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Income Polarization in Toronto - The Three Cities study

SP!RE

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One would have to be crazy to deny that Canada's gap between rich and poor is getting bigger and bigger, and some would argue, that some social services are on the decline. The following study is a useful tool for helping us recognize potential (and likely) change in Toronto, so that we can direct our politicians (and ourselves) to instill proactive measures for the future.

The study:

http://www.urbancentre.utoronto.ca/pdfs/curp/tnrn/Three-Cities-Within-Toronto-2010-Final.pdf

Thoughts?
 

Hipster Duck

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Well, Spire, I agree with you that income inequality is a growing problem, but one thing we need to recognize is that the people and the offspring of the people who were generally working class/poor in the 1970s are not necessarily the same people as those who are poor today. I think that many of those Eastern European and Mediterranean factory workers who crammed 6 kids into a house in Brockton, well, those same kids now live out in Oakville and Woodbridge and lead solidly middle class lives (they're out of the picture because they technically left the City of Toronto).

In other words, while the gap between rich and poor certainly grew, people themselves may not necessarily have gotten poorer (some certainly got much richer).
 

Southoftheborder

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What I want scientists to tease out is how income skew harms society as a whole. No question at all that people will PERSONALLY resent working hard for a minute fraction of what someone else gets for knowing somebody, even for screwing up companies as happened on Wall Street. But what really is needed is sound evidence that this is a disease of society, something that will eventually cause it to come unglued. I intuitively believe this, based on the the long history of societies that started out more equal, became less equal, and eventually fell. Seems like a cyclical story. But with the science we have nowadays, it should be possible to go beyond intuition.
 

greenleaf

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What I want scientists to tease out is how income skew harms society as a whole. No question at all that people will PERSONALLY resent working hard for a minute fraction of what someone else gets for knowing somebody, even for screwing up companies as happened on Wall Street. But what really is needed is sound evidence that this is a disease of society, something that will eventually cause it to come unglued. I intuitively believe this, based on the the long history of societies that started out more equal, became less equal, and eventually fell. Seems like a cyclical story. But with the science we have nowadays, it should be possible to go beyond intuition.
Lots of cute graphs here: http://www.businessinsider.com/why-income-inequality-is-a-really-big-deal-2011-11?op=1
 

k10ery

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Income inequality is a problem. But that Cities Centre paper is about income polarization, or segregation. That is, they are saying the problem is that rich and poor do not live together in Toronto like they used to.

I don't agree, and I don't think they proved their case. In the downtown core, rich and poor live side by side, even if not in the same census tract. We have Cabbagetown next to Regent Park, Rosedale next to Jamestown, and Annex/Little Italy next to Alexandra Park. It is to Toronto's great credit that we have kept the rich living downtown. Transit usage downtown is also class-free (though not age-free) so people mix that way too.

I guess that does mean that there is a real poverty problem in the northern corners of the city, but "the poor you will have always among you," as a philosopher once said.
 

AlvinofDiaspar

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Income inequality is a problem. But that Cities Centre paper is about income polarization, or segregation. That is, they are saying the problem is that rich and poor do not live together in Toronto like they used to.
Of course it isn't about income inequality per se but the geographic distribution of those with varying level of incomes - esp. the disappearance of the "middle class". One does have to tease out the why - and increasing income inequality is likely to be one of many drivers behind it (along with things like changing demographics, etc.)

I don't agree, and I don't think they proved their case. In the downtown core, rich and poor live side by side, even if not in the same census tract. We have Cabbagetown next to Regent Park, Rosedale next to Jamestown, and Annex/Little Italy next to Alexandra Park. It is to Toronto's great credit that we have kept the rich living downtown. Transit usage downtown is also class-free (though not age-free) so people mix that way too.
It has nothing to do with whether the rich and poor live side by side - the scale they're talking about refer to changes at a city wide level with census tract level data. Don't confuse micro with the meso/macro.

AoD
 
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k10ery

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I AM confused, because they study is confusing. They deal only with tract average income, and they report that the percentage of tracts near city-wide average income has fallen. Then they say "Where are Toronto's middle income people?" But tract averages don't tell us if there are more or less middle income PEOPLE, or more or less segregation. To quote a well-known researcher in this area, "rising neighborhood inequality can result either from an increase in family income inequality in a city as a whole or because of a change in the correlation between family income and neighborhood income."

