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Chapter 4
Monitoring Progress – Societal Level Indicators

Federal, provincial and territorial governments are committed to monitoring and reporting on the National Child Benefit (NCB) initiative in accordance with the NCB Governance and Accountability Framework. Footnote 14 This commitment is essential so that Canadians can be informed on the NCB's progress toward meeting its goals.

This chapter focuses on societal level indicators. These indicators of socio-economic trends are affected by the NCB as well as by many factors unrelated to the NCB, such as the general level of economic activity, government investments in income transfers, changes in tax policy, and demographic changes. While the NCB initiative has some influence on the trend of these societal level indicators, no attempt is made to isolate the impact of the NCB alone on these trends. Instead, the indicators reported in this chapter paint a broad picture of the condition of low-income families with children in Canada Footnote 15 , and provide a basis for comparison on the progress made over time. Chapter 5 reports on direct outcome indicators, which identify the direct impact of the NCB on families with children.

Table 8 describes the set of societal level and direct outcome indicators developed at the inception of the NCB initiative to track the degree to which each of its three goals is being achieved. This report provides information on many of these societal level indicators, including analysis of the incidence, depth, and persistence of low income among families with children in Canada over time. Information on other societal level indicators is included in the Evaluation of the National Child Benefit Initiative: Synthesis Report. Footnote 16

It should be noted that the measures used in this chapter only indicate trends among Canadian families with children in terms of income. Many other investments in benefits and services introduced under the NCB initiative contribute to improving the well-being of children and their families. Many provincial and territorial NCB programs, benefits and services, such as supplementary health benefits, child/day care, early childhood and children-at-risk services, do not directly affect income trends but are still an important part of governments' strategies to support Canadian families.

The analysis in Chapters 4 and 5 is based on data from Statistics Canada's Survey of Labour and Income Dynamics (SLID). For a discussion of the SLID, its strengths, and its LIMitations, please see Chapter 5 of The National Child Benefit Progress Report: 2005, which is available on the NCB website.

Table 8 - Outcome Indicators for the NCB
Goals Societal Level Indicators Direct Outcome Indicators
Help prevent and reduce the depth of child poverty. Incidence of low income
Number and percentage of families and children living in low income (as defined by the LICOs, LIM and Market Basket Measure).
Incidence of low income
The change in the number of families and children that fall below the low-income line, because of the NCB, within a year.
Duration of low income
Number and percentage of families and children who have been in low income during all four previous years.
Not applicable
Depth of low income (dollar and percentage)
Additional amount of income a low-income family would need to reach a pre-determined line (as measured by the LICOs, LIM and Market Basket Measure).
Depth of low income
The change in the aggregate amount of income that low-income families would need to reach a pre-determined line, due to NCB benefits, within a year.
Promote attachment to the labour market by ensuring that families will always be better off as a result of working. Labour market participation
Number and percentage of earners in families below the low-income line.
Labour market participation
The change in the difference in disposable income between social assistance and employment due to the NCB, within a year.
Average earned income of low-income families as a percentage of the low-income line. The change in social assistance caseloads, exit rates and duration of spells on assistance due to the NCB.
Average earned income of low-income families, over time, expressed in constant dollars.
Number of families/children on social assistance.
Reduce overlap and duplication by harmonizing program objectives and benefits, and simplifying administration. Level 1 – use of federal income tax system to deliver benefits.
Level 2 – participation rates in NCB programs, examples of expanded information-sharing agreements.
Level 3 – surveys of managers and other key informants (monitored as part of the NCB evaluation)
Not applicable

Measuring Low Income

Canada does not have an official poverty line. Several different measures of low income are used in Canada. The most common are the Low Income Cut-offs (LICOs), the Low Income Measure (LIM) and the Market Basket Measure (MBM). Previous NCB Progress Reports have relied upon the post-tax LICO and LIM to measure trends in low income among families with children. This report will continue to use the post-tax LICO and LIM for continuity and to describe long term trends that pre-date the development of the MBM. However, beginning this year, the report will also use the MBM to track low income trends from the year 2000 forward, the first year MBM data was available.

