Photo by ItkasanImages/Victoria Buzz

A new report from the Angus Reid Institute (ARI) is painting a bleak picture of the state of poverty in Canada, based on people’s own lived experiences.

The two-part study was based on a survey administered to 2,542 Canadians between May 28 and June 13.

The study found that one-in-five adults (21%) can’t regularly afford dental care, one-in-six can’t routinely afford new clothes or good-quality groceries, and one-in-seven have struggled with inadequate housing, whether it’s too small or too far from work and school.

Based on the findings, the ARI was able to sort Canadians into four groups:

  • struggling (16% of the total population),
  • on the edge (11%),
  • recently comfortable (36%),
  • and always comfortable (37%).

The first group faces financial challenges that “are negatively affecting their quality of life,” while aptly-named second group is not far from doing the same.

The ARI points out that because the survey was conducted online, those suffering extreme financial hardship are likely underrepresented in the sample.

Canada does not officially define poverty

The ARI points out that the federal government has no official definition of poverty, and that it uses an income-based analysis in comparing its poverty rate with other countries.

In conducting its study, the ARI chose to examine “self-reported personal experiences to provide a sense of the relative ease or difficulty with which Canadians are able to make ends meet.”

The ARI asked respondents about a dozen specific money-related scenarios through an online survey. Scenarios ranged from having to give up things like movies and dinners out on a special occasion, to more serious scenarios like having to use a food bank or being unable to afford warm winter clothes.

poverty
A list of the scenarios respondents were asked to quantify their experience with. (Angus Reid Institute)

Women more likely to be struggling or on the edge

The study found that one-in-six Canadians who qualify as struggling are those who fit the traditional characteristics of poverty; namely, Indigenous people, visible minorities, people with disabilities, LGBTQ people, women, and people with a high school education or less all see larger representation in the struggling category.

A demographic breakdown of each category included in the study. (Angus Reid Institute)Interestingly, the ARI found that many people who fall into one of the four categories don’t necessarily line up with traditional income level categories.

For example, more than one-in-five of the struggling (22%) come from households that earn between $50,000 and $100,000 per year, which is well above low-income cut-offs for an individual, or even a family of four.

Only 28% of respondents saw their financial situations improving in the future, while 45% said they expect theirs to stay the same, and 27% foresee it getting worse.

Respondents from all categories were pessimistic about future generations, whether its their own kids or someone of similar age, with 43% saying they expect the next generation to be worse off than their own.

The rest of part one of the study can be read here. Part two will focus more on Canadians’ attitudes, sense of empathy for the struggling, and support for policies aimed at alleviating poverty in the country.

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