featured Poverty

Where the poor people live: Stats Canada puts Nova Scotia poverty on the map

KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – As part of its release of the 2016 census data Stats Canada publishes a series of thematic maps that shed light on where poor people live.

What it shows is that there are a lot more people living in poverty in rural Nova Scotia than in Halifax. In absolute numbers 96,000 low income Nova Scotians live somewhere other than urban Halifax, while some 59,000 low income Nova Scotians, roughly a third of the provincial total, live in HRM.

Altogether the news is grim.

The 2016 census data recently released by Stats Canada show that Nova Scotia and New Brunswick in 2015 continued to have the highest rate (22.2%)  of children living in low-income families. On deep poverty overall Nova Scotia also places first among Canadian provinces, with 17.2% of its population (or 155,000 persons) considered low income.

Those numbers are astounding, and the human misery hidden behind them is hard to fathom. But at the same time these numbers are hardly news. Over the years Nova Scotia has consistently performed badly in these categories, even though eradicating child poverty and poverty altogether is entirely a matter of political will. It’s not complicated, and not even all that expensive.

In terms of the thematic maps, this is what they show:

Even HRM is not all urban. Note how poverty is rampant in HRM East, in particularly in the Sheet Harbour – Musquodoboit area.

When it comes to Urban Halifax there are no real surprises. Pockets of deep poverty in the North End, Spryfield and Dartmouth North areas of the city.

20.0% to < 30.0%, Medium red; 10.0% to < 20.0% Light red; < 10.0% Beige

Provincially, areas in the Annapolis Valley, Guysborough county, parts of Shelburne and Queens counties, Cumberland County, and Guysborough have 30%  or higher poverty rates. Think about it, one in three people live in deep poverty in those areas.

At an even more granular level we find a poverty rate of well over 30% in the towns of Yarmouth, Digby, and Parrsboro. Again, We’re talking about one in three residents of entire towns.

To be poor in rural Nova Scotia brings with it additional challenges. Affordable housing issues are as urgent, but manifest differently in rural Nova Scotia.  A lack of public transportation is another obvious difference, making food banks, potential jobs, and public services difficult to get to, and isolation and loneliness an added burden.

This lack of public transportation is probably also the reason we hear relatively little from people on low incomes in rural Nova Scotia. In and around Halifax we have groups like the Benefits Reform Action Group, the Community Advocates Network, and until very recently ACORN Nova Scotia, to offer mutual support and make some noise once in awhile. But how do you organize and speak out when you live far apart, and travel is hard?

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  1. I’m on a fixed income well below poverty line. Fortunately I have access to rent subsidies and other programs which help stretch my disability checks so I have a reasonable standard of living. Studies show that a minimum income about 14 to 15000 a year to take people above the poverty level, and of welfare reduces crime and health care costs. A net benefit, reducing long term costs and beurocracy

  2. I think it is actually very noteworthy that three census tracks between Spring Garden and Inglis are income challenged – these are the same communities that saw Neighbourhood Improvement Programs in the 80s, and still face similar challenges today.

  3. Great article. Do you have a list of these communities and each of their poverty rate or do we have to individually search Statistics Canada?

  4. Living alone on 16,900. a YEAR, trying to maintain my own home and a car and to work a little to subsidize my income level only cuts back on this Low, low income. what is the use. When am I really going to get what I did pay into my CPP and OAS along with my employer. Those big guys are lining their pockets with our Old peoples money that when we worked the minimum wage was ONLY 7 to 8 dollars up to 1996 or so!!

  5. Can you please post a “legend”, you know, an interpretive gradient with your map? Hard to know if red is poor or rich!

  6. Why is there nothing mentioned about Cape Breton……….it is a part of Nova Scotia and not mentioned at all and I’m sure there is as much poverty in C.B as anywhere……..i live here.

    1. I was surprised by Cape Breton too. I do know that child poverty in areas of CB reach 40%, but there are fewer families with children now, so I guess it doesn’t show up.

    2. Looks like most of cape is light red by the map but one tip is not shown. Im from canso / guysborough county so def agree with dark red there!

  7. What are the white areas… that’s where I live. The best way to fight “poverty” is to learn self sufficiency… plant a garden! Simplification… have an un-stopable work ethic and a positive attitude! We don’t need as much as society tells us we need. Just my view of this. I know personal struggles exist so we also need to help our neighbor when they are in need.

