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Lack of Accurate Measurement of Child Poverty Makes it Difficult to Address the Problem

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Release Date: November 24, 2003
Campaign 2000 is not using reliable measurements in their most recent report card on the amount of child poverty in Canada, released today. According to Professor Christopher Sarlo, senior fellow at The Fraser Institute, this obscures the true nature of child poverty and makes it difficult to tackle the problem effectively.

There is no Canadian, regardless of political persuasion, who can ignore the plight of children living in poverty. "That there are any children in Canada whose basic needs are not covered is a tragedy. However, the fact is that we do not have an accepted measure that provides the true dimension of the problem. Some organizations, including the Campaign 2000 coalition, continue to use the Low-Income Cut-Offs (LICO) as if they are poverty lines, despite significant criticism from researchers and despite the disclaimers from Statistics Canada itself," says Sarlo.

Campaign 2000 claims that 1 million children -- about 17 percent of all children -- currently live in poverty in Canada. This is not a reliable estimate because the measuring stick used is seriously flawed. One piece of data that we do have that relates to poor children is that, according to the National Longitudinal Survey of Children, hunger was sometimes experienced by just under 2 percent of families with children. There is a huge disconnect between the most obvious manifestation of poverty and the claim by Campaign 2000.

"What is clear is that there is a crucial need for a credible measure of poverty so that all Canadians can understand the true dimensions of the problem and begin to combat it. What is regrettable is that, when honest concerns about data reliability are expressed, people are accused of lacking compassion and being 'against the poor'. We need to find some common ground if the problem is going to be solved," stresses Sarlo.

Professor Christopher Sarlo is the author of "Measuring Poverty in Canada," published by The Fraser Institute in 2001. He has written extensively about poverty measurement and first proposed a Basic Needs Index as a more reliable poverty measurement in 1992.