Prior to the development of the MBM the two most commonly used measures of low income in Canada were Statistics Canada’s LICO and LIM measures. LICOs are set according to the proportion of annual income spent on basic needs, including food, shelter and clothing. The LICO is the income level at which a family spends 20 percentage points more of its income on these items relative to the average family. The size of the family and community is taken into account, but geographic differences in the cost of living are not.

The LIM considers a family to be living in low income if its income, adjusted for family size, is less than half the median income (the income level at which the incomes of half of all families are higher and half are lower). The post-tax-and-transfer LIM is similar to measures used in international comparisons, but it does not reflect geographic differences in living costs across Canada.

Both the LICO and the LIM can be calculated using either before- or after-tax income. Post-tax income is generally considered to be a better measure of low-income in Canada for two reasons. First, post-tax income more fully accounts for the re-distributive impact of Canada's tax system. Secondly, since the purchase of necessities is made with after-tax dollars, this approach more fairly and consistently measures the economic well-being of individuals and families.

The MBM was developed in 1997 at the request of Federal/Provincial Ministers Responsible for Social Services in order to complement existing measures in evaluating the effectiveness of the National Child Benefit initiative in reducing the incidence and depth of child poverty in Canada. Seven years of data based on this measure are now available, making it possible to examine low income trends over a significant time period (2000 to 2006). In previous reports, MBM data was included in a text box on low-income measurement. Beginning with this year’s report, MBM data up to 2005 will be incorporated to describe trends throughout this chapter.

The MBM provides a new, more intuitive approach to the measurement of low income. The MBM is based on estimates of the actual cost of food, clothing, shelter, transportation and other necessary goods and services, such as household supplies and telephone services Footnote 17. The cost of this basket of goods and services is determined for 48 regions in the ten provinces. Using the MBM, households are considered to be living in low income if they are unable to purchase this basket of goods and services after accounting for income and payroll taxes and other non-discretionary out-of-pocket spending such as child care necessary to earn income, medically prescribed health expenses and aids for persons with disabilities.

Compared with the LICOs and the LIM, the MBM more precisely reflects differing living costs by geographic location because the thresholds are estimated by region, as well as urban size.

Key Trends

The societal level indicators discussed in this chapter measure the incidence, duration, and depth of low income among families with children in Canada over time. They also illustrate trends in labour force attachment and social assistance caseloads. In this section LICOs are used in order to show progress since the inception of the NCB. Using the societal level indicators for low-income families with children, this report identifies the following key trends:

  • In 2005, using post-tax LICOs, the incidence of low-income among families with children fell to 10.5 percent from 11.6 percent in 2004. This is well below the high of 17.6 percent in 1996. The number of families with children living below the LICO has fallen from 687,000 in 1996 to 398,948 in 2005, or a decline of 288,052 families.
  • Using the MBM, the incidence of low income among families with children decreased from 14.8 percent in 2004 to 13.5 percent in 2005. In 2005, 516,991 families with children had incomes below the MBM threshold.
  • The number of children living in low-income families has declined from a high of 1,304,000 in 1996 to 787,894 in 2005, or a decrease of 516,106 children, according to the LICOs. According to the MBM, 1,013,633 children lived in low income in 2005.
  • The depth of low income (which is the additional amount of income needed by low-income families to reach the low-income line) increased slightly between 1996 and 2005 using the LICO. Expressed in 2005 dollars, the average depth of low income was $7,982 in 2005 compared to $7,820 in 1996.
  • Using the LICO, the proportion of low-income families in which at least one parent was employed for pay during the year increased from 55.7 percent in 1996 to 72.7 percent in 2004 but declined somewhat to 67.4 percent in 2005.
  • There was a reduction in social assistance use by families with children, and corresponding evidence of increasing attachment to the labour force. Between 1996 and 2006, the total social assistance caseload for families with children declined by 57.5 percent, from 631,900 to 268,600 cases.

Incidence of Low Income among Families with Children:

A significant decline over time

The incidence of low income refers to the number of families with children who fall below a pre-determined low-income line expressed as a percentage of all families with children. The trend in the incidence of low income among Canadian families with children since 1988 is shown in Figure 5, using the MBM, post-tax LICOs and post-tax LIMs.

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Figure 5 – Percentage of Families with Children below LICOs and LIM Thresholds, 1988 – 2005
Figure 5: A text description follows the figure
Text description of Figure 5

A line graph showing the trend in percentage of families with children below three low-income measures, the post-tax LICO, the post-tax LIM and the MBM for the years 1988 to 2005.