  8. This makes me feel sick to my stomach. This is terrible and shouldn’t be happening in Canada. Does the government ever plan to look into why this is the reality for so many people and what they plan to do about it.

  9. Know wonder when we have a government that bans oil and gas, Keeps taxes highest in the country, Power bills cell bills internet highest in the country. Highest Gas prices as well. Gives money to big companies yet produces hardly any jobs. Health care has fallen apart. No doctors anywhere. All you see in Halifax is cranes and cranes building new buildings of condos that no one native can afford. The middle east people buy them up and then rent them to people at outragous prices and go back to the middle east and live like kings. Still the only province in canada that wants a inspection sticker on a car every two years, then puts tons of salt on the roads. Every two years says rocker panels need to be replace when it has nothing to do with the structure of the car.

    1. The backwards attitudes like this is exactly what keeps people from coming to Nova Scotia and settling down here. This province does indeed have issues of poverty and a desperate need for immigration and yet the racism and ignorance keeps people away. Despite all the natural beauty NS has to offer, newcomers would much rather settle in more diverse cities where they feel accepted. So now you’re losing out on the doctors you so desperately need, on the taxes that would come from newcomers, on the new businesses that could help employ more Nova Scotians. People in NS are notorious for wanting to keep things like they’ve always been and yet cry that things are always the same. They fight to keep unions out which also keeps the income levels low. I guess many have never been outside of NS long enough to know what they are missing and so despite needing so much, you all will fight until the end to be sure everything stays the same here. Change comes when people are willing to change!

      1. That observation isn’t quite accurate, your obviously blinded by your own pessimistic view. If your looking for information on unions you should check out “Davis Day” you may find it blows in the face of what your saying!

      2. Hi Faith, I am originally from Nova Scotia currently living in Ontario. I visit Nova Scotia frequently to see family and friends. My job as a sales rep overs Ontario and all of Atlantic Canada so I visit multiple times in a year for work purposes too. As much as I love Nova Scotia for countless reasons I absolutely agree with you comments 100%. Many friends in my line of work travel there frequently and those from various backgrounds and cultures have shared racial comments /encounters while visiting. My parents are both born and raised there ( my mother is white and my father is black) and although I could easily pass for a white women – it is disturbing the amount of racism I have encountered while in my place of birth. Toronto of course also has its issues however in regards to acceptance of new comers it feels like travelling back in time the mind set is stuck in the 1960’s – Wake Up Nova Scotia its 2020 and change is good!!!

      3. I have to agree. After being away for 20+ years and returning, I witness exactly what you’re saying every day. That’s why most students graduate and skip town 🙁

    2. PEI has yearly vehicle inspections and salts and brines, also think our power and phone is higher as is gas more often then not as everything has to be shipped onto an island.

      1. things don’t need to be “shipped” to PEI any more then they have to be “shipped” everywhere else. Transportation of goods is a fact of life everywhere. And there is no plausible reason that phone bills are higher because you are an island.

  10. If you look at the data more closely you will see that many of those living in poverty live in urban areas both in HRM and in urban areas outside HRM. These areas are smaller in size so they don’t show up on your map as large blobs of red. Many of those 96000 living in poverty you claim are in rural areas are actually in urban CBRM or in towns like Truro. Very biased reporting.

    1. I think you missed the para where the author wrote that rural poor have additional challenges, such as transportation, communication, access to social services like food banks, etc. I’m not sure what your point is.

      1. My point was that poverty is not a rural problem, that many of those identified as living in rural areas actually live in smaller urban areas. Facts matter.

  11. The South End and the North End are actually the very same colour! (Which is not surprising.) Between South and North is Central Halifax ….. and yes it has poverty struggles for sure.

  12. We have the most poverty but yet the highest taxes go figure. Our household is about 32k before taxes and we have 5 ppl. 🙁 Daughter started university. It is $2400 for the room and 2600 for food for 1 semester:( shouldn’t be like that.

