Rich, poor divide growing in cities
Income growth for low-earning families stagnant, figures show
There was little change in median family income and the number of low-income Canadians in most major cities during the 1990s, a report released today by Statistics Canada shows.
The report, which looks at 27 “census metropolitan areas” across Canada based on census data, shows median family-income growth stagnated in the decade preceding the new millennium.
The gap between richer and poorer neighbourhoods rose, with immigrants and aboriginal people much more likely to be struggling with low income.
In Toronto, for example, median family income in the poorest 10 per cent of neighbourhoods amounted to $32,900 in 2000, up 2.6 per cent from 1980. In the richest 10 per cent of neighbourhoods, it was $92,800, up 17.4 per cent.
While painting a broad statistical portrait of urban income and low income by examining changes in Canadians’ pre-tax family earnings, the report also looks at groups at high risk of having low incomes, including recent immigrants, aboriginals, single-parent families, seniors and children.
It also analyses changes in income inequality among various neighbourhoods within individual metropolitan areas. A low-income neighbourhood is one in which the low-income rate exceeds 40 per cent, the report says.
Median income of families living in an urban area in 2000 amounted to $62,300, a one per cent increase from 1990. That contrasts with the 1980s, when incomes rose five per cent, the report shows. Over the entire 20-year period, median income rose by seven per cent.
In the 1980s, the boom in economic growth was shared among most Canadians. While those at the top of the income pyramid increased more from 1980 to 1990, low-income Canadians also benefited — the low-income rate in most census areas fell to 17.2 per cent from 18.3 per cent on average.
However, in the 1990s, “growth was concentrated more among high-income families, with the income of low-income families growing little or declining in most metropolitan areas,” the report says. “As a result, the low-income rate in all metropolitan areas combined rose slightly from 17.2 per cent to 17.7 per cent between 1990 and 2000.”
But that trend was not evident in two of Canada’s largest cities — Toronto and Vancouver — where low-income rates increased in the last decade of the century. Recent immigrants were particularly hard hit during that period.
The proportion of low-income neighbourhoods remained relatively stable in the 27 urban areas between 1980 and 2000.
In 1980, 6.1 per cent of neighbourhoods in urban areas were low-income areas. This proportion fell to 5.5 per cent in 1990, doubled to 11.8 per cent in 1995, then fell to 5.8 per cent by 2000 as economic conditions improved.
As well, low-income families in urban areas received much less of their income from working, “and more from government transfers than their counterparts two decades earlier,” the report says.
The report focused on three groups that tended to have higher low-income rates:
— Single-parent families: 46.6 per cent in 2000, compared with 15.4 per cent among people in other types of families. The low-income rate among lone-parent family members was even higher in 1980, at 54.2 per cent.
— Recent immigrants: In 2000, immigrants had a low-income rate of 35 per cent, nearly twice the average rate for metropolitan areas overall; in 1980, the group had a rate of just 23.1 per cent.
— Aboriginals: 41.6 per cent had low incomes, more than double the national average for metropolitan areas.
The three groups — recent immigrants, Aboriginal people and lone-parent families — were more likely than others to live in low-income neighbourhoods, the report says.