TDSB Census 2011 shows Toronto’s divisions and diversity

Early results from the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) 2011-2012 census of its students and parents are now being released.  Unlike Statistic Canada’s staged release of data which leaves visible minority status and income data until the final stages, TDSB researchers pushed this key data  out quickly.

The TDSB census results, from 192,000 respondents, capture two wider trends in the city of Toronto: growing ethnocultural diversity and widening income inequality.

A startling example of these divides show that race and income are dividing our city’s residents:

The majority of students who are racially White come from higher income groups; 59% of them are in the $100,000+ group and only 9% of them in the lowest income group under $30,000.

In a perfect world, White students, at 29% of the student population, should be 29% in each of the income groups. The finding underscore the sharpness of the dividing lines among us.

We hope further analysis is forthcoming, but even a look at the basic demographics of students provides interesting insights into how changing city and the shape of the school system.

Ethnoracial Diversity

In two separate questions, one multiple-choice and one write-in, parents and students were asked to identify their racial and cultural backgrounds.

The results showed students’ racial backgrounds in 2011 were:

    • 29% White
    • 24% South Asian
    • 15% East Asian
    • 12% Black
    • 9% Mixed race
    • 5% Middle Eastern
    • 4% Southeast Asian
    • 2% Latin American
    • 0.3% Aboriginal

These categories were developed in consultation with parents and community in the first census round, with an emphasis on region of origin. The 2011 results closely align to the numbers from the previous student census, thereby reflecting the stability of the survey.

The TDSB census results are an amplification of Toronto’s wider diversity. The Statistics Canada’s 2011 National Household Survey (NHS) showed doesn’t yet show such diversity.

In the NHS, only half of Torontonians identify as White, 12% identify as South Asian, and 11% identify as Chinese (TDSB also included Korean and Japanese in this category) and 9% of Torontonians identify as Black.  This difference between the TDSB census and the NHS is not surprising since Toronto’s older populations (out of school) tend to be less racially diverse.

Income

The TDSB census also explored at the issue of family income. This is an important category because of the proven correlation with academic performance — those with less, do more poorly — an important consideration for a public school system.

The income data from the TDSB census comes from two sources. Parents of students in Kindergarten through grade 6 were asked their family income. Students in Grade 7 though 12 were not expected to know their family income, so instead were asked the profession of their parents. These were divided into estimated income ranges.

According to the new TDSB census, almost half of its students come from families with incomes of less than $50,000. By comparison, in 2010, the median after-tax income for families (two or more people) in Toronto was $65,500. So a larger-than-expected number of students come from families in the lowest-income ranges.

Grade school parents reported the following incomes:

    • Less than $30,000: 28%
    • $30,000 – $49,000: 21%
    • $50,000 – $74,000: 15%
    • $75,000 – $99,000: 10%
    • $100,000+ : 26%

High school and junior high students were similar, dividing from professional through unwaged classes. (NHS data for Toronto are not yet available.)

In the end, these early census results underscore the challenge for the public school system to respond to the changes, so that all students can learn, whatever their cultural or class background.

Note