Chapter 15- Poverty- Family Dynamics
Poverty is defined almost entirely in terms of income. Financial levels alone do not accurately reflect the
ability of some people to manage better than others the money available to them. Two basic ways of
defining poverty. 1) An absolute measure identifies the minimum basic requirements necessary for
physical survival (diet that sustains life, clothing that protects from elements, appropriate shelter)
2)another approach considers poverty a relative concept based on social well-being in addition to
physical survival – Statistics Canada low-income cut-offs use this type of definition.
HELPING THE “WORTHY” POOR
- In the early years of European settlement in Canada, the poor depended almost entirely on
their families or on other private individuals for help. Public assistance provided by local
governments or charities on an emergency basis only (grocery hampers, second-hand clothing,
vouchers for fuel). –
- Homeless elderly people kept in local jails on charges of vagrancy because there was no other
place for them.1867 social programs were primarily the responsibility of provincial and local
- Social safety net developed eventually. Social assistance was financial aid provided for workers
and their families during periods of disability. Mother’s allowance set up to help needy children.
Eligibility depended on the mother, criteria varying from province to province. BC – husbands
were in T.B. sanitorium, mental hospital or prison, if self was chronically ill, disabled, widowed;
applicants had to be of good character, pass a strict means test to prove they needed help;
subject to intrusion into personal lives, permission needed to move from city to country or vice
- 1927 old age pensions were established, subject to strict means test. Great Depression of 1930s
federal government assumed growing role as provider of basic financial support to many
destitute families. Since WWII pace of this involvement has increased. 1942 nation-wide
program of unemployment insurance introduced, funded through employer and employee
contributions. 1944 – family allowances introduced for each child up to 16 years of age. 1952 –
federal gov’t introduced Old Age Security. 1965 – Unemployment assistance extended benefits.
1966 – Canada and Quebec Pension plans based on contributions.1972 – new Unemployment
Insurance Act . 1974 – Family Allowance Act . Through EI maternity and paternal benefits; 2006
– Universal Child Care Benefit
- POVERTY, OFFICIALLY DEFINED
- Prof. Chris Sarlo of Nipissing University – “The basic needs poverty line is the cost of a list of
basic needs required for long-term physical well-being. Those needs include nutritious food
purchased at a grocery store fulfilling all Canada Food Guide requirements, rental
accommodation, clothing purchased new at major department stores, household furnishings,
supplies, personal hygiene items, laundry, insurance, out-of-pocket health costs such as
medications, dental, and vision care, and so on.”
- Market Basket Measure (MBM) is the cost of a basket of goods that includes food, shelter,
clothing, and other basic needs. 2007 – annual shelter costs in Montreal $8509, Toronto Chapter 15- Poverty- Family Dynamics
$13,477. Currently, poverty is considered in relation to the income of the ‘average’ Canadian.
Statistics Canada low-income cut-off updated annually – considers family size and community
size; set at a level where a family needs to spend more than 70% of its income on food, clothing
and shelter. Three factors that influence the impact of poverty on families are its depth (amount
a family/individual income is below poverty line), breadth (aspects associated with poverty –
illiteracy, poor health, physical insecurity) and duration (how long poverty lasts). Eventually
income needs to stretch to cover replacement costs for clothing and household supplies.
- WHO ARE THE POOR?
- Determining the number of poor people in Canada is difficult because it depends on the
definition used and the numbers include the homeless which are nearly impossible to accurately
count. Poverty rates have varied with fluctuations in the economy.
- Mid- to late 1970s began to fall, reached low point 1978; 1981 beginning of recession & poverty
levels rose in the next years, economic improvements and rates rose to 1981 levels again. 1997
economy picked up again.
- Poverty levels remained above those in1981 and 1989. 2007 – poverty rate at a record low of
9.2%, recession started in late 2008 will increase poverty.
- Rates lowest for: families with two or more earners; married or common-law couples.
- Rate rises for: two-parent families with one earner; single-adult households; lone parents have
lowest incomes of any families with 2+ members.
- Unattached women and women in lone-parent families are more likely than others to remain
poor for an extended time, men in single-adult households also experience long-term poverty
(not to same extent as women).
- Four groups stand out – young unattached people, older women, female-headed single-parent
families, and one-earner couples with children.
- There has been a decrease in poverty among the elderly as a result of improved pensions and
government benefits. Majority receive most of their income from public programs. OAS paid to
all seniors(amount depends on income), CPP or QPP provides additional income, Guaranteed
Income Supplement for those with low incomes.
Minority Groups and Poverty
- 2005 – among Aboriginal people, 21.7% had incomes below Stats Canada’s cut-off compared to
11.1% of non-Aboriginal population; most pronounced in the three prairie provinces, especially
Manitoba. Winnipeg – poverty rate was 50.4% in 2006.
- Immigrants in Canada 10 years or less greater risk (32.9% in 2004), especially in larger cities;
highest among those in Canada for 1-2 years; refuges more likely to live in poverty --> causes
due to getting into entry level jobs, different customs, languages.
- 2006 – 14.4% with disability lived in poverty; compared to the 9.7% of individuals without a
disability. Rates high for those with problems communicating or with intellectual or
psychological difficulties (cost of living higher because of special needs). 23.1% of those aged 15-
64 held jobs in 2006 in contrast to 48.4% of those without disabilities. 60-70% of deaf people are
What is Beyond the Numbers? Chapter 15- Poverty- Family Dynamics
- Most who live in poverty have jobs.
- 2006 – 19.7% of couples with children with only one earner lived in poverty.
- Female lone paren