The Edmonton Social Planning Council (ESPC) today released the 2011 edition of its flagship publication Tracking the Trends 2011. The 128-page publication provides a detailed analysis of social and economic trends in Edmonton. Information is provided about population demographics, education and employment, living costs & housing, income & wealth, and poverty trends that together comprise the social health of Edmontonians. Featured the 2011 edition is an examination of Edmonton’s increasing diversity with data on immigration, racial and linguistic diversity trends at a City-wide and neighbourhood level.
“Whether planning programs or developing policies, timely accurate information is critical to informed decision-making,” said Susan Morrissey, the ESPC’s Executive Director. “The objective of Tracking the Trends is to be a one-stop resource for identifying and analyzing a broad range of social and economic trends in Edmonton,” she added.
“If there’s an overarching message in this year’s Tracking the Trends, it’s that Edmonton was strongly impacted by the economic recession that recently gripped the rest of Canada and much of the rest of the world,” said John Kolkman, ESPC’s Research Coordinator and report co-author.Kolkman highlighted several ways the recession’s impact is reflected in Edmonton trends:
• A steep rise in poverty in our community. The number of children living in poverty in the metro Edmonton area jumped from 16,000 in 2006 to 41,000 in 2009 (p. 57);
• Many people in Edmonton lost their jobs especially among recent immigrants, youth and Aboriginal people (p. 16). This led by the end of 2009 to a tripling of the number of Edmontonians drawing employment insurance benefits (p. 65);
• After a few years of increases beyond inflation, family incomes dropped in 2009 (p. 38);
• There was also a significant increase in social assistance caseloads (p. 64) and in food bank use (p. 30). These are also indicators of economic distress.
“Our community is not immune from the growing gap in incomes and wealth,” Kolkman noted. “Income inequality between Alberta families has increased steadily in the past 20 years, and took a further jump in 2009 during the recent recession (p. 52). In other words, Alberta’s economy is lifting the yachts more rapidly than the canoes and the row boats.”
Kolkman said the report also finds many positive trends:
• In 2009, government income transfers reduced by 44% the number of children that otherwise fall below the poverty line(p. 62);
• So far in 2011, Edmonton job growth has been strong (p. 13);
• Although it will soon be the lowest in the country, the Alberta government recently lifted its freeze on the minimum wage (p. 41);
• There is steady improvement in educational attainment as measured by high school completion. However, over one in five young adults fail to complete high school within five years showing more progress is needed (p. 10);
• Despite the attention focused on the record number of homicides in 2011, Edmonton’s overall rates for both violent crime and property crime continue to decline (page 106).
Tracking the Trends 2011 also includes a special feature on Edmonton’s increasing diversity (p. 70). “Growing numbers on immigrants and non-permanent residents is making Edmonton a more ethnically, racially and linguistically diverse city. This increasing diversity creates integration challenges but also many opportunities for Edmonton in this rapidly globalizing and shrinking world,” Kolkman emphasized.
Kolkman describes Edmonton’s track record in meeting integration challenges as largely a good news story. Among the highlights:
• As immigrants get more settled, they tend to relocate from lower income to middle and higher income neighbourhoods;
• The maps show that South Asians tend to prefer living in Southeast Edmonton, and those of Arabic origins in North End neighbourhoods. Overall, the data shows visible minority populations live in neighbourhoods throughout the City;
• Second generation immigrants are even more likely than their parents to live in neighbourhoods throughout the City; and
• Neither immigrants or those from visible minority backgrounds are disproportionately concentrated in lower income neighbourhoods.
Tracking the Trends 2011 combines 25 key indicators into a Social Health Index (p. 111). “Edmonton’s economic roller coaster is reflected in the index which peaked in 2008, declined sharply in 2009, began recovering in 2010, with further recovery projected for 2011. The bottom line is a 17.7% improvement in Edmonton’s social health since 1995,” Kolkman concluded.
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