October 1, 2013
The Edmonton Social Planning Council (ESPC) today released the 2013 edition of its flagship publication Tracking the Trends. The 118-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.
“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.
Morrissey noted that this year’s edition complements the release of the first edition of Vital Signs which the ESPC co-published with the Edmonton Community Foundation. While Vital Signs is intended to appeal to a broad audience, Tracking the Trends is tailored for those who are seeking more in-depth information and data.
“If there’s an overarching message in this year’s Tracking the Trends, it’s that Edmonton’s economy has roared back strongly from the 2009 recession. Yet the renewed prosperity has benefitted those with the highest incomes the most. Edmonton’s economy is lifting the yachts more rapidly than the row boats,” said John Kolkman, ESPC’s Research Coordinator and report co-author.
Kolkman highlighted several key trends that are concerning:
- Between 1990 and 2010, the share of the top 1% of Edmonton income earners rose by almost 3 percentage points to 8.9% after-tax (p. 44).
- 39,000 children living in poverty in the metro Edmonton area in 2011, more than double the 16,000 in 2006 (p. 58);
- A record 59.2% of poor children live in families where at least one parent works full-time for the full-year. A job is not necessarily a ticket out of poverty (p. 59);
- While homelessness is down 29.4% over all age categories since 2008, there was a sharp 68% increase in the number of homeless youth in the 2012 count (p. 34);
- A 1.2% rental vacancy rate in April 2013, tied with 2006 as the lowest on record. Rents are up 4.2% compared to a year earlier with further increases to be expected (p. 30); and
- While seniors had the lowest overall poverty rates of all age groups, female seniors are twice as likely to live in poverty as male seniors (p. 59).
Kolkman said the report also finds many positive trends:
- The steady improvement in educational attainment as measured by high school completion continues. However, over one in five young adults still fails to complete high school within five years showing room for further improvement (p. 16);
- Strong employment growth, with the number of employed Edmontonians increasing by 31.5% between 2002 and 2012 (p. 19);
- In 2011, government income transfers reduced by 49.4% the number of children that otherwise fall below the poverty line (p. 67);
- Women are narrowing the earnings gap with men (p. 40);
- The differential in unemployment rates between Aboriginal people and Edmontonians overall is narrowing. But Aboriginal people are still twice as likely to be unemployed (p. 22); and
- Reductions in the number of people receiving Alberta Works (social assistance), employment insurance, and food bank use (pp. 69-70, 35).
Tracking the Trends 2013 combines 23 key indicators grouped into 5 categories into a Social Health Index (p. 94-95). Categories where Edmonton does well are financial security and personal & family stability. Edmonton is doing more poorly on population health and participation & environmental indicators.
“The bottom line is a 27.6% improvement in Edmonton’s social health since 1993. However, this is significantly lower than the 45.5% per person increase in Edmonton’s real GDP,” Kolkman concluded.