Ghettos in Canada’s cities? Racial segregation, ethnic enclaves and poverty concentration in Canadian urban areas

Recent literature suggests a growing relationship between the clustering of certain visible minority groups in urban neighbourhoods and the spatial concentration of poverty in Canadian cities, raising the spectre of ghettoization. This paper examines whether urban ghettos along the U.S. model are forming in Canadian cities, using census data for 1991 and 2001 and borrowing a neighbourhood classification system specifically designed for comparing neighbourhoods in other countries to the
U.S. situation. Ecological analysis is then performed in order to compare the importance of minority concentration, neighbourhood classification and housing stock attributes in improving our understanding of the spatial patterning of low-income populations in Canadian cities in 2001. The findings suggest that ghettoization along U.S. lines is not a factor in Canadian cities and that a high degree of racial concentration is not necessarily associated with greater neighbourhood poverty. On the other hand, the concentration of apartment housing, of visible minorities in general, and of a high level of racial diversity in particular, do help in accounting for the neighbourhood patterning of low income. The authors suggest that these findings result as much from growing income inequality within as between each visible minority group. This increases the odds of poor visible minorities of each group ending up in the lowest-cost, least-desirable neighbourhoods from which they cannot afford to escape (including social housing in the inner suburbs). By contrast, wealthier members of minority groups are more mobile and able to self-select into higher-status ‘ethnic communities’. This research thus reinforces pleas for a more nuanced interpretation of segregation, ghettoization and neighbourhood dynamics.

New Urban Divides: How Economic, Social, and Demographic Trends are Creating New Sources of Urban Difference in Canada

Research Bulletin 33, February 2007, 7 pages.  More than 80 percent of Canadians live in urban areas, occupying 5 percent of the nation’s land surface. Cities are now redefining and reshaping Canada. However, change is uneven within the country’s urban system, and the growth rates and characteristics of its member cities also vary widely. These trends in turn are creating new forms of difference or new divides among cities and regions, in economic, social, and political terms and at different spatial scales. This research bulletin surveys the trends affecting Canada’s cities and towns and the potential policy implications of the emerging urban divides among urban areas.


Urban Growth and Decline in Canada, 1971-2001: Explanations and Implications

Research Paper 201, February 2004, x, 43 pp.  This paper further explores some of the issues raised in an earlier research paper by the same authors (“The Canadian Urban System, 1971-2001: Responses to a Changing World,” 2003) concerning urban growth. The research draws on the findings of the 2001 Census of Canada and comparable data for 1971 to investigate trends over the past three decades. After describing the location and amount of urban growth, the paper examines the correlations between growth and other urban characteristics and between growth and changes in those characteristics. In particular, the authors consider the question of whether cities are becoming more alike or more specialized in some ways. The paper concludes with a discussion of the implications of continued variability in the rates of urban growth and decline.


The Canadian Urban System, 1971 – 2001: Responses to a Changing World

Research Paper 200, July 2003, viii, 71 pp.  Canada is now overwhelmingly an urban nation. More than 80% of Canadians now live in urban areas and over 60% in the larger metropolitan regions. As those cities change, so too does the nation. In recent decades, Canadian cities and the entire urban system have undergone a transformation. As the factors driving change have evolved, so must our ideas evolve about how the urban system is organized. Drawing on research on urban Canada over the last thirty years, this paper provides an overview of change in the Canadian urban system for the period from 1971 to 2001. Particular attention is paid to the importance of changes in the national environment – in the economy, the demography, and the public sector – and to shifts in the global environment that have in combination reshaped the urban system. In future, growth is likely to become more uneven, with further concentration in a few large metropolitan regions and with much of the rest of the country in relative decline. The direction of evolution of the urban system is likely to become more dependent on forces emanating from outside the country.