Toronto becoming increasingly divided by income and socio-economic status

The City of Toronto is becoming increasingly divided by income and socio-economic status, says a new report issued today by the Centre for Urban and Community Studies (CUCS) at the University of Toronto. No longer a “city of neighbourhoods,” the study calls modern-day Toronto a “city of disparities. In fact, Toronto is now so polarized it could be described as three geographically distinct cities made up of 20 percent affluent neighbourhoods, 36 percent poor neighbourhoods, and 43 percent middle-income earner neighbourhoods − and that 43 percent is in decline.”

The CUCS study analyzed income and other data from the 1971 and 2001 censuses, and grouped the city’s neighbourhoods based on whether average income in each one had increased, decreased, or stayed the same over that 30-year period. It found that the city’s neighbourhoods have become polarized by income and other ethno-cultural characteristics and that wealth and poverty are concentrated in distinct areas.

According to this study, based on the 2001 census report Toronto can be described as comprising three distinct geographical “cities”.

Firstly, there is the high-income cluster which constitutes 17 percent of Toronto’s residents. Over the past 30 years this segment of the population has enjoyed an increase in income of 71%. The grand majority of this demographic is white, at 84%. 60% of the occupations held within this community are white-collar.

The middle-income group constitutes 42% of the city’s population. Average income in this group has changed little over the past 30 years, with a slight decrease of 4%. The middle-income group is more ethnically diverse than the high-income group. This group is made up of 67% whites, and 21% black, Chinese or South Asian. 48% of middle-incomers are immigrants, compared to 12% in the high-income group. 39% of employment in this demographic is white collar, 18% blue collar.

The low-income group comprises 40% of the city’s population. Income in this group has decreased by 34% between 1970 and 2000. 40 % of the low-income group is white, and 43% black, Chinese or South Asian. 62% of low-incomers are immigrants. 32% of employment in this group is white collar, 25% is blue collar.

30 years ago 66% of neighbourhoods were comprised of residents whose average incomes were near the middle. Only 1% of neighbourhoods were described as having very poor residents. Things have clearly changed a lot over the past 30 years.

“Middle-income neighbourhoods are now a minority and half the city’s neighbourhoods are low-income,” said Professor David Hulchanski, director of the Centre for Urban and Community Studies.

This economic and cultural segregation will likely continue, he noted, unless the various levels of government undertake policies to support income, give tax relief to those at the low end, and promote mixed neighbourhoods through zoning and rent control.

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