04/17/2019 15:54 EDT | Updated 04/17/2019 16:16 EDT

Housing Wealth Makes Immigrants Richer Than Canadian-Born Families: Statistics Canada

New Canadians put more of their eggs in the real estate basket, which comes with risk.

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Canada's immigrants are all about real estate, and that means newcomers to the country are carrying more debt than their Canadian-born counterparts.

But the upside is that immigrant families have also accumulated more wealth, according to data released by Statistics Canada on Tuesday.

The agency's report, "The Wealth of Immigrant Families in Canada," found that "established" immigrants are slightly wealthier than Canadian-born households, with an average net worth of $1.06 million in 2016.

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StatCan defined "established immigrant family" as one where the major earner is 45 to 64 years old and has been in Canada for at least 20 years.

By comparison, a household with a Canadian-born major earner aged 45 to 64 had an average net worth of $979,000. Net worth is the value of all of a person's assets, including their house, minus debts.

Canadian-born households saw their wealth rise by 88.6 per cent between 1999 and 2016, the study found, while established immigrant households saw their wealth grow by 69.6 per cent in that time.

Immigrants more exposed to housing market risk

Most of the wealth growth came from an increase in house prices and growth in the value of retirement pension plans. But the study found immigrant families are far more reliant on real estate than other families for wealth gains.

For established immigrant families, 69 per cent of wealth growth between 1999 and 2016 came from real estate. For non-immigrant families, only 39 per cent came from real estate.

Earlier on HuffPost Canada:

This focus on real estate means immigrant families are also carrying more mortgage debt than others, potentially putting them at greater risk in the event of a debt crisis.

Non-immigrant families with a major earner aged 45 to 64 had, on average, debt equal to 137 per cent of household income in 2016. For immigrant families, the ratio is a much higher 217 per cent.

But despite the heavier debt loads, immigrant families aren't showing signs that they are struggling to manage their debts to any greater degree than others, StatCan noted.

"The study finds no evidence that immigrant families use payday loans, withdraw money from registered retirement savings plans or pay off only part of their monthly credit card balances to a greater extent than Canadian-born families of similar age do," the report stated.