Facts about Poverty in Toronto

At Moorelands Kids, we empower Toronto kids affected by poverty.

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.

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 (aka. Out-of-school programs) are delivered in the high needs, under-served, Neighbourhood Improvement Areas  of Thorncliffe Park, Flemingdon ParkHumber Summit and Humbermede.


  • Torontonians have the lowest levels of access to Employment Insurance in Canada. (United Way of Greater Toronto (2007). Losing Ground: The Persistent Growth of Family Poverty in Canada’s Largest City.)
  • Toronto’s middle class is shrinking and being replaced by neighbourhoods of rich and poor, according to research released in December 2010 by the University of Toronto’s Cities Centre. Using the most recent census data available at the time, Professor David Hulchanski and his team, released details of a study entitled “The Three Cities within Toronto” which examines income polarization among Toronto’s Neighbourhoods from 1970 to 2005. The report shows that the proportion of middle-income neighbourhoods in Toronto went down from 66% in 1970 to 29% in 2005 while the proportion of low-income neighbourhoods grew from 19% in 1970 to 53% in 2005. The study says that if nothing is done, by 2025 the “Three Cities” model will start to look more like “Two Cities” – where neighbourhoods are sharply divided between those in which average individual incomes have increased dramatically over the 1970 to 2025 period and neighbourhoods where incomes have declined sharply. (J. David Hulchanski, Cities Centre & Faculty of Social Work, University of Toronto (2010). The Three Cities Within Toronto, Income Polarization among Toronto’s Neighbourhoods, 1970-2005.)
  • Numerous studies have documented the increasing racialization of poverty. Immigrants, refugees and members of racialized communities face multiple systemic barriers to full participation in the economic life of Toronto, Ontario and Canada. Even in the best of economic times, the pay gap between racialized and non-racialized Canadians is large: Racialized Canadians earn only 81.4 cents for every dollar paid to non-racialized Canadians. (Canada’s Colour Coded Labour Market, March 2011, Wellesley Institute and Centre for Policy Alternatives.)
  • Research shows that there is a significant link between income and academic skills and behaviour. On average, children living in poverty perform significantly less well academically than their middle-class peers 1. and the likelihood that a child will be held back in school or placed in a special education class increases by 2 to 3 percent for every year the child lives in poverty.*2
  • Living in an economically disadvantaged neighbourhood, coming from a family that has experienced long-term poverty and low Social Economic Status (SES) each predict lower levels of school achievement, increased socio-emotional problems, and lower test scores on intelligence and cognitive functioning.*2,*3  In addition, research indicates that the risks for poor child development outcomes are cumulative. The more risks children experience (e.g. unsafe, crowded neighbourhoods plus poverty plus low maternal education) the worse their socio-economic and cognitive development outcomes.*3
  • Fortunately, a growing body of evidence has linked structured out-of-school programs like those delivered at Moorelands Community Services with positive outcomes including improved academic achievement and school engagement; higher self-esteem, and lower rates of depression; better peer relations; reduced problem behaviours (e.g. delinquency and substance abuse); and improved leadership and increased civic engagement. * 4,* 5, *6. The literature also shows that such programs help children develop social and practical skills as well as relationships with peers and adults in a safe environment and helps them build competence.*7
  • The research suggests that another important benefit of structured out-of-school programs is that they reduce the amount of unsupervised time and provide safe and constructive environments that protect children during times when youth crime is at its peak. Children who are left unsupervised are more likely to engage in delinquent behaviours or become victims of crime 5.,8.,9. In fact, during the school year, children aged 6 to 13 are at the greatest risk of physical assault during the four-hour period between 3:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m.*8*10


Poverty Research and Facts:

2018 Toronto Child & Family Poverty Report: Municipal Election Edition

2018 Toronto Foundation Social Capital Study

2017/18 Toronto’s Vital Signs Report

2016, Toronto’s Vital Signs Report

2015, Toronto Vital Signs Report

2014, Toronto Vital Signs Report

The Hidden Epidemic; A Report on Child and Youth Poverty in Toronto, Nov. 2014

Who’s Hungry, 2013 Profile of Hunger in the GTA, Daily Bread Food Bank

2013 Poverty at your Doorstep, WVCP

Poverty in Canada Infographic, TVO.org/Why Poverty, 2012

Toronto Health Profiles

Childhood Poverty Persistence:Facts and Consequences, THE URBAN INSTITUTE, 2010

United Way of Toronto – various reports on poverty

Campaign 2000

Three Cities Within Toronto, University of Toronto, Urban Centre, 2010

Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives Publications

Out-of-School Time Research and Facts:

Middle Childhood Matters

ON After School

Government of Ontario After-school Program

RBC After-school Programs Evaluation Report 2013

National Institute on Out-of-School Time (US)

Harvard Family Project, Out-of-School Time (US) [Harvard Graduate School of Education]


  1. Votruba-Drzal, E. (2006). Economic disparities in middle childhood development: Does income matter? Developmental Psychology, 42, 6, 1154-1167.
  2. McLoyd, V. (1998). Socioeconomic disadvantage and child development. American Psychologist, 53, 2, 185-204.
  3. 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.
  4. Fredricks, J. & Eccles, J. (2006). Is extracurricular participation associated with beneficial outcomes? Concurrent and longitudinal relations. Developmental Psychology, 42, 4, 698-713.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. Shernoff, D. & Lowe Vandell, D. (2008). Youth engagement and quality of experience in afterschool programs. Afterschool Matters Occasional Paper Series, 9, Fall (NOIST).
  8. 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.
  9. National Institute on Out-of-School Time [NIOST] (2004). Making the case: A fact sheet on children and youth in out-of-school time. Wellesley, MA:Wellesley College, Centre for Research on Women.
  10. Statistics Canada (2005). Children and youth as victims of violent crime.