YEAR Post-Tax LIM Post-Tax LICO MBM
1988 11.9% 11.2%
1989 11.7% 10.8%
1990 13.3% 12.9%
1991 13.2% 14.0%
1992 13.0% 14.0%
1993 13.1% 15.6%
1994 12.9% 15.1%
1995 13.3% 16.3%
1996 15.1% 17.6%
1997 14.9% 16.8%
1998 13.7% 14.6%
1999 13.0% 13.5%
2000 12.5% 12.7% 16.5%
2001 12.2% 11.0% 15.0%
2002 12.7% 11.4% 15.1%
2003 12.8% 11.7% 14.7%
2004 13.1% 11.6% 14.8%
2005 12.0% 10.5% 13.5%
  • Source from the above table Source: Statistics Canada, Survey of Consumer Finance from 1988 to 1995 and Survey of Labour and Income Dynamics (SLID) from 1996 to 2005.

The proportion of families with children living in low income has closely followed the business and employment cycles (see Figure 6). Using the post-tax LICOs measure, Figure 5 shows that the incidence of low income among families with children dropped from 17.6 percent in 1996 to 11.0 percent in 2001 and then rose to 11.7 percent in 2003 and declined to 10.5 percent in 2005. The MBM shows a decline in the incidence of low income among families with children, from 16.5 percent in 2000 to 13.5 percent in 2005.

The low-income rate using the Market Basket Measure is higher than that obtained using Statistics Canada's post-tax LICOs. The most important reason for this, accounting for over 80% of the difference between the rates using the two measures, is that the definition of disposable income used when comparing families' income to the MBM low-income threshold is more comprehensive than the definition of disposable income used by the LICOs. That is, the Market Basket Measure subtracts more items from gross income than the LICOs, such as payroll taxes, out-of-pocket child care costs, vision care, dental care, prescription drugs, alimony and child support payments. The remainder of the difference is accounted for by the choice of the modest but decent standard of living represented by the content of the MBM basket.

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Figure 6 – Unemployment Rate and Percentage of Families with Children below MBM Threshold and Post-tax LICOs,, Canada, 1988-2005
Figure 6: A link to the description follows the figure
Text description of Figure 6

A line graph showing the trend in the unemployment rate and the percentage of families with children below the MBM and post-tax LICO low-income measures for the years 1988 to 2005.

Year Pre-Tax LICO Unemployment MBM
1984 14.7 11.3
1985 14.1 10.6
1986 12.7 9.7
1987 12.6 8.8
1988 11.2 7.8
1989 10.8 7.5
1990 12.9 8.1
1991 14 10.3
1992 14 11.2
1993 15.6 11.4
1994 15.1 10.4
1995 16.3 9.4
1996 17.6 9.6
1997 16.8 9.1
1998 14.6 8.3
1999 13.5 7.6
2000 12.7 6.8 16.5
2001 11 7.2 15.0
2002 11.4 7.7 15.1
2003 11.7 7.6 14.7
2004 11.6 7.2 14.8
2005 10.5 6.8 13.5
  • Source from the above table Source: Statistics Canada. Survey of Consumer Finance from 1988 to 1995 and Survey of Labour and Income Dynamics (SLID) from 1996 to 2005; Labour Force Survey from 1988 to 2005.

In 2005, there were 516,991 families with 1,013,633 children living below the MBM threshold compared to 558,671 families with 1,105,379 children in 2004. Since the year 2000, the incidence of low income among families with children has decreased by about 18 percent. This reduction translates into a net movement of more than 120,563 families with about 229,023 children above the MBM threshold between 2000 and 2005.

The longer term trend indicated by the post-tax LICO data also shows a decline. In 2005, there were 398,900 families with 787,900 children living below the post-tax LICOs compared to 687,000 families with 1,304,000 children in 1996. This translates into a decrease in the incidence of low income among families with children of 41.9 percent. It is important to note that this decrease is greater than that shown using the MBM because of the difference in the period observed.