  13. I grew up poor through the late 70’s and early 80s in Blue Rocks, Lunenburg. No bathroom till I was 25 years old. Thanks to a grant from the government at the time, a bathroom was put in, drilling a well is not cheap.
    Through the 80’s and 90s a poor student in university, even sold my plasma. After that working poor. Now a semi professional but still struggling, especially with student loan debt.
    Unfortunately, unless you come from a middle class or upper class family opportunities are limited.

  14. To say its not complicated to deal with these issues and just a matter of political will is ridiculous.
    If it wasn’t complicated it would have been done long ago. As for political will, we have had many social programs that politicians have worked hard at but if we as people just sit back and wait for government to solve our problems we have lost our identity and truly become a welfare province.

  15. Interesting article, though it’s worth noting that the low-income measure isn’t the same as “deep poverty.” For a household of three, like ours, it works out to $38,335 per year after tax. We weren’t much above that last year and will earn less this year since my wife is only working part-time, but although we’re underemployed like a lot of people currently in their late 30s, we’re definitely not deeply impoverished.

    Although I resent what greedy corporations and short-sighted politicians have done to the economy and will always vote for more progressive policies to fight income inequality, statements like “one in three are living in deep poverty” are misleading. I approve of the point you’re trying to make, but someone genuinely struggling in Dartmouth North, say, would probably find it very eye-rolling that my relatively comfortable situation is being lumped in as equivalent to theirs. It’s the lowest decile that really needs attention, not the 30-percenters.

  16. Once upon a time – it was stated that Nova Scotia was the home of retirees! Is this still a truth? What does the census say about population age criteria in relation to poverty? The need for senior housing is “not” here in Nova Scotia! I have learned that one must wait 3 to 6 years to get into a senior sunsidized complex. Forced to retired from a government job due to a hearing disability, a single retired single still looking for less expensive apartment while living on pensions less than $16,000 a year and watching the cost of everything skyrocking! Am I one that sits in fear of being “one of the poverty victims to be listed”? I do not feel the fairness in the cost of senior health cost! Nor do I feel the discounts offered to universitaty students when Nova Scotia is seen to have the highest tuitions, high rents, and hey look at where most of their disposable income go – check out the bars and a study at the population age criteria at the liquor stores! OK enough said about the fairness and poverty!
    Halifax – cranes – building – the tax system – the dream of what our province is looking at for the future!

    1. Students have money from student loans, their parents, part time jobs and easy to access credit cards. Every student had credit up the ying yang when I was in school and settle down at 22 and try to pay for it. Just because they aren’t spending responsibly does not mean they are not living in poverty. Most of us were pretty poor but again, that was 20 years ago.

  17. In all honesty what do you expect in NS as we have the highest rate of living vs. lowest wages. There is a lot that the government could assist with to help NS a better and more prosperous place for all levels of income earners!

  18. Things like ITQ quota is much of what causes this .DIGby scallop fisherman have to pay 8 dollars a lb for every scallop they catch to men on golf courses down Florida .If scallops are nine a lb that don’t leave much left for the hard working man doing the work .Land Lord peasant systems create poor peasants the government should know that when they introduced it .Ground fish ITQs are even worse!

    1. I just moved to Digby last summer — not all that shocked to see it in the highest poverty category. I don’t work in the fisheries, so I wonder is there a fishers’ union that is able to address imbalances like the quota system you mentioned? (Is there a way more of that quota income can remain in the province?)

  19. It is a lost cause because talking does nothing and Government does not listen People in n.s cannot live on a wage lower than a minimum wage of $15. As the saying goes The rich are Getting Richer and the Working Poor cannot now pay the Bills and is Getting Worse.

  20. I’ve got a big problem with the phrase “Those numbers are astounding, and the human misery hidden behind them is hard to fathom.” Ummmm, only if you live in a bubble and don’t know anyone that’s “low income”… then I suppose it might be hard to fathom. Also, just because someone falls into a low income category doesn’t mean that their lives are miserable. That phrase is more than a little bit bombastic.

  21. Remember, this Web site and other “poverty fighters” get more money and more of a reason to exist the worse the poverty problem is. So of course it’s always terrible.

