Alumna wins CMHC award for study of immigrant settlement in GTA

Sutama GhoshA self-described “insider” of the GTA’s South Asian community, York alumna Sutama Ghosh (PhD ’06) has won a Housing Studies Achievement Award from Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation for her thesis, We Are Not All the Same.

Left: Sutama Ghosh

Ghosh, who taught in York’s Urban Studies Program after completing her graduate studies in York’s Department of Geography, Faculty of Arts, wrote a thesis on the migration and settlement patterns of Indian Bengalis and Bangladeshis, under supervising Professors Robert Murdie, Valerie Preston and Brian Massam. Using her knowledge of differences between the two immigrant groups, normally grouped together in the data as South Asian, Ghosh used census and landed immigrant data – and the phone book – to track where each group has settled in the GTA and why.

“Indian Bengalis have developed a regional identity,” wrote Ghosh, “whereas Bangladeshis have a distinct national identity.” This distinction along with other factors, such as socio-economic status, religion, family connections and experience with an immigration agency, resulted in a significant difference in how and where the two groups settled in the GTA. In her study, Ghosh found that generally, Indian Bengalis chose to live in “mixed” multi-ethnic/cultural spaces, which allowed them to express and retain their multi-linguistic secular identities, whereas the Bangladeshis preferred to create their own enclave “within the multicultural space of Toronto.”

A study of the two groups’ settlement patterns also showed that Indian Bengalis were more likely to be homeowners in Mississauga, while Bangladeshis were more likely to be renters in East Toronto and Scarborough and face barriers to finding adequate housing.

The importance of Ghosh’s study, she wrote, is that it “highlights the conceptual links between migration, settlement patterns and housing trajectories, hitherto considered as separate themes, and the impact of cultural identity, especially language and religion.” Ghosh also concluded that the study “challenges the perception of homogeneity among immigrant groups” and “highlights the importance of disaggregating census categories.”

For a PDF of an abstract of Ghosh’s study, visit the CMHC Web site.