Problem of Child Poverty in Canada: Essay

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According to Investopedia, poverty is defined as “a state or condition in which a person or community lacks the financial resources and essentials for a minimum standard of living. Poverty means that the income level from employment is so low that basic human needs can't be met” (2019). Childhood poverty is then a situation in which children lack resources for living. In Canada, childhood poverty continues to be a growing concern as it directly affects health outcomes, educational attainment, and social communities across the population. With the government's inability to incorporate initiatives that would benefit those that fall into this category, it goes unnoticed by the majority of the Canadian population. It is not only a minor economic inconvenience but a public health concern that affects not only the health and life outcomes of those directly affected but the community as a whole. Occurrences of infant mortality speak volumes on societal well-being, as of “1996, Canada’s infant mortality rate in the lowest-income urban neighborhoods was 66% higher (6.5 deaths per 1000 live births) than in the highest-income urban neighborhoods (3.9 deaths per 1000 live births)” (Gupta, R. P., de Wit, M. L., & McKeown, D, 2007 ). Children born into low-income families are at higher risk of death and chronic illnesses before the age of one compared to their counterparts in richer homes, this is a major point of concern to public health for Canada as this period in their lives consists of the critical periods of development for any child and exposure during this time can have major effects on health throughout life and in adulthood. The purpose of this critical reflection paper is to explore what constitutes childhood poverty and defend the idea that childhood poverty is a major concern to population development due to how it affects education, health, and community solidarity in Canada.

Supportive Evidence

When looking into the issue of childhood poverty, society is often divided into two different extremes: those that say it is a big concern to the smooth functioning of society, and those that believe that small-scale poverty rates have some advantages to the wider society. According to Herbert J. Gans (2012), those more fortunate can gain from systematic poverty when politics are involved. Hebert stated that the poor are less likely to vote compared to the rich, they lack any power that would be able to advocate for better working conditions, and therefore that would be a huge burden on the more financially stable due to tax implements to provide infrastructure. Those that believe poverty has no advantage on society often at times discuss how lack of opportunity for some in a certain population affects the population as a whole, they believe that poverty encourages negative behaviors and leads to increased crime by those that have to rely on unlawful tactics to produce basic needs. Although poverty in society has some positive effects on the one percent, I believe that it is an issue that constitutes worse than good in society. It affects the development of that community over time, leading to economic drawbacks and public concerns.

Childhood Poverty and Education

Poverty has a direct negative effect on education and the ability of children to focus in a school setting. Students that grow up in low-income families are already behind their peers in more prosperous households. Readiness for academic institutions is a key reflector of a child's ability to excel when it comes to social and scholarly environments. Research carried out by Hertzman C., McLean S.A., Kohen D.E., Dunn J., and Evans T. (2007) found that 38% of kindergarten children living in the lowest income communities compared to the 6% in the highest income are vulnerable to some dimensions of learning difficulty. This can lead to more profound burdens on society as people with inadequate education tend to have trouble asserting their position in society, which then has major effects on their health outcomes, mental health, and chances of being exploited. With a growing population of uneducated individuals, economies would suffer as society would lack services needed to run smoothly, and there would be increased burdens on societies and governments to make an alternative to account for the lack therefore. The root causes of poor education in families of low income can be linked to many factors. For example, in the case that public education is free in Canada and it would not constitute much of a burden due to no payment. However, many children lack support systems to propagate and encourage continuous learning and development of learned skills from class. According to H.B. Ferguson, S. Bovaird, and M.P. Mueller (2007), parents in poorer families face day-to-day stress from work to nutrition and much more, and many of them lack the time and resources to help their kids when it comes to education aspect, which leads to kids falling behind and not putting much effort into their education. To improve the outcomes for children growing up in low-income environments, the government can allocate more funding to institutions and initiatives like after-school programs that encourage parents that are busy to leave children under the care of professionals that can provide the guidance that they need after school thus fostering a healthy learning environment outside of school. In addition to this, Montessori programs can be included in the schooling systems to help children who may be slower or find it harder to attain knowledge in a conventional teaching environment. Lack of positive experiences in an educative institution can often leave kids needing to socialize with community networks and burn off steam from school. However, in many low-income neighborhoods, there is a lack of infrastructure such as parks and recreational activities. This leaves kids needing to take off steam in negative ways, which may then add to their vulnerability.