The reduction in the proportion of single-parent families living in low income since 1996 has been particularly significant. As Figure 7 shows, the proportion of one-parent families living below the post-tax LICOs declined from 46.0 percent in 1996 to 24.4 percent in 2005. The proportion of two-parent families living below the post-tax LICO also showed a decline, from 10.9 percent to 6.9 percent between 1996 and 2005. The proportion of one-parent families living below the MBM threshold declined from a high of 38.2 percent in 2002 to 30.4 percent in 2005. The proportion of two-parent families living below the MBM threshold also showed a decline, from 11.5 percent in 2000 to 9.2 percent in 2005.

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Figure 7 – Percentage of Families with Children with Low Income Single-Parent and Two-Parent Families, MBM, LICOs and LIM, 1988-2005
Figure 7: A text description follows the figure
Text description of Figure 7

Percentage of Families with Children with Low Income, Single-Parent and Two-Parent Families, MBM, LICOs and LIM, 1988-2005

A line graph showing the trend in the percentage of families with children below three low-income measures, the post-tax LICO, the post-tax LIM and the MBM, for three family types, for the years 1988 to 2005.

Post-Tax LIM Post-Tax LICO MBM
1988 11.9% 11.2%
1989 11.7% 10.8%
1990 13.3% 12.9%
1991 13.2% 14.0%
1992 13.0% 14.0%
1993 13.1% 15.6%
1994 12.9% 15.1%
1995 13.3% 16.3%
1996 15.1% 17.6%
1997 14.9% 16.8%
1998 13.7% 14.6%
1999 13.0% 13.5%
2000 12.5% 12.7% 16.5%
2001 12.2% 11.0% 15.0%
2002 12.7% 11.4% 15.1%
2003 12.8% 11.7% 14.7%
2004 13.1% 11.6% 14.8%
2005 12.0% 10.5% 13.5%
  • Source from the above table Source: Statistics Canada, Survey of Consumer Finance from 1988 to 1995 and Survey of Labour and Income Dynamics (SLID) from 1996 to 2005.

Duration of Low Income:

Low Income is Temporary for Most

Low income is usually not a permanent situation for most families with children. Most families who experience low income move in and out of it over time.

From 1996 to 2005, on average, 13.1 percent of families with children lived in low income (post-tax LICO) in any given year. As shown in Figure 8, between 1996 and 1999, about a quarter of all children aged 13 and under lived in a family which experienced low income for at least one of those four years (1,403,600 children in total). However, of those 1,403,600 children, less than one-half lived in low income for more than two of these four years (638,700 children in total, or 12.1 percent of all children age 13 and under). Only about a quarter of these children lived in a low-income situation for all four years (332,700 children in total, or 6.3 percent of all children age 13 and under).

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Figure 8 – Children 13 and Under Living in Low Income, Post-Tax LICO, 1996-1999, 1998-2001, 2000-2003 and 2002-2005
Figure 8: A text description follows the figure
Text description of Figure 8

A line graph showing the trend in percentage of children aged 13 and under living under the post-tax LICO, for one year or more, as well as for 2 years or more, for 3 years or more, and for 4 years. Data is provided for four time periods of 1996 to 1999, 1998 to 2001, 2000 to 2003 and 2002-2005.

1996-1999 1998-2001 2000-2003 2002-2005
One Year or More 26.5% 22.6% 19.1% 19.6%
Two Years or More 17.7% 14.7% 11.4% 12.5%
Three Years or More 12.1% 9.3% 7.4% 8.7%
Four years 6.3% 5.2% 4.1% 4.6%
  • Source from the above table Source: Statistics Canada, Survey of Labour and Income Dynamics (SLID).

Comparing the 1996-1999 period to the next four-year period, 1998-2001, the proportion of children experiencing low income in at least one of the four years declined from 26.5 percent to 22.6 percent. This proportion declined further to 19.1 percent in the 2000-2003 period. However, in the 2002-2005 period the proportion of children experiencing low income has increased to 19.6 percent.

Of the 943,700 children aged 13 and under who lived in a family which experienced low income for at least one year between 2002 and 2005, less than one-half lived in low income for more than two of these four years (417,100 children in total, or 8.7 percent of all children age 13 and under). Less than a quarter of these children lived in low income for all four years (220,200 children in total, or 4.6 percent of all children age 13 and under).

