An Introduction to the State of Poverty in Canada

Over the last two decades, the share of Canadians living in poverty and low income in a given year has steadily declined. In particular, the proportion of children, seniors, and persons in lone-parent households living in such circumstances is generally smaller than in 1996. Moreover, the incidence of Canadians stuck in persistent low income year after year has fallen by more than half since the 1990s and a smaller percentage of the population is experiencing low income even for a very short period.

But there are still groups of Canadians with certain characteristics that find themselves at higher risk of being stuck in persistent low income than the rest of the population. Specifically, Statistics Canada research has identified people with physical and mental disabilities, single people (unattached individuals), lone-parent families, those with less than a high school education, and visible minorities who are immigrants. Importantly, not all characteristics are captured by Statistics Canada’s data including whether someone suffering from drug or alcohol addiction may be at higher risk for persistent low income. Ultimately, to improve the lives of people who are stuck in persistent low income or poverty, more research is needed to better understand why they get stuck in the first place. This paper is the first step in a multi-year research program that will focus on the reasons why specific groups get stuck in low income so we can ultimately offer workable policy options to assist them.

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