Children struggling in low-income families are exposed to various forms of inequalities on a daily basis. In 2012, 4.7 million people, or one in seven Canadians, live in poverty, while one in six youth in Canada do.1 Children living in these situations suffer the most due to low levels of education and developmental issues that may arise.
Education is the most effective way to improve a child’s position in society because it increases the child’s chance of escaping poverty. The United Nation’s public health arm the World Health Organization argues “starting educational programs early in life can contribute to later success.”2 This is not always easy for children living in low-income families as their parents cannot afford to invest in their child’s education, so this is where an inequality can arise. Dominque Fleury has found that if you are born into a low-income family, you are most likely to suffer from “low-income issues later on in life.” 3 Although education can increase your chances of leading a successful life, children in low-income families have less of the opportunity to do so which is a huge inequality.
The Public Health Agency of Canada suggests a number of determinants that categorize what it means to be healthy, as well as the determinants of what affects a child’s development: such as the education levels of those they are being raised by, the type of house they live in, where they live and getting proper foods.4 If children do not have access to the best environments and nutritious foods which is linked to a healthy brain development, they face greater health risks. These include suffering from behavioural, cognitive, or physiological problems as shown by research from the Ontario Provincial Centre of Excellence for Child and Youth Mental Health.5 The mental health of these children compared to children who grew up in more economically stable environments can also be significantly different as their lives entail more traumatic situations.5 How a child is nurtured from the time they are born is extremely important because your behaviour depends on how you are raised by your parents.
Children growing up in low-income families and poverty are a growing problem in Canada, even though the country did implement the National Child Benefit program. Provincial rates vary, with poverty being of greatest concern in New Brunswick and Newfoundland and least in Alberta and Saskatchewan. But for more than a million Canadian children low-income inequality is a daily problem and as a result their opportunities to live a successful life are unfairly limited.
Sources/ Further Readings
(1) “Canadian Income Survey, 2012.” Daily, Statistics Canada. Accessed March 29, 2015. http://www.statcan.gc.ca/daily-quotidien/141210/dq141210a-eng.htm.
(2) “10 Facts about Early Child Development as a Social Determinant of Health.” WHO. Accessed March 6, 2015. http://www.who.int/maternal_child_adolescent/topics/child/development/10facts/en/.
(3)Fleury, Dominique. “Low-income Children.” Perspectives on Labour and Income.” Perspectives, 9, 5 (2008). May 14, 2015. Accessed March 5, 2015. http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/75-001-x/2008105/article/10578-eng.htm
(4)”Institutional Links.” What Makes Canadians Healthy or Unhealthy? January 15, 2013. Accessed March 6, 2015. http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/ph-sp/determinants/determinants-eng.php#tphp.
(5)Lipman, Ellen L, and Michael H Boyle. “Linking Poverty and Mental Health: A Lifespan View.” September 1, 2008. Accessed March 15, 2015. http://www.excellenceforchildandyouth.ca/sites/default/files/position_poverty.pdf.
(6)”Poverty Index.” Poverty. Accessed March 6, 2015. http://www.hkpr.on.ca/InfoSet/Adults/Poverty/PovertyChildDevelopment.aspx.
“New Data Shows Epidemic Poverty Levels in Toronto.” Social Planning Toronto. August 7, 2014. Accessed March 30, 2015. http://www.socialplanningtoronto.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/Fact-Sheet-New-Poverty-Data-FINAL.pdf.