Ghettos in Canada's Cities? Racial Segregation, Ethnic Enclaves and Poverty Concentration in Canadian Urban Areas

By Walks, R. Alan; Bourne, Larry S. | The Canadian Geographer, Autumn 2006 | Go to article overview

Ghettos in Canada's Cities? Racial Segregation, Ethnic Enclaves and Poverty Concentration in Canadian Urban Areas


Walks, R. Alan, Bourne, Larry S., The Canadian Geographer


Introduction

Are there urban ghettos in Canada? There has been increasing interest in analyzing the impacts of growing visible minority populations in Canadian cities, particularly in terms of their links to levels of concentrated poverty and neighbourhood distress. Recent reports commissioned by municipal governments and service agencies (Federation of Canadian Municipalities 2003; United Way of Greater Toronto 2004) as well as by Statistics Canada (Heisz and McLeod 2004) suggest that poverty (or more accurately, low income) is not only growing in Canadian cities but is becoming increasingly concentrated in poor neighbourhoods. Not unsurprisingly, the spatial concentration of visible minorities, Aboriginals and recent immigrants is cited as one of a number of potential factors underpinning the growth of concentrated urban poverty. Information contained in the United Way report, 'Poverty by Postal Code' (United Way of Greater Toronto 2004, 49-50), for instance, suggests that the growth in visible minority families may explain all of the growth in family poverty within the City of Toronto between 1981 and 2001, since the level of low income rose both in the city at large and among visible minority families, but declined for non-visible minority families. According to this report, visible minority families made up 77.5 percent of the poor families residing in high poverty neighbourhoods in 2001, double the level in 1981.

This raises the spectre of ghettoization emerging within Canadian cities along the lines witnessed in the United States, a spectre fuelled by media reporting of violent crimes potentially linked to mmorities and to gangs, particularly in Toronto. (1) The relationship between visible minority concentration and high-poverty neighbourhoods in Canada, however, remains under-examined, with most studies concerned with segregation conducted by a small number of devoted sociologists and geographers (for example, Darroch and Marston 1971; Balakrishnan 1976, 1982; Clarke et al. 1984; Ray and Moore 1991; Murdie 1994a; Fong 1996; Bauder and Sharpe 2002; Fong and Wilkes 2003; White et al. 2003, 2005; see also Walks 2001). Much of the literature, and the dominant discourse, concerning urban ghetto formation has emanated from the United States where racial segregation, particularly of the black population, has been an overriding concern. studies undertaken in the United States have found not only very high levels of spatial segregation for blacks and Hispanics, but strong neighbourhood effects that grow with the level of racial concentration. In the United States living in a highly segregated neighbourhood not only increases the chance that one is already pour, but also limits the ability of residents to escape poverty due to, among other things, a lack of social networks, locally based resources, and access to employment (Wilson 1987; Massey and Denton 1993; Jargowsky 1997; Ihlanfeldt 1999). Although the most recent U.S. census shows a decline in both residential segregation and neighbourhood poverty, this change has mostly occurred in cities with few blacks or Hispanics to begin with: in cities with larger black populations there has been much less change (Jargowsky 2003; Kingsley and Pettit 2003).

Hajnal (1995) was one of the first to raise the alarm about the growth of neighbourhood poverty in Canada. He showed that a higher proportion of Canadians lived in high-poverty neighbourhoods in 1986 than did residents of the United States in 1981, although he rightly pointed out that the low proportion of visible minorities in such neighbourhoods at the time meant that the main source of this difference lay elsewhere. Fong and Shibuya's (2000, 2003) research using the 1986 and 1991 census data continued to uncover a relationship between visible minority concentration and neighbourhood poverty. Yet, it is Kazemipur and Halli's (2000) work that has perhaps been most influential in bringing the discourse of ghettoization to Canada: their provocative use of the subtitle 'Ethnic Groups and Ghetto Neighbourhoods' implied that Canada was witnessing the birth of urban underclass ghettos directly linked to growing ethnic communities. …

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