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Neighbourhood change in Halifax Regional Municipality, 1970 to 2010: Applying the "Three Cities" model

TitleNeighbourhood change in Halifax Regional Municipality, 1970 to 2010: Applying the "Three Cities" model
Year of Publication2014
AuthorsProuse, V., Grant J. L., Radice M., Ramos H., and Shakotko P.
JournalNeighbourhood Change Research Partnership

The Neighbourhood Change Research Partnership (NCRP) is conducting a national study comparing trends in individual incomes for a 30 to 40 year period in several Canadian cities. We seek to identify and interpret trends in income to determine whether socio-spatial polarization–a gap between rich and poor expressed in the geography of the city–has been increasing. In examining income trends from 1970 to 2005, Hulchanski (2010) concluded that the City of Toronto revealed a pattern of "Three Cities". City #1 included predominantly higher income census tracts that saw average individual incomes rise compared to the Census Metropolitan Area (CMA) average over the years: the census tracts in this category tended to be centrally located and clustered near subway lines. City #3 included lower income census tracts where individual incomes declined relative to the city average over time: these areas clustered in the north east and north west of Toronto. Between those was City #2: mostly middle-income areas that stayed near the city average in individual income over time. Hulchanski (2010) found that the number of middle-income census tracts shrank over the period, while poverty generally moved from the centre of Toronto toward older suburban areas along the edges. The NCRP, which was founded after the release of the initial Toronto study, is examining comparable data to the Toronto case to consider the applicability of the "Three Cities" model to other Canadian cities. Reports have already been released on studies completed in Montreal (Rose and Twigge-Molecey, 2013) and Vancouver (Ley and Lynch, 2012); studies on Winnipeg, Calgary, and Halifax are in progress. In this report, we examine income trends in Halifax Regional Municipality to consider whether inequality and social polarization maybe increasing or decreasing over time and to understand how patterns in incomes are spatially ordered in Halifax. We work with average individual incomes at the census tract level, and then draw on additional variables and knowledge of the urban context to assist in interpreting the results. For purposes of the analysis we define income inequality as implying significant disparities in average individual income levels. Inequality is a relative condition, ranging from a limited difference in available resources to a considerable gap. Social polarization – a "vanishing middle class" (MacLachlan and Sawada, 1997, 384) – implies a pattern of increasing income inequality which results in growing numbers of census tracts with very high and very low individual income levels, and few tracts showing middle income levels: polarization may be localized or dispersed across an urban region. The NCRP is especially interested in identifying socio-spatial polarization: areas of cities where concentrations of individuals of very high and very low socioeconomic status contrast significantly at a neighbourhood scale. For that reason we are examining whether Three Cities appear in a range of Canadian cities, including Halifax. For the study reported here we analyze average individual income at census tract-level relative to the Halifax CMA average in the years 1970, 1980, 1990, 1995, 2000, 2005, and 2010. All income data derive from the Canadian Census of Population except for the 2010 information: to provide comprehensive income information for that year, the Toronto team obtained from Canada Revenue Agency's Taxfiler Data. Since census tract boundaries have remained relatively constant since 1980, we use the census tract as a proxy for neighbourhood boundaries. In conducting the analysis, we considered several research questions: *Is there income inequality in Halifax? If so, how has it changed over time? *To what extent has income inequality increased in Halifax? *Is there evidence for income polarization in Halifax from 1980 to 2010? If so, does it have a distinct spatial distribution? *To what extent does the Three Cities model help explain Halifax's changing geography of income distribution? *What socioeconomic factors help account for changes in Halifax's geography of income distribution?

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