  22. Poor choice of colours. I can only see Red, Orange and White in Nova Scotia. The spots of Grey must be very small.

  23. Seeing that makes me glad that I left NS 12 years a go being a person that has had a disability since birth and knowing what limited support there is for disabled persons. I alwaya felt i was capable of working but very limited with things i could do but went west where opportunity is and started my own business and feel very fortunate that i was able to succeed.but my heart does go out to the people there because i know your strugglea and the up against the wall feeling but my advise is keep fighting and look ahead dont look bad or reflect on the bad

  24. Sr housing and care is a desperate situation. I also would like to see your stats of demographics overlaid on these results to see if there is any correlation. Having lived in rural ns for a while now I see a lot of very happy people who are proud and community oriented. They grow their own food, barter for services, help each other in good times and bad, often work in jobs where they don’t have to report all income. Just cause the stats seem to indicate something doesn’t mean it’s what is actually going on. Yes I know there are a lot of low income folks also.

  25. To be fair people will always abuse a systems that’s just unfortunately human nature, But it tends to hide the people who actually need help. however i would like to see more of an equal footing for most people, Seeing how some can’t change there mind set for good will seems to me that this is close to just being a lost cause.

  26. I live on a fixed income. My wife works part time. We still can’t get ends to meet. I go without so my son has what he needs.

  27. It’s time to implement a guaranteed income for all. It would stimulate the economy and give everyone a “ fighting chance “.
    I know it’s complicated but would be kinder and take away the stigma of “poky and welfare “.

  28. Cape breton is not even there and thereis more poverty here than most of those placesi get canada pension disability which is about 640 a month thats notincludeing my meds n everythong else how is one suppose to live off that for one month

  29. The Government would rather people commit suicide or end up in Residential Care Facilities –
    They Destroyed me and my Family!

  30. I moved to Nova Scotia at the end of 2011, and was appalled at the lack of good housing, the low paying and seasonal jobs, the lack of benefits with what jobs there were, and so on. I am not affected by the job situation, but in this rural area of Southwestern NS, I often think of this place as a third world country. It is very tragic, I cannot imagine how I would have coped with all this grinding poverty, had I spent my life here.

  31. the county council of Annapolis keeps raising the sewer taxes every year after promising the people fixed rates when they were installed now they say the maintenance cost are the cause of the increases, if they were installed right, to begin with the maintenance cost would not be so high, many seniors just can’t afford it and we are not allowed to hook back up to our septic systems which lay in the eath unused , perhaps the area of Annapolis should change its name to hazard county Nova Scotia

  32. I am a single homeowner I am very fortunate I work 2 jobs in order to be able to keep my head above water. My senior mother lives with me to contribute as I said I get by but at the end of the year I do my taxes and I have the impossible task of paying my taxes mid you between the 2 jobs and working all the shifts I can having no life I always owe three grand with it being impossible to pay it off nor to have savings on my income still under 40000 can’t wait to say farewell to Nova Scotia it’s the tax bill that kills me every year!

  33. I cannot comprehend a person living on 14,000 to 16,000 dollars annually! I am a senior trying to live on my government pensions, my monthly income of 1632.00 is a difficult challenge. Especially owning my own home. Heating costs are horrific. The government says keeping us in our homes is less taxing on them than providing affordable housing. Hence programs for repairs and upgrades. effiency Nova Scotia trying to improve older homes to make us warmer is all bullshit. Anyway I agree both Federal and Provincial governments are falling extremely short in caring for and aiding people that paid taxes all their working life to help keep this country going. And this is not a handout, it’s what we deserve.

  34. So like did yall not go to pictou county?😂😂 Was rated worst place to live in canada 2013 with some of the higest poverity rates.. in 3 years apparently its back to normal?? I just dont think.

  35. Myself and wife moved to Nova Scotia back in 2012, I’m retired and she was working. We bought a house and tried to settle in. After 3 years we had enough. The cost of living is beyond belief,electricity rates in the stratosphere,over taxed,and healthcare in the bottom of your boots. We put the house up for sale,anyways, 550 days later we sold it and got the hell out of there as soon as possible well 550 days of agony.Sad situation.

  36. Nova Scotia has a high rate of disabled , high rate of Sr.s, and a high rate of retired military

  37. A guranteed income for the selfemployed would even things up.
    Retired people making income under the table hurts the selfemployed
    Social services recipiants that work under the table take jobs away again at times.
    EI recipients if not claiming again would be taking away work from the selfemployed.

    A guranteed income for the selfemployed would mak a difference.

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