Beneath the surface

VCC's latest report examines the multifaceted layers of wellbeing in Calgary

7 March 2023

VCC released a new study today on the state of wellbeing in Calgary. The report is the result of several months of collaboration with 12 leading experts on nine domains of wellbeing.

Here are the top things for you to know about Beneath the Surface: The Layers if Poverty in Calgary.

Poverty is always about income, but it isn’t only about income.

The availability of income is what makes shelter, food, clothing, transportation, and other basic needs available to us, so you often see poverty measured as a threshold of income. For instance, if you earn over Statistics Canada’s Low-income cut-off of $41,710 for a family of four, you are considered over the poverty line. But poverty is about so much more than that. In fact, this report contains information on 50 indicators for nine domains of wellbeing to paint a clearer picture of the path we need to take to improve poverty in Calgary.

It looks beyond the data.

The study didn’t take the data at face value, the researchers also talked to people to understand what people around our city were going through and examined how things like inflation, which may not be represented in the latest Census data from 2021, are influencing wellbeing now. Researchers also talked to people like nurses and people in the social services sector to gauge what they’re seeing on the front lines.

COVID-19 benefits made a huge difference to many Calgarians living on low incomes.

Pandemic benefits were mostly received by the lower third of income earners and actually reduced poverty and increased income equality in our city. This raises questions about the adequacy of income support in Alberta and if we should consider a long-term income floor to ensure our social safety net keeps people out of poverty.

Even though the report has a lot to report, there are still gaps.

In some cases, data was just not available for certain areas we know impact wellness and poverty. How students are doing after the disruptions in 2020 and even today, how has record inflation impacted our ability to meet basic needs – especially food security, and what is the degree of unmet health needs from the state of our provincial healthcare system? There are some unanswered questions that we are excited to pursue answers for.

We’re pleased to see that Calgary is doing really well in some domains. While there are always opportunities to make things better for people and families living in poverty, there’s a real opportunity to drive change now that we’ve identified where we’re falling short.

Beneath the Surface

We know that poverty is about so much more than just income. This year, we looked beneath the surface of the metrics, and to learn the story behind them. Looking at these multifaceted layers helps us measure what matters and uncover solutions that will chart a better path forward.