including the 14% of Indigenous women with a bachelor’s degree or higher. By contrast, 46% of Indigenous men obtained postsecondary qualifications including 8% who graduated with a bachelor’s degree or higher. However, the educational attainment at the postsecondary level of non-Indigenous women (67% any postsecondary and 32% bachelor’s degree or more) and men (64% and 27%, respectively)
remained higher.

• The educational attainment of Indigenous women has increased over time. By 2016, 14% of Indigenous women aged 25 to 64 had attained a bachelor’s degree or higher, which is up from 9% a decade earlier in 2006. The proportion of Indigenous men with at least a bachelor’s degree also grew but to a lesser extent (6% in 2006 and 8% in 2016). Furthermore, gains in advanced degrees, particularly those at the master’s level, were greater for Indigenous women compared to Indigenous men.

• Among Indigenous women aged 25 to 64 with a bachelor’s degree or higher, the most common funding source was government student loans (43%). When funding sources were compared across different levels of education, those with lower levels of postsecondary education tended to report having obtained funding from fewer sources than graduates with more advanced degrees.

• Results are consistent with existing research showing that higher education is associated with higher rates of employment, especially for Indigenous women. The majority (92%) of Indigenous women with a bachelor’s degree or higher were employed in 2018, significantly higher than the corresponding proportion for Indigenous women with postsecondary qualifications below the bachelor’s level (78%). As for Indigenous male postsecondary graduates, rates of employment did not differ significantly by
level of study.

• About two-thirds (66%) of Indigenous women reported their job or business was closely related to their 2015 program, regardless of whether their post-secondary qualification was at, above or below bachelor's level. For men (Indigenous or not) as well as for non-Indigenous women, degree level was positively associated with finding employment more closely related to their field of study.

More details about the study.