Book review: Poverty in Canada

Submitted by Sherri Torjman on August 18, 2016 - 1:28am

The attached notes comprise the text of a presentation to the Administrators Colloquium organized at the Canada School of Public Service on April 29, 2014. The presentation focused on the book Poverty in Canada by Raghubar D. Sharma.

Three main strengths of this book were identified. The focus on poverty is welcome. With all the attention to income inequality, it has been difficult to get traction on the problem of poverty.  Second, the book discusses the social factors linked to poverty. Most studies consider the economic determinants of poverty and its links to the paid labour market. Third, the book breaks down these social factors into the major groups that experience disproportionately higher rates of poverty.

Ironically, the major strength of this book – its focus on social factors – is also its key weakness.  Poverty is fuelled by strong forces that are rooted deeply in the economy, labour market and society.  This essential contextual piece is largely missing. Some recent, significant bodies of thought around poverty are not mentioned – e.g., the racialization of poverty, social determinants of health and geographic/urban dimensions of poverty, including neighbourhood effects. Finally, the text needs to be updated to take into account several important policy measures, including the Canada Child Tax Benefit and Working Income Tax Benefit, already in place.

Access full review here.

Sherri Torjman is the Vice-President of the Caledon Institute of Social Policy and a Vibrant Communities Canada Thought Leader.