Facts about Poverty in Toronto

At Moorelands Kids, we empower Toronto kids facing financial challenges.

Children and youth living in lower-income neighbourhoods face barriers that other kids don’t. One in four kids in Toronto is living in poverty. That’s 133,000 children and youth. Our out-of-school programs following a positive youth development framework, empower kids to overcome the intersecting challenges they face.

Moorelands Camp and Moorelands Kids’ family programs serve children from all the low-income neighbourhoods across the City of Toronto.

Moorelands Kids’ after-school programs are delivered in the high needs, under-served, Neighbourhood Improvement Areas of Thorncliffe Park, Flemingdon ParkHumber Summit and Humbermede.


  • One in four children live in poverty in Toronto. [1]
  • In 2019, 18.6% of children under the age of 18 experienced the effects of poverty. [2]
  • Thirteen city wards in Toronto have areas with child poverty rates over 50%. [3]
  • Torontonians have the lowest levels of access to Employment Insurance in Canada. [4]
  • Children in racialized families are more than twice as likely to live in poverty than children in non-racialized families. [3]
  • The racial pay gap in Canada is large, with racialized Canadians earning between 71-79 cents for every dollar paid to non-racialized Canadians in 2019. [5]


  • Toronto’s middle class is shrinking. According to research from 2010 by the University of Toronto’s Cities Centre, the proportion of middle-income neighbourhoods in Toronto decreased from 66% in 1970 to 29% in 2005 while the proportion of low-income neighbourhoods grew from 19% in 1970 to 53% in 2005. If these trends continue, there will be a stark divide between high-income neighbourhoods and low-income neighbourhoods, with few in between.
  • Numerous studies have documented the increasing racialization of poverty and a wide racial pay gap. Immigrants, refugees and members of racialized communities face multiple systemic barriers to economic participation. In 2019, racialized Canadians earned between 71-79 cents for every dollar paid to non-racialized Canadians. [3]
  • Research shows a significant link between income and academic skills and behaviour. On average, children living in poverty have significantly poorer academic performance than their middle-class peers. The likelihood that a child will be held back in school or placed in a special education class increases by 2 to 3% for every year the child lives in poverty.
  • Low-income children are at a greater risk of dropping out of high school, which is a major risk factor for poverty. [1]
  • Living in an economically disadvantaged neighbourhood, low socioeconomic status (SES) and coming from a family that has experienced long-term poverty each predict lower levels of school achievement, increased socio-emotional problems and lower test scores. [10]
  • Research indicates that the risks for poor child development outcomes are cumulative — The more risks children experience (like unsafe neighbourhoods, poverty, or low maternal education) the worse their socioeconomic and cognitive development outcomes. [10]


  • A growing body of evidence shows that structured out-of-school programs, like those offered at Moorelands Kids, improve academic achievement and school engagement; increase self-esteem and lower rates of depression; better peer relations; reduce problem behaviours like delinquency and substance abuse; improve leadership; and increase civic engagement.  [11] [12] [13]
  • Out-of-school programs help children develop social and practical skills, build positive relationships with peers and adults in a safe environment, and build competence. [14]
  • Unsupervised children are more likely to engage in delinquent behaviours or become victims of crime. During the school year, children ages 6 to 13 are at the greatest risk of physical assault between 3:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. Out-of-school programs reduce the amount of unsupervised time and provide safe, caring and constructive environments that protect children during times when youth crime is at its peak. [15] [16] [17]
  • Programs that teach children social and emotional skills have positive effects on grades, school attendance, test scores and social behaviour. [18]
  • Community programs provide an opportunity for children to build positive relationships with adults as role models and mentors. Having at least one supportive, nurturing and attentive relationship in a young person’s life can significantly reduce their likelihood of engaging in high-risk behaviours, increase their likelihood of success in education and promote their health and wellbeing. [19]


  1. Toronto Foundation (2020). Toronto’s Vital Signs 2019/20.
  2. Campaign 2000 Report Card on Child and Family Poverty in Canada (2019). 2020: Setting the Stage for a Poverty Free Canada.
  3. 2017 Toronto Child and Family Poverty Report Card (2017). Unequal City: The Hidden Divide Among Toronto’s Children and Youth.
  4. United Way of Greater Toronto (2007). Losing Ground: The Persistent Growth of Family Poverty in Canada’s Largest City.
  5. Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (2019). Canada’s Colour Coded Labour Market, December 2019.
  6. Hulchanski, David. The University of Toronto (2010). The Three Cities Within Toronto: Income Polarization Among Toronto’s Neighbourhoods, 1970-2005.
  7. Votruba-Drzal, E. (2006). Economic disparities in middle childhood development: Does income matter? Developmental Psychology, 42, 6, 1154-1167.
  8. McLoyd, V. (1998). Socioeconomic disadvantage and child development. American Psychologist, 53, 2, 185-204.
  9. Sandstorm, Heather. Urban Institute (2013). The Negative Effects of Instability on Child Development.
  10. Gassman-Pines, A. & Yoshikawa, H. (2006). The effects of anti-poverty programs on children’s cumulative level of poverty-related risk. Developmental Psychology, 42, 6, 981-999.
  11. Fredricks, J. & Eccles, J. (2006). Is extracurricular participation associated with beneficial outcomes? Concurrent and longitudinal relations. Developmental Psychology, 42, 4, 698-713.
  12. Woodland, M. (2008). Whatcha doin’ after school?: A review of the literature on the influence of after-school programs on young black males. Urban Education, 43, 5, 537-560.
  13. Wright, R., John, L., Alaggia, R. & Sheel, J. (2006). Community-based arts program for youth in low-income communities: A multi-method evaluation. Child & Adolescent Social Work Journal, 23, 5-6, 635-652.
  14. Shernoff, D. & Lowe Vandell, D. (2008). Youth engagement and quality of experience in afterschool programs. Afterschool Matters Occasional Paper Series, 9, Fall (NOIST).
  15. Community Social Planning Council of Toronto (CSPC-T) In Partnership with Middle Childhood Matters Coalition Toronto (MCMC) (2009). Middle childhood matters: An inventory of full-week after-school programs for children 6-12 years in Toronto.
  16. National Institute on Out-of-School Time [NIOST] (2004). Making the case: A fact sheet on children and youth in out-of-school time.
  17. Statistics Canada (2005). Children and youth as victims of violent crime.
  18. Hastings Prince Edward Public Health (2017) Increasing Resilience in Children Ages 0-12 Years.
  19. Search Institute (2017) Relationships First: Creating Connections that Help Young People Thrive.