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Childhood Poverty and Community Networks

Community networks and experiences are impacted and severed in high-poverty communities. Lack of resources and public services often leaves the community isolated. The combination of social ills and the social isolation experienced by those in extremely poor neighborhoods has given rise to a particular lifestyle and subculture, consisting of high violence and increased crime rates. To compensate for a lack of positive infrastructure that encourages growth and development such as public libraries and recreational centers, children brought up in low-income families often turn to a life of crime consisting of drugs and gangs to provide some sort of haven or community that they believe they can rely on. The effects further propagate across society as higher crime rates lead to an increase in government spending to be able to maintain prisons following the high crime. This inevitably leads to increased government spending and policy implementation in sectors that don’t improve opportunity for the population as a whole and money being drawn out of important sectors like health and social services and a possible increase in taxes to make up for money distribution. With decreasing budgets for welfare and health, many children already growing up in low-income households would be unable to have access to optimal healthcare and recreational activities, leaving a high burden on parents. The psychosocial model of health discusses how one’s social position affects a person’s ability to cope with stress. The behavioral pathway argues that socially disadvantaged individuals have little opportunity to control their life and therefore turn to alcohol and bad behaviors to aid with stress. So, it is parents of disadvantaged children, they pick up negative behaviors like smoking that not only directly affect their health but the general health of the community around them. “Breathing in second-hand smoke—whether it’s from a neighbor’s burning cigarette or a cigarette outside your window—has been shown to have instant effects on the cardiovascular system of nearby individuals” (Quitters Circle, 2017), by increasing these negative behaviors, individual childhood poverty is creating a loop of adverse effect for the community as a whole. In conclusion, the lack of infrastructure like parks and chronic negative behaviors such as smoking have further negated positive health outcomes and played a bigger role in promoting poor health in low-income communities that desperately need better conditions due to compromised fitness arising from birth and critical periods.

Childhood Poverty and Health

The mean economic status of a community plays a big role in determining the health outcomes of that society. It affects both those that are directly disadvantaged and those that fall under the one percent. The early stages of a child’s development are the most important periods of that child's overall growth as it determines their long-term health and even the health of the generations that come follow. Children that are born into poverty are more likely to experience poor nutrition and health problems while growing up than those in more financially secure environments. Governments promote the idea of a fit and disease resistance economy, yet they fail to authorize policy and infrastructure that would provide a satiable wage that encourages a sound mind and adequate resources. For example, low socioeconomic status neighborhoods were more likely to lack safe playgrounds and parks, and to have fewer children participating in organized sports due to a lack of facilities and/or personal resources, all of which represent barriers to maintaining a healthy body weight (Oliver and Hayes, 2005). The early stages of life are some of the most important times of development for a child, they consist of the critical periods which is when exposure leads to unalterable effects on health and development. Children growing up in poverty-stricken environments during this period of their lives are at higher risk of health complications in adulthood and old age as early life experiences are what shape and determine health across the life course. Childhood poverty affects the population as a whole, if not treated as a health risk, it leads to an increasingly unhealthy and troubled older population, which then passes it on across generations, therefore, promoting a chain of declining health outcomes over time. In addition to this, low-income children are more likely to be overweight and obese, this can be associated with bad nutrition and poor exercise because of infrastructure. According to Oliver L.N. and Hayes M.V. (1998-1999), 25% of children two to 11 years of age who were living in low-income families were obese compared with 16% of children who were not living in low-income families. This carries a lot of negative effects on the population, such as a loss of productivity. To eliminate childhood poverty, the government must continue to implement policies that address the socio-economic conditions that contribute to poverty, such as lack of satiable income, and should try to reduce the cost of essential goods and services that foster good health. Also, implementing advocacy groups that work hand in hand with low-income families to create awareness of the greater social issue.


In conclusion, childhood poverty is a cause of concern for the larger society. Children in poor households lack the education that they need to be positive citizens in society and at most times turn to crime and negative behaviors to make up for the lack of resources, resulting in society paying the price. In addition to this poverty encourages poor health within a population, those in low-income homes are more prone to having compromised health from birth, which then affects their health along their life course, leading to poor overall health for everyone, as the disease can be more easily spread. By relating the health issue to social determinants of health, it is easier to see how the issue discussed affects the wider society and why the Canadian system and those in power need to do what will aid the decrease in childhood poverty and a rise in overall socio-economic prosperity.


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