Local kids missing 'access to opportunity' as 1 in 7 live in low income household, United Way says

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New data from Statistics Canada shows one in seven children in Windsor-Essex live in a low-income family. (Chanss Lagaden/CBC - image credit)
New data from Statistics Canada shows one in seven children in Windsor-Essex live in a low-income family. (Chanss Lagaden/CBC - image credit)

Although new data shows the number of children living in low income families dropped 9.5 percentage points in Windsor-Essex over the last five years, United Way Windsor-Essex said we still "have a long way to go."

Statistics Canada released more data Wednesday from the 2021 Census. In 2020, 14.5 per cent of youth under 18 lived in a low-income household in our region.

The sharp decrease highlights how COVID-19 pandemic supports from different levels of governments lifted families out of poverty, according to Alicea Fleming, vice president of community impact.

"What it means is that we're going to have generations of young people growing up without access to opportunity," said Fleming. "That has implications for their future employment and their future earning potentials and our ability to grow our economy."

Jason Viau/CBC
Jason Viau/CBC

In 2015, Windsor had 24 per cent of children living in low income, which was the highest across the country, according to Statistics Canada. A contributing factor was a 6.4 per cent drop in median household income for Windsor-Essex between 2005 and 2015, the largest decrease in any large Canadian city.

Children in low-income households are also more likely to face food insecurity and barriers around education, according to Frazier Fathers, a local researcher.

"Children who grow up in low income have challenges breaking out of that, sort of, environment," said Fathers. "It's not the child's fault necessarily and it's not even necessarily the parents' fault, in some cases, it's just by circumstance."

Jason Viau/CBC
Jason Viau/CBC

He points to promising economic announcements such as the $4.9-billion electric vehicle (EV) battery plant as ways to reduce the number of local families living in the low-income category. The facility is expected to open by 2024 and create 2,500 jobs.

"It's about how do we get people into jobs that actually pay wages and pay incomes that allow people to support themselves, their families and thrive and survive in the community — more than just survive in the community," said Fathers.

Government investments in social and income support programs are another way Fleming said will help low-income families, as we saw during the pandemic. She said it's important for all levels of government to continue to make investments in those areas and "take what we've learned over the last couple of years" to make the programs sustainable.

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