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BC single moms the poorest of them all

Child poverty in British Columbia has increased 4.3 per cent since last year's numbers. But the increase is much larger for single mothers, whose poverty rates increased almost 30 per cent in one year to 49.8 per cent, the highest poverty rate for any persons or family type in B.C.

The 2013 Child Poverty Report Card, produced by First Call: BC Child and Youth Advocacy Coalition, SPARC BC and Campaign 2000, found the province once again had the highest child poverty and overall poverty numbers in the country. The report relied on before tax low-income cut off numbers from Statistics Canada for 2011, the most recent year numbers available.

B.C.'s Ministry of Children and Family Development counteracted these numbers in a press release issued last night in anticipation of the report's release. They use Statistics Canada's after-tax low-income cut off numbers, which put B.C.'s child poverty numbers at 11.3 per cent, tied with Manitoba for the highest child poverty rate in Canada.

While before-tax data includes government transfers like tax benefits, after-tax data takes into account income tax deduction, which reduces the income gap between low-income and high-income earners in Canada.

Stats Canada says the after-tax number is more indicative of the number of people living in poverty because it indicates the actual money people have to spend, but First Call's report notes the after-tax data comes with a "use with caution" note from the national statistics agency.

"For a lot of the statistics in our report card we use the before-tax [numbers], because the data is more reliable. The data is a little bit shakier the smaller the sample size, and for some of the after-tax data it's a little less reliable," said Adrienne Montani, First Call's provincial coordinator.

Other statistics outlined in the report:

  • B.C.'s child poverty rate is 5.3 per cent higher than the national average;
  • Half of the province's poor children, about 77,000, live in the province's Lower Mainland;
  • Poverty for two parent families increased to 14 per cent from 11.6 per cent in 2011;
  • Sixty per cent of kids in poverty lived with two parent families, 36 per cent with single moms, and four per cent in other family arrangements, including single parent dads;
  • Just over 31 per cent of kids living in poverty had at least one parent working full-time all year;
  • Only 31 per cent of B.C. families were lifted out of poverty by government transfers, the lowest number in the province. In contrast 52 per cent of Quebec families are helped out of poverty by government transfers.

The report has 16 recommendations for change for the provincial and federal governments. These include:

  • Raising the minimum wage to $12/hour and indexing it to the cost of living;
  • Raising welfare rates to the after-tax low-income cut off line, also indexing them to cost of living;
  • Restoring unearned income exemptions to families on income and disability assistance for child support;
  • Increasing the Child Tax Benefit to $5,500 per child;
  • Adopting the $10/day childcare program;
  • Creating a tax commission whose mandate includes reducing income inequality;
  • Increasing low-income housing stock.

Katie Hyslop reports on education and youth issues for The Tyee Solutions Society. Follow her on Twitter.

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