Depth of Low Income:

Though Fewer Families are in Low Income, the Depth of Low Income has Increased in Recent Years

The depth of low income measures how far family income falls below a given low-income line. It measures the additional amount of income a low-income family would need to reach a pre-determined low-income line, such as the MBM threshold or Statistics Canada's LICOs or the LIM.

An example is given below in Table 9. It shows that the 2005 low-income line (post-tax LICOs) of a two-parent, two-child family living in an Ontario city of between 100,000 and 500,000 people is $32,576. If such a family had a disposable income of $24,432 in that year, its depth of low income would be $8,144 (i.e., $32,576 - $24,432). Expressed as a percentage, the depth of low income of this family is equal to 25 percent of the low-income line (i.e., [$8,144/$32,576] x 100).

Table 9 - Depth of Low Income for a Two-Parent, Two-Child Family Living in an Ontario City of between 100,000 and 500,000 People in 2005The source for this table is located after the table
Post-Tax LICOs
2005 Low-Income Cut Off (Post-Tax) $32,576
Example Family’s Disposable Income $24,432
Difference Between Low-Income Cut Off and Example Family's Income
(Depth of Low Income of that Family)
$8,144
Percentage Points Below Low-Income Cut Off 25%
  • The source for the above table Source: Statistics Canada, Survey of Labour and Income Dynamics (SLID) 2005.

The LICO data in Figure 9 shows that between 1988 and 2005, there has been a slight increase in the depth of low income among families with children, from 29.3 percent in 1988 to 31.0 percent in 2005. Between 1997 and 2005, the depth of low income among families with children improved slightly from 32.2 percent to 31.0 percent in 2005.

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Figure 9 – Post-tax LICOs: Depth of Low Income - Shortfall of Low-Income Families with Children as a Proportion of the LICO, 1988 – 2005
Figure 9: A text description follows the figure
Text description of Figure 9

A line graph showing the trend in the depth of low income, expressed as a percentage below the post-tax LICO, for families with children for the years 1988 to 2005.

All Families Two-Parent Families Single-Parent Families
1988 29.3% 26.5% 31.8%
1989 30.1% 30.4% 30.1%
1990 31.9% 31.9% 31.7%
1991 31.5% 30.4% 32.7%
1992 33.6% 36.0% 31.5%
1993 29.2% 28.1% 30.2%
1994 30.8% 31.3% 30.1%
1995 29.5% 29.7% 29.1%
1996 29.8% 30.6% 28.7%
1997 32.2% 33.3% 30.6%
1998 30.2% 29.4% 30.7%
1999 30.1% 30.7% 29.2%
2000 28.0% 28.5% 27.3%
2001 29.2% 30.7% 27.7%
2002 28.6% 29.7% 27.6%
2003 28.0% 27.8% 28.0%
2004 29.0% 29.9% 28.1%
2005 31.0% 33.4% 28.5%
  • Source from the above table Source: Statistics Canada, Survey of consumer Finance from 1988 to 1995 and Survey of Labour and Income Dynamics (SLID) from 1996 to 2005.

In dollar terms, the average depth of low income has also shown a slight increase between 2000 and 2005. In 2000, low-income families with children had an average disposable income of $19,652. These low-income families would have needed, on average, $7,529 to reach the after-tax LICO threshold in their region. Comparatively, low-income families had an average disposable income of $19,448 in 2005 and needed, on average, $7,982 to reach the low-income line. Footnote 18

Complex factors make it difficult to interpret changes in the depth of low income. As described above, movements in and out of low income are significant and have an impact on the depth of low-income indicator. For example, if families that are closer to the low-income line increase their incomes enough to no longer be considered living in low-income, the average depth of low income for those who remain below the low-income line may actually increase. This result would give the impression that the situation has worsened for all, when it has really improved for many. Despite these LIMitations, the depth of low income is an important indicator of how low-income families are faring.

Labour Market Attachment Among Low-Income Families:

Employment Among Low-Income Parents Remains High

Promoting attachment to the labour force among low-income families with children is the second goal of the NCB initiative. Figure 10 indicates that the percentage of low-income families in which the parents had paid employment declined during the economic downturn in the early 1990s, but then continued to increase during the economic recovery of the late 1990s and the early part of this decade. However, the figures for 2005 show a sharp decline in paid employment among families with children.

