Calgary

Number of single, childless Albertans on social assistance spiked during recession, Calgary economist says

A University of Calgary researcher says the latest economic downturn hit single people without kids particularly hard.

Single Albertans hit harder by downturn than couples and parents, data suggests

University of Calgary researcher Ron Kneebone says the data shows that the recent Alberta recession left a disproportionate number of childless single people having to turn to social assistance. (Getty Images)

A University of Calgary researcher says the latest economic downturn hit single people without kids particularly hard.

Ron Kneebone, who teaches economics at the School of Public Policy, analyzed social assistance caseloads in Alberta between 2000 and 2017.

"The number of single people with no children on social assistance has increased dramatically during the last recession," he said.

"It doesn't seem to be falling, and it reacted far more strongly than it ever has in the past."

In a brief analysis published by the policy school, Kneebone says single people are more vulnerable in times of economic crisis.

"Couples tend to have greater income security, perhaps in the form of a second partner having an income or larger financial assets, which reduce their eligibility and relative need for social assistance," the paper says.

University of Calgary economist Ron Kneebone says provincial data, shown on this graph, reveal that the number of single Albertans (with no children) receiving social assistance spiked during the last recession, in contrast to couples and couples with children. (University of Calgary)

Kneebone says governments have done a good job of improving supports for families in need. But he says policy makers should do more to help single adults who don't have children.

"We increased the amount of benefits going to children, we have all sorts of child tax benefits to help those families," he said.

"But left by the wayside are single people. They are not receiving any of those benefits. And from what I can see from these data, it's about time the government started to pay attention to them."

At the Calgary Food Bank, communications manager D.D. Coutts confirms that there are more and more single people are coming through their doors for help.

"There is still a growth rate in families needing support, but the singles are really beginning to be troubling, and the trend is higher and higher," she said.

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