1 in 10 Alberta children live in poverty: report

One in 10, or 77,595 children, live in poverty in Alberta, according to a report released Friday by the Edmonton Social Planning Council.

One in 10, or 77,595 children, live in poverty in Alberta, according to a report released Friday by the Edmonton Social Planning Council.

"Due to a strong economy, Alberta is below the national average in terms of the percentage of its children living in poverty," said John Kolkman, research and policy analysis co-ordinator with the Edmonton Social Planning Council, and principal author of the report.

"However … Alberta children who live in low-income families experience a greater depth of poverty than the national average. Alberta children also tend to live in poverty longer than children in other parts of Canada," he said.

The report uses data from Statistics Canada's 2006 census, which measured the number of children under 18 living in households earning less than the low income cut-off, which varies in amount depending on the family size and community of residence. Statistics Canada says its low income cut-off is the income level at which a family may be in straitened circumstances because it has to spend a greater portion of its income on food, clothing and shelter than an average family of similar size

Using Statistics Canada's information, the report found 28,750 children living in poverty in the metro Edmonton area, and 29,360 in metro Calgary, with 28,420 of those within Calgary city boundaries.

That works out to one in every six children in Edmonton, and one in every eight in Calgary.

Lethbridge and Medicine Hat had the highest child poverty rates among the regional centres in Alberta, Kolkman said.

In Lethbridge, 2,315 children lived in poverty, while in Medicine Hat, 1,500 lived in low-income families, the study says.

Council calls for better tax benefits, child care, wages

Among Alberta children living in poverty, 32 per cent lived in families where one or both parents worked full-time, year round, according to the report, and only 22 per cent lived in households where no parent worked.

Kolkman is calling for enhanced child tax benefits, a better child-care system, better wages and expanded eligibility for employment insurance as ways to improve the situation for these families.

Addressing the problems of poverty now will save the government money in the future, Kolkman said.

"Children who grow up in low-income families typically do less well in school, earn lower incomes when they become adults and generate additional costs for the justice, health and social service systems," he said. "Child poverty could be costing our province from five to 10 billion dollars per year in extra social costs and lost economic potential."

Kolkman said the economic downturn has heightened concerns that poverty rates could grow because social programs often get cut when governments curtail spending.