Poverty by the Numbers
Poverty costs everyone.
Health Care Costs
Costs Attributed to Crime
$473 - $591 MILLION
$4.8 - $7.2 BILLION
$7.1 - $9.5 BILLION
Total Cost to Albertans
Source: Poverty Costs: An Economic Case for a Preventative Poverty Reduction Strategy in Alberta by Alexia Briggs & Cecilia R. Lee, Vibrant Communities Calgary, 2012
What is poverty?
Edmontonians experience poverty when they lack or are denied economic, social and cultural resources to have a quality of life that sustains and facilitates full and meaningful participation in the community. This holistic definition guided the Mayor's Task Force on Poverty in its two-year consultation with community.
There are various definitions and key terms that are important to understand when talking about poverty from a financial perspective. We've prepared a short glossary of key terms to help.
The city and region are amongst the youngest in the country: at 36.0 years, Edmonton has the youngest median age of Canada’s largest cities. Additionally, Edmonton’s population is becoming increasingly diverse, with a growing Aboriginal and multicultural population.
Working poverty must be more effectively addressed: most people living in poverty are already employed. Many Edmontonians work full-time for the entire year yet earn an income below the poverty line, currently assessed as $17,824 for a single adult. Furthermore, too many highly educated newcomers move to Edmonton only to find that their qualifications are not recognized, severely limiting their professional & economic potential.
Housing is not affordable for many Edmontonians. While the city’s rental vacancy rate has gone from 1.7% in October 2014 to 7.0% in October 2016, and average rents have dropped by $26 to $1,229 per month, Edmonton still has the fourth highest rents in the country.
Income inequality in Edmonton is growing. Between 1982 and 2014, the bottom 50% of tax filers saw a 4.7% increase in their real (after inflation) median incomes compared to a 54.4% increase for the top 1%.
The Edmonton Profile
Excerpted from A Profile of Poverty in Edmonton, February 2017, Edmonton Social Planning Council
The past two years since A Profile of Poverty in Edmonton was published have been challenging ones for the city of Edmonton and its residents. From the autumn of 2014, when oil prices topped $100 US per barrel, there was a rapid descent to the $30 to $40 US per barrel range. Oil prices have only crawled back into the $50 US per barrel range in recent months. Alberta oil is priced at a significant discount to the above prices.
Job growth has slowed markedly and the final six months of 2016 have been marked by job losses exceeding new jobs created. The number of Edmontonians needing to access employment insurance, social assistance, and using the food bank are all up sharply. The number of people moving to Edmonton has also slowed, helping to make rents somewhat more affordable. A higher vacancy rate and additional investment in affordable housing by the three orders of government provide hope for continued progress in reducing the number of homeless Edmontonians.
So far, there have been no widespread reductions in public spending by any of the three orders of government, further cushioning Edmonton’s economy from the recession that has more severely impacted Calgary and the rest of Alberta. In fact, to counter the effects of the recession, infrastructure spending on major transportation, post-secondary, and healthcare projects has been growing. In addition, the federal and provincial governments are also making significant new investments in social infrastructure including the enhanced Canada Child Benefit, the new Alberta Child Benefit, provincial minimum wage increases, and affordable housing.
There is also evidence that—at the beginning of 2017—the Alberta economy has hit or is near the bottom. But any recovery is likely to be slow and uneven. Most analysts don’t expect oil to get back to $100 per barrel any time soon, perhaps not for a decade or more due to the United States shale oil revolution. This revolution in drilling technologies has led to millions of additional barrels of oil per day flooding onto the global market. ATB Financial’s most recent forecast is that, after contracting by 4% in 2015 and 2.6% in 2016, Alberta’s real GDP will grow by 2.1% in 2017 and 2.2% in 2018. The unemployment rate is not expected to improve until 2018 (ATB Financial, 2016).
Edmonton’s poverty reduction initiative—supported by investments made by other orders of government—has gotten off to a promising start despite the strong economic headwinds the city has been facing. However, these efforts are in the very early stages. There will no doubt be unexpected challenges that will have to be met and overcome if the community’s goal of ending poverty in a generation is to be achieved.
To Learn More
- A Profile of Poverty in Edmonton (Edmonton Social Planning Council, February 2017)
- No Change: After 25 Years of Promises, it's Time to Eliminate Child Poverty (Edmonton Social Planning Council, November 2014)
- Together We Raise Tomorrow: Alberta’s Poverty Reduction Strategy (Government of Alberta)
- Creating Pathways out of Poverty: A Results-Based Approach Toward a Bold New Vision (United Way Alberta Capital Region)