children playing

Unequal city: The hidden divide among Toronto’s children and youth

Printer-friendly versionSend by emailPDF version
Polyani, M., Wilson, B., Mustachi, J., Ekra, M. & Kerr, M.
Publication Date: 
14 Nov 2017


This report draws on the Statistics Canada 2016 Census and other new data sources to describe the level, distribution and depth of poverty among Toronto children, youth and their families.

Its main findings are the following:


  • Indigenous families with children in the City of Toronto experience an extremely high poverty rate of 84%.
  • More than one in four children under 18 years of age (26.3%) live in poverty in the city of Toronto. This is the highest rate among large urban areas in Canada.
  • Children in racialized families are more than twice as likely to be living in poverty compared to children in non-racialized families (25.3% compared to 11.4%) in the Toronto region (i.e., Census Metropolitan Area or CMA).
  • Almost one in two children who are of West Asian (46.8%) or Arab (46.7%) background live in poverty in the Toronto region. This is more than four times the rate of poverty of children in non-racialized families.
  • Almost one in two Toronto region newcomer children who arrived in Canada between 2011 and 2016 (47.2%) live in poverty. This is almost three times the rate of poverty experienced by children in non- immigrant families.
  • Child poverty rates for children who are second and third generation Canadian remain particularly high for Black and Latin American families in the Toronto region.
  • 37.8% of children in lone-parent families in the Toronto region live in poverty, while the rate for children in female lone-parent households at 40%, more than twice the poverty rate of two-parent families.
  • The gap in child poverty rates across Toronto neighbourhoods remains stark, ranging from 4% in Kingsway South to 60% in Thorncliffe Park.
  • Thirteen city wards have areas of child poverty where rates are 50% or more.


As shown in this report, the divide in incomes along Indigenous, racial, immigration status, and gender lines is staggering. Rates of poverty for marginalized communities are several times what they are for others.

As more than half of Toronto’s population identify as racialized (51.5%), this is a deep concern. Building a successful city must include providing the necessary measures to ensure no one is left behind and that systemic inequalities are addressed within policies and programs.

Addressing these inequities will require concerted effort. The City must work together with community partners to address systemic barriers present in City policies, programs and services. It must provide adequate funding to implement approved strategies, including the Poverty Reduction Strategy, the Toronto Newcomer Strategy, the Youth Equity Strategy and other relevant plans. The City must also pass the final Toronto Action Plan to Confront Anti-Black Racism which is expected to come forward to the Executive Committee and City Council shortly, as well as create gender equity and racial justice strategies. Reducing racial, gendered and other disparities and inequities must be a top priority if the City is committed to reducing child and family poverty in Toronto.

-reprinted from Social Planning Toronto