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Aboriginal Women – Education and Major Fields of Study
Education is one of the most important determinants of economic, health and social well-being. Higher education leads to better quality and higher paying jobs and reduced unemployment, all of which impacts health outcomes. This is as true for Aboriginal women as for any other group in Canada.
The Strategic Research Directorate, in partnership with the Gender Issues Directorate, commissioned a study on Aboriginal women in Canada using the 2006 Census of Population. This Strategic Research Brief focuses on educational characteristics of Aboriginal women, while making comparisons to non-Aboriginal women and Aboriginal men.Main Findings
• Thirty-six percent of Aboriginal women have a postsecondary certificate, diploma or degree, compared to 50% of non-Aboriginal women.
• The proportion of Aboriginal women holding a university degree has increased steadily since 2001.
• Among Aboriginal women, Métis and Registered Indian women living off reserve are the most highly educated.
Comparing Educational Attainment
Figure 1 presents the highest certificate, diploma or degree earned by on- and off-reserve Registered Indian, Inuit, Métis and non-Aboriginal women. It shows that, in 2006, 36% of all Aboriginal women have a postsecondary certificate or degree. This is noticeably lower than the non-Aboriginal female population, 57% of which have a postsecondary certificate, diploma or degree. The difference in postsecondary attainment is mainly explained by the much smaller percentage of Aboriginal women with a university degree: 19% of non-Aboriginal females have a degree, compared to only 7% of Aboriginal women.
Although Aboriginal women have lower educational attainment than non-Aboriginal women, research shows that at least some of this difference is due to their diverging pathways through the education system. For example, while many Aboriginal women do not have a high school diploma, some of these women return to complete high school later in life, starting in their twenties. Delayed pathways in education are also suggested by the fact that many Aboriginal postsecondary students are older and more likely to have children when compared to other students (Holmes, D. 2005).
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