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Population aging and the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP)

TitlePopulation aging and the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP)
Year of Publication2017
AuthorsKerr, D., Smith-Carrier T., Wang J., Tam D. M. Y., and Kwok S. Ming
JournalCanadian Journal of Disability Studies
Pages33 - 55
Keywordsdemography, disability, income support, population aging, social assistance

The number of beneficiaries on social assistance in Ontario is not of minor importance, with almost a million (964,182) participants province wide in 2016. The number of persons on the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) has rapidly increased, from about 280,000 in 2003 to over 475,000 in late 2016, for a rather dramatic increase of about 70 per cent. The reasons for this increase in ODSP are not straightforward, although population aging has frequently been cited as an important factor contributing to this growth. The primary purpose of the current paper is to provide a quantitative fix as to the relative importance of population growth and shifts in Canada's age distribution to the rather pronounced increase in ODSP participation. We estimate here that demography alone can be considered responsible for only about 28 per cent of the overall growth in ODSP over the 2003-2014 period. The relatively modest impact of demography was less than initially anticipated in light of the distinct age/sex pattern of ODSP participants and some rather important shifts in the age sex structure of Ontario.

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