As illustrated in Figure 10, the proportion of low-income families with children in which at least one parent was employed for pay during the year increased from 55.7 percent in 1996 to 72.7 percent in 2004 but then declined to 67.4 percent in 2005. The proportion of one-parent families employed for pay rose from 37.5 percent in 1996 to 63.2 percent in 2004 and then declined to 55.6 percent in 2005.

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Figure 10 – Post-tax LICOs: Percentage of Low-Income Families Employed for Pay During the Year, By Family Type, 1988 – 2005
Figure 10: A text description follows the figure
Text description of Figure 10

A line graph showing the trend in percentage of low-income families who were employed for pay during a given year, by family type, for the years 1988 to 2005.

All Families Two-Parent Families Single-Parent Families
1988 64.38% 79.46% 49.26%
1989 66.24% 84.54% 49.10%
1990 66.59% 85.89% 50.33%
1991 61.70% 79.73% 4.46%
1992 57.23% 80.17% 39.08%
1993 56.57% 71.07% 43.44%
1994 54.94% 70.63% 38.96%
1995 60.92% 76.90% 43.15%
1996 55.67% 73.38% 37.51%
1997 61.20% 80.12% 41.94%
1998 61.11% 73.83% 48.71%
1999 61.09% 80.24% 43.32%
2000 65.67% 78.97% 50.93%
2001 63.03% 76.56% 49.54%
2002 65.80% 80.02% 53.95%
2003 68.60% 79.40% 59.10%
2004 72.70% 83.00% 63.20%
2005 67.40% 78.10% 55.60%
  • Source from the above table Source: Statistics Canada, Survey of Consumer Finance from 1988 to 1995 and Survey of Labour and Income Dynamics (SLID) from 1996 to 2005.

Additional information on labour force attachment can be gained by examining the sources of income of low-income families with children. For example, Figure 11 shows the average level of government transfers received and average earnings of low-income families with children between 1988 and 2005 (expressed in 2005 dollars).

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Figure 11 – Source of Family Income, Low-Income Families with Children, Post-tax LICOs (expressed in 2005 dollars)

A line graph showing the sources and amounts of family income for families with children below the post-tax LICO, for the years 1988 to 2005. Amounts are expressed in 2005 dollars (rounded to the nearest dollar).

Figure 11: A text description follows the figure
Text description of Figure 11
Transfers Earnings
1988 $10,165 $6,743
1989 $9,490 $7,000
1990 $9,802 $6,764
1991 $10,148 $6,460
1992 $10,218 $4,893
1993 $12,057 $5,663
1994 $11,652 $5,360
1995 $11,184 $6,834
1996 $11,414 $5,510
1997 $9,588 $6,008
1998 $11,600 $5,539
1999 $10,470 $5,904
2000 $11,269 $6,734
2001 $11,815 $5,682
2002 $11,170 $6,063
2003 $11,153 $6,419
2004 $10,539 $6,680
2005 $10,737 $5,613
  • Source from the above table Source: Statistics Canada, Survey of Consumer Finance from 1988 to 1995 and Survey of Labour and Income Dynamics (SLID) from 1996 to 2005.

While there has been variation from year to year, from the early 1990s to 2004, there was a moderate upward trend in the level of earnings of low-income families with children and in the proportion of after-tax income that comes from employment earnings. In 1992, low-income families earned, on average, $4,893. This amount represented approximately 30.7 percent of the after-tax income of low-income families. In 2004, low-income families earned, on average, $6,680, which was 35.4 percent of their total after-tax income. In 2005, the average earnings of low income families fell to $5,613 or 31.6 percent of after-tax income. During this same period, the trend in government transfers was slightly upward, and transfers continued to play an important role as a source of family income for low-income families.

Fewer Canadian Children are Living on Social Assistance

While it is not a direct indication of increased labour force attachment, there was a significant decline in the number of families receiving social assistance during the late 1990s.

Figure 12 shows that between 1996 and 2005, the number of one-parent families relying on social assistance decreased by 54.6 percent (from 454,500 to 206,200 households). By 2006, the decline reached 55.2 percent (down to 203,400 households). Between 1996 and 2005, the number of two-parent families with children relying on social assistance decreased by 61.9 percent (from 177,400 to 67,600 households). By 2006, the decline reached 63.1 percent (down to 65,400 households). As a result, between 1996 and 2005, the overall number of children living in families relying on social assistance decreased by 56.2 percent (from 1,096,900 to 480,700 children). By 2006, the decline reached 58.0 percent (down to 460,700 children).

