One way to measure poverty is to use the Statistics Canada Low Income Cut-off (LICO). The LICO identifies households who may be in “straitened circumstances” based on the percentage of income they pay for necessities compared to the general population. For a family of four the LICO is $38,544, for a single person it is $20,3861.
Using the Statistics Canada Low Income Cut-off, poverty rates for Hamilton have dropped to 16.7%, from 19.8% in 2000, but remain above provincial (13.7%) and national (12.8%) averages2. Poverty rates vary by neighbourhood group. Indigenous people, recent immigrants, many visible minorities, and lone mother families experience twice the rate of poverty as the general population.
Similar to overall poverty rates, one way to measure child poverty is the before-tax Low Income Cut-off, defined above. For a family of four the LICO is $38,544, for a single person it is $20,3865.
In 2015, 21.5% of Hamilton children lived in families that were below the Low Income Cutoff. This percentage has fallen steadily from 26.4% in 2000, but continues to be higher than the 2015 provincial (16.4%) and national (14.4%) averages6.
The second way to capture child poverty is to use the after-tax Low Income Measure, which measures the percentage of children who live in families with incomes below 50% of the median income for households in Hamilton. For a family of four the after-tax LIM is $44,266, for a single person it is $22,1337.
In Hamilton in 2015, 19.1% of children under 18 lived in families that were below the Low Income Measure, down from 20.6% in 2010, and 23.5% in 2004. While the 2015 rate marks the lowest percentage in over 15 years, Hamilton’s child poverty rate remains higher than provincial (18.4%) and national (17.0%) averages8.
According to the Canadian Community Health Survey, 14.8% of Hamiltonians reported experiencing some food insecurity in the last year (76,580 people). Additionally, 4.2% (over 22,000 people) reported severe food insecurity, which means reduced food intake, skipping meals, and disrupted eating patterns9.
In some cases, people visit food banks because they cannot afford to buy enough food. Greater Hamilton Foodshare tracks food bank usage across Hamilton, and in 2017 reported that over 5,200 households used a food bank. These households included almost 8,000 adults and 4,600 children10.
The number of households receiving assistance from Ontario Works (Ontario’s social assistance program) in December 2017 was 12,441, and has been steady at that level for the past two years. It is down from the post-recession peak of over 14,200 in 2011, but remains higher than in 2007, when there were fewer than 10,000 households on the program11.
The number of households receiving assistance from the Ontario Disability Support Program (the provincial assistance program for people with disabilities) has been creeping upward over the past four years. As of December 2017, there were 20,291 households receiving assistance in Hamilton, up from 18,719 in December 201412.
Some groups in our community experience higher rates of poverty than the general population. Drawing on 2016 census data for the Hamilton Census Metropolitan Area13, where the overall after-tax Low Income Measure was 13.0%, Vital Signs found higher rates for:
1 Statistics Canada, CANSIM Table 206-0094.
2 Statistics Canada, 2016 Census. Low Income Data tables.
3 Statistics Canada, CANSIM Table 206-0091.
4 Statistics Canada, 2016 Census. Low Income Data tables.
5 Statistics Canada, CANSIM Table 206-0094.
6 Statistics Canada, 2016 Census. Table 98-400-X2016127.
7 Statistics Canada, CANSIM Table 206-0091.
8 Statistics Canada, 2016 Census. Table 98-400-X2016127.
9 Canadian Community Health Survey, 2015-6. Data supplied by City of Hamilton Public Health Department.
10 Greater Hamilton Foodshare 2017. Hunger Count.
11 City of Hamilton. Community Wellness Indicators. Social Indicators. Accessed April 2018.
13 Note: includes Burlington and Grimsby.
14 Statistics Canada, Census 2016. Table 98-400-X2016173
15 Statistics Canada, Census 2016. Table 98-400-X2016206
16 Statistics Canada. Census 2016. Table 98-400-X2016124
17 Statistics Canada, Census 2016. Table 98-400-X2016211