Thursday, 26 February 2015

Mapping Toronto income diversity

It's often been said that Toronto's core is gentrifying, it's poverty is suburbanizing, and it's middle class is shrinking.

Often cited is a report that came out a few years ago.

It shows a 1970 Toronto where poverty is mostly concentrated in the urban core neighbourhoods. The majority of the city is made up of middle income neighbourhoods, which are mostly found in the post-WWII auto-oriented parts of the city.

Forward to 2005, and core neighbourhoods have gone from poor to more of a mix. The majority of the post-WWII neighbourhoods that were middle income became low income, and wealthy areas have gotten wealthier.

But what this mean for income diversity? A neighbourhood with a large wealthy and poor population might be middle income on average, but have a small middle class. You could also have a neighbourhood with a large middle class, but which is unable to attract wealthy residents and has zoned out low income residents.

Neighbourhoods with a high diversity of incomes are probably quite rare, especially those where the diversity exists at a highly local level, and where the neighbourhood's income diversity remains high for a significant period of time.

Here's a map showing income diversity of electoral districts across Toronto. Electoral districts have about 100,000 residents (more detailed map of boundaries here). A value of 0 means they perfectly match the CMA income distribution while high numbers represent high income segregation.

Urban neighbourhoods have at times been touted for their income diversity, while suburbs in North America have often been seen as homogeneous, whether that's homogeneously wealthy, middle class or lower income.

However, the electoral districts with the highest income diversity in the Toronto CMA are in the suburbs. The least diverse districts are in a variety of locations, some in the core, some in aging inner suburbs, and some in the outer suburbs, with a variety of income groups that are under or over-represented.

Here are graphs showing the income distributions of the 8 districts with the least income diversity.

First, there are the aging formerly middle income inner suburbs.
These were mostly blue collar areas when they were built, back when blue collar meant middle class, and now have average incomes well below the CMA average. However, it's not that their middle class is small. It's the share of the population that is lower income that is well above average, and the share that is high income is well below average. Scarborough North, Scarborough Agincourt and Scarborough Centre follow a similar though slightly less extreme pattern.

Next you have two electoral districts in the outer suburbs with almost completely opposite income distributions.
Much of Oakville's housing stock is similar in age to the declining inner suburbs closer to Toronto, however, many parts are gentrifying as older ranch homes are replaced with multi-million dollar homes.

There are a few differences between Oakville and places like North Etobicoke, although it's hard to say which are most important
-Less aging multi-family housing and housing projects
-Bigger lots, which means more space to build a big new home
-Close to the fastest and most frequent commuter rail line into Downtown Toronto
-Quaint downtown and close to Lake Ontario

Oakville-North Burlington is mostly large suburban developments built after 1990 in the northern parts of Oakville and Burlington.

Finally, you have the electoral districts with a small middle class.

Toronto Centre has the largest low income population share of any electoral districts in the metro area. It has large amounts of housing projects, homeless shelters and 60s/70s rental highrises, although it's also home to gentrified Cabbagetown. Rosedale-University is home to some of the wealthiest neighbourhoods in Toronto, but also some more working class areas west of Downtown. Don Valley West is home to very wealthy 1920s-1960s neighbourhoods, but also Thorncliffe Park, home to many of the most crowded apartment buildings in Toronto, and separated from the rest of the city by ravines a highway and industrial areas.

So how about the districts with the highest income diversity, how well do they match the metro area's income distribution?

That's pretty close. Of course that's not to say the populations of various incomes are evenly distributed within these electoral districts.

These could be described as middle ring suburbs. They have more new housing than the inner suburbs, and more older housing than the outer suburbs and are growing at rate somewhere in between.

*The numbers are based on comparisons of population in each decile of Canada's income distribution from the 2011 National Household Survey. Statistics Canada has adjusted for these incomes by dividing after tax family income by the square root of family size, so a family of 4 earning $100,000 after tax is considered on equal footing to a single earning $50,000. The numbers are the sum of the standard deviations between the fraction of the CMA population and the fraction of the electoral district population in each income decile. The 2013 electoral district boundaries are used.

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