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Figure 12 – Social Assistance Families and Children in March of Each Year, 1988- 2006 (in thousands)
Figure 12: A text description follows the figure
Text description of Figure 12

A line graph showing the trend in percentage of families with children receiving social assistance as of March in a given year, by family type and children, for the years 1988 to 2006.

One-Parent Families Two-Parent Families Total Children
1988 284,800 93,300 683,900
1989 289,300 89,800 687,500
1990 309,400 93,000 725,300
1991 349,400 117,200 863,600
1992 408,200 149,000 1,030,100
1993 411,500 169,700 1,108,600
1994 465,600 179,900 1,162,700
1995 472,500 178,600 1,153,100
1996 454,500 177,400 1,096,900
1997 429,600 165,000 1,037,600
1998 402,100 147,300 955,400
1999 347,300 121,500 809,000
2000 306,300 105,700 712,600
2001 255,500 86,600 634,500
2002 237,700 82,100 591,200
2003 $11,153 $6,419 93,300
2004 219,000 70,450 498,800
2005 206,200 67,600 480,700
2006 203,400 65,400 460,700
  • Source from the above table Source: Strategic Policy – Children and Families, Human Resources and Social Development Canada.

It is interesting to compare the reduction in social assistance caseloads for families with children with the situation of childless families. Figure 13 shows that between 1996 and 2006, the two-parent family social assistance caseload numbers decreased by 63.1 percent. By comparison, between 1996 and 2006, the caseload numbers for couples without children decreased by only 29.2 percent. Similarly, between 1996 and 2006, the caseload for one-parent families declined by 55.2 percent while the caseload numbers for singles without children declined by only 17.6 percent.

Economic growth in the late 1990s was one of the main reasons for the overall reduction in social assistance caseloads. In addition, welfare reform measures, including the restructuring of social assistance systems in several provinces as part of the NCB initiative, were a contributing factor in the decline in the caseload of families with children. Finally, evidence from the federal/provincial/territorial evaluation of the NCB initiative suggests that the NCB was associated with social assistance caseload reductions. Footnote 19

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Figure 13 – Social Assistance Data as of March of Each Period, 1996, 2005 and 2006
Figure 13: A text description follows the figure
Text description of Figure 13

A bar graph showing the number of singles without children as well as families with children by family type, receiving social assistance as of March in a given year, for four years (1996, 2005 and 2006).

Singles without children One-Parent Families Couples without children Two-parent families with children
1996 869,300 454,500 80,800 177,400
2005 708,600 206,200 60,400 67,600
2006 716,500 203,400 57,200 65,400
  • Source from the above table Source: Strategic Policy – Children and Families, Human Resources and Social Development Canada.

Summary

This chapter has shown that the incidence of low income among families with children has fallen significantly since the inception of the NCB initiative. From a peak of 17.6 percent in 1996 according to the post-tax LICOs, the incidence of low income among families with children fell to 10.5 percent in 2005. This represents a decrease of 40.3 percent from 1996 levels. With respect to the duration of low income, there were declines in the proportion of children experiencing low income in the 1996-1999, 1998-2001 and 2000-2003 periods but this trend reversed in the 2002-2005 period. The depth of low income for families with children has increased slightly from $7,820 in 1996 (expressed in 2005 dollars) to $7,982 in 2005 according to the LICOs, or, from $7,257 in 2000 (expressed in 2005 dollars) to $7,646 in 2005 according to the MBM.

In terms of attachment to the labour market, the proportion of earnings from employment and the percentage of low-income families employed for pay were higher in 2004 than in 1996 but declined in 2005. Finally, the social assistance caseload for families with children continues to decline.

These indicators are important in monitoring the overall economic well-being of low-income families with children. However, the extent to which the NCB has contributed to these changes cannot be directly determined from the societal level indicators reported on in this chapter. They do not tell us the extent to which the NCB is responsible for changes in these trends. Chapter 5 will describe the direct contribution of the NCB in preventing and reducing the incidence and depth of low income among families with children.


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