The only solution is to look at the distribution of household income within tracts, as well as between tracts.
 

lesouris

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Well, Spire, I agree with you that income inequality is a growing problem, but one thing we need to recognize is that the people and the offspring of the people who were generally working class/poor in the 1970s are not necessarily the same people as those who are poor today. I think that many of those Eastern European and Mediterranean factory workers who crammed 6 kids into a house in Brockton, well, those same kids now live out in Oakville and Woodbridge and lead solidly middle class lives (they're out of the picture because they technically left the City of Toronto).

In other words, while the gap between rich and poor certainly grew, people themselves may not necessarily have gotten poorer (some certainly got much richer).
I suppose it depends on how you look at it. The kinds of households the children of these factory workers live in today are dramatically different than those of their parents. There are fewer children, more income-earners (especially more women working full-time), and a boatload more household debt. Their children don't look likely to do any better than their parents and, barring some dramatic shift in trends, will probably actually be worse off - more student debt, higher housing costs, less stable work, etc. The kids really aren't doing so well, even in the heart of upper-middle-class suburbia.
 

figaro

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I don't think the absolute income gap is that meaningful.

What is meaningful is the upwardly mobility - whether the society makes it easy for people to move up the social status ladder. If the poor people's kids are always stuck with poverty and the rich family always have rich kids after generations, then that's bad.

On the other hand, if the income gap is sizable, but there are plenty of opportunities for kids from poor families to be successful if they work extra hard, then I don't think that's that bad.

We often make the mistake in believing small income gap is good, big gap is bad. If that's the case, North Korea is the perfect country in the world. The worse thing is everyone makes pretty much the same income, no matter you work hard or be a lazy ass all the time.
 

lesouris

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I don't think the absolute income gap is that meaningful.

What is meaningful is the upwardly mobility - whether the society makes it easy for people to move up the social status ladder. If the poor people's kids are always stuck with poverty and the rich family always have rich kids after generations, then that's bad.
Which is why we should also be talking about the wealth gap as well (and measures to address it, i.e. an estate tax). It's a little naive though to think that a society with a massive income gap could provide for much social mobility. Wealth must be re-distributed in order to help the poor out of poverty - for example, through education, healthcare, and even more basic needs such as food security or housing. That does not necessarily mean that it's government doing the redistribution via taxation (although that seems to be the most efficient way to do it). Charities redistribute wealth also via donation.

We often make the mistake in believing small income gap is good, big gap is bad. If that's the case, North Korea is the perfect country in the world. The worse thing is everyone makes pretty much the same income, no matter you work hard or be a lazy ass all the time.
Are you kidding? North Korea must have one of the largest wealth gaps in the world. The most powerful in that country live in luxury while the vast majority barely scrape by. The powers that be in Pyongyang do not starve during famine.
 

lesouris

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All those Kim have been fat turkeys. But I still don't think they have the lifestyle of Donald Trump.
The income/wealth gap in a society is relative. This is especially true in a country like North Korea that is more or less completely cut off from the rest of the world. Take poverty in Toronto, for example. The poor in our city today have much better access to the essentials than the poor in, say, Sierra Leone. Compared to 30 or 40 years ago, however, the poor are falling further and further behind while the middle class stagnates and more and more of our wealth becomes concentrated in a smaller segment of society. It hasn't reached a tipping point yet, but the trends are worrisome. Particularly troubling to me is the growing reliance on a food bank system that's underfunded and overtaxed - a system that was set up as a temporary measure during a previous recession, but which has become a crutch for the poorest and most desperate. At some point, the food banks will be functioning way beyond capacity (some say they already are). Without government intervention (which seems unlikely as various levels of government have been passing the buck on this issue, on affordable housing, etc. for years), starvation will become a fact of life for more people here - here in one of the wealthiest cities on the planet.
 

scarberiankhatru

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I AM confused, because they study is confusing. They deal only with tract average income, and they report that the percentage of tracts near city-wide average income has fallen. Then they say "Where are Toronto's middle income people?" But tract averages don't tell us if there are more or less middle income PEOPLE, or more or less segregation. To quote a well-known researcher in this area, "rising neighborhood inequality can result either from an increase in family income inequality in a city as a whole or because of a change in the correlation between family income and neighborhood income."

The only solution is to look at the distribution of household income within tracts, as well as between tracts.
The Three Cities study is intentionally confused and misleading in methods and interpretation because its purpose was to create some VERY SCARY MAPS to bolster a specific agenda of urban, social, and housing policies.
 
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