Tag Archives: statistics

(62) Poverty in Canada [Book review]

Today in Canada is Thanksgiving Day.  Jour de l’Action de grâce has been a national holiday since 1957.  What better spot on the calendar could we pick to review the second edition of Poverty In Canada: Implications for Health & Quality of Life by York University professor Dennis Raphael?

From first encounter this work comes across well.  The second edition clears 500 pages in trade paperback form and continues the fact-jammed academic dissection of poverty in the first edition, with extras.  Of course, there are tables and charts and analysis with references, index and suggestions for web resources and further reading all in the right places.  Plentiful ammunition for journalists, academics, policy makers and public servants to use against ignorance of poverty and hopefully poverty itself.  Students should find this book useful in many fields.

Poverty in Canada is too frequent, too consistent, too often racialized, too hard on too many children, too deep, too little studied, too (literally) sickening, too often not acknowledged at all, too often blamed on the individual affected by it, too closely linked to deliberately chosen neo-conservative economic policies, and too readily reduced or eliminated by quite reasonable efforts and means.  Again and again in this book Canada is seen to fare better than the United States but significantly worse than the Scandinavian countries when it comes to poverty.  Considering the size and economic output of this country our poverty has to be some of the craziest shit in the developed world.  If you are remotely interested in this topic you will find something of disturbing value in Raphael’s work.

Lived experience of poverty has been given more profile in the new edition.  This is sensible.  Elaborating the real thing is humane and complements the statistical approach.

Curiously, there is no specific mention of suburban poverty.  When we purchased Poverty In Canada we expected to find some direct mention of the phenomenon since the Brookings Institution has done a lot to make it a mainstream issue south of the border.  Additionally, we can claim to have directly observed suburban poverty in Canada through social service sector study and volunteering and through living in the suburbs.  In its own modest, amateur way this blog has begun to register and aggregate information about Canadian suburban poverty so we are surprised that a big gun academic like Raphael approaches it indirectly, hasn’t chosen to name it.  Some of this may have to do with the domestic statistical sources he uses and with the fact that the definitions of suburban and urban remains somewhat vague at times for many of us.

Ultimately, all poverty is a disaster and the labels attached to it are less important than the realities of it.  Nonetheless, the experience of poverty changes over time and suburbs are a new frontier of problematic social conditions in Canada.

Seriously, buy and read this book.  Mail a copy to your political representative.  Put it on your students’ reading lists if you are a teacher.  It’s available online and through most book stores.

(60) Au contraire…

Copyright free image from Wikimedia

I was driving through Philly the other day and …blah, blah, blah, …poor people.

We thought it good form to find some content from the interwebs that contradicted our own take on the issue at hand lest we be judged smug, dismissive.  A semi-anonymous blog post from this summer fits the bill nicely and is linked to below.  It employs the relativity argument.  Not derived from Einstein’s view of the universe this is a technique beloved of those politically to the right.  A cross-comparison to global poverty is usually involved.  It is designed to shut down arguments about social policy in a developed country and is, in our experience, driven by fear, loathing and the lack of experience of life though it is usually presented as highly rational and objective.  Such positions on social matters remind us that the battle against poverty need be waged as much in middle and upper class brains as in government offices, clothing banks, soup kitchens and shelters.
Suburban poverty? The Burning Platform

(53) US 2010 census data

2010 Census data has come under analysis and it shows that the general US economy is not in the best of shape.  Curiously, the percentage rate of African American poverty is a just a tad lower than that for white Americans.  It’s hard to say off-the-cuff what this means but we see it’s enough to get this emerging downturn labelled in the mainstream media as ‘different this time’ and as a suburban recession/depression.
Welcome to the suburban depression CNBC

(35) Ottawa’s First Nations

Some new data has become available about First Nations in Ottawa.  The population is growing but becoming more spread out.  Newly arriving First Nations persons are also moving directly to suburban Ottawa in a number of cases.  The sterotype of aboriginal poverty in the centres of Canadian cities (and on reserves) might appear to be changing if this demographic development were to be looked at further.  Unfortunately, the article indicates that there is still hardship for Ottawa’s First Nations outside of the more established neighbourhoods they have lived in there.
5 things to know about Ottawa’s aboriginal community CBC

(21) Rising inequality: OECD data

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development produces a host of data directly useful for assessing social conditions.  Do we need a supercomputer to connect rising inequality and the stacked economic gains of the rich with suburban poverty and downward mobility?

Notes for individual countries are found on the OECD site (.pdf files):

Better than many for a long time but no reason to be smug: Canada
Faltering after some improvement: United Kingdom
Forget it, only Turkey & Mexico are worse for income inequality: United States
Some improvement but could do better: Australia

(14) Social services & suburban poverty [Brookings paper & University of Chicago]

Brookings Institution has followed its earlier papers on suburban poverty with several worthy efforts.

Below is a link for downloading their October 2010 paper about the difficulties facing social services in suburbia after the economic crash of 2008.  Tough times in America for the working poor: with implications for understanding experiences in other countries including Canada and the UK.  The paper includes statistical evidence on reported incomes and includes ‘on-the-ground’ impressions from three major urban-suburban agglomerations.  Part of the ‘Metropolitan Opportunity’ series.
Suburban safety nets rely on relatively few social services organizations, and tend to stretch operations across much larger service delivery areas than their urban counter­parts.
This second link, to a University of Chicago page, includes video from one of the authors and some links to mainstream media coverage.
Poverty grows in suburbs, but social services don’t keep up

(8) Child poverty soars in suburbs [2008 CAS report]


Children’s Aid Society of Toronto released a report at the end of 2008 that makes for alarming reading.  Really, child poverty is the worst kind.  It would seem that Canada is not exactly like some small Scandinavian country with zillions of Krona to spend on sensitively applied, boutique social programs.  Too bad if you live in suburban poverty, huh?

In areas such as Mississauga, Markham, Richmond Hill and Oakville, child poverty rates have soared since 1990, closing in on levels once isolated to downtown Toronto, says the report, which used census data from 2006.