Discussion Paper no. 01-7


This paper examines the relationship between family structure and child poverty in Canada over the 1981-1997 period. While recognising the many methodological and conceptual difficulties encountered in efforts to document child poverty over time, two alternate indicators are used, Statistics Canada’s official low income cut-offs, and an alternate indicator of "deep poverty”. Using the Survey of Consumer Finances (1981, 1989 and 1997), trends in low income are considered, along with concurrent changes in the structure of Canadian families with children. Particular attention is paid to trends in the incidence of lone parenthood, the number of children per family, and the age of parents (as an indicator of recent shifts in the timing of childbearing). Overall, these changes are found to have offsetting effects on the incidence of child poverty, such that irrespective of a substantial growth in the incidence of lone parenthood, the overall impact of changes in family composition have been relatively modest.