This essay presents empirical evidence about poverty in Canada. It employs a basic needs approach to defining and measuring poverty and uses three different Statistics Canada databases to help estimate the prevalence of poverty. Specifically, a basic needs approach measures the degree to which households have the basics in terms of food, clothing, shelter, and other basic necessities rather than measuring their income level compared to other households as some measures of poverty. It also examines the weaknesses of both the Statistics Canada data and the basic needs poverty measure. It is important to understand that data is not perfect and no measure of poverty is going to be perfect. With that out of the way, we can focus some attention on the most important findings.
In terms of the incidence of “income poverty,” that is, the number and percentage of Canadian households (and individuals) with reported incomes below the basic needs threshold, data from the three Statistics Canada databases are broadly consistent. Income poverty for households appears to be in the 5 to 7 percent range; for individuals, it is in the 4 to 6 percent range.