Although Canada has no officially recognized poverty level as the US has, Statistics Canada has
developed data on the incidence of low income.
Annual measures appear in Income Trends in Canada, a Statistics Canada publication
and CD-ROM. A 1992 Family Expenditure Survey found that families in Canada
spend, on average, 44% of their after-tax income on food, shelter
and clothing. Twenty points were then arbitrarily added bringing the proportion to
64% of income, on the grounds that a family spending more than this proportion of
its income on necessities is significantly worse off than the average family.
Income levels were determined, using both family size and urban area size, at which
families were spending 64% or greater of their income on necessities. This established
the Low Income Cut-Offs (LICO). These are updated annually using the Consumer Price
Index. For details see
Income Trends in Canada: User's Guide
Data is available for the provinces and metropolitan areas annually. For more information contact
Statistics Canada has basic data on its web site for Canada and the provinces at
The Census also uses the LICO to provide measures of
low income with wide geographical flexibility—Provinces, Regional Districts (Census Divisions),
incorporated places, Indian Reserves and unorganized areas (Census Subdivisions), and Census
Metropolitan Areas (Vancouver, Victoria and Abbotsford starting with 2001) and urban areas
under 100,000 population (Census Agglomerations) with breakouts by neighbourhood (Census
Tracts) for those that are 50,000+ in population. Custom areas can be purchased from Statistics
Canada. LICO data is not available for Indian Reserves as the LICO methodology includes the
cost of shelter and aboriginal housing on Indian Reserves is usually provided.
Human Resources Development Canada has recently released results of a new approach to low
income termed the
Market Basket Measure.
Welfare, or income assistance in British Columbia, is delivered under a program called BC
Employment and Assistance (formerly BC Benefits). Using nominal data provided by the BC
Ministry of Housing and Social Development, BC Stats aggregates and calculates rates per population for
recipients of income assistance for the province, Regional Districts, some municipalities, Local
Health Areas and School Districts. Recipients represented in these tables are those on
Temporary Assistance. Excluded are those on Continuous Assistance - Persons with Disabilities
and Persons with Persistent Multiple Barriers to Employment as well as Children in the Home of a
Relative. Data is found in the following locations:
Statistics Canada's 2006 post-censal survey of the disabled, the Participation and Activity
Limitation Survey (PALS), produced estimates at the provincial level. There is also data for the Lower Mainland and Southern Vancouver Island versus the rest of B.C. BC Stats produced a comprehensive labour market outcomes profile of Persons with Disabilities.
The Statistics Canada website also has detailed reports and tables available on the results of the PALS in 2006 and 2001.
Human Resources Development Canada has produced reports based on the PALS survey and
other sources. See the
Office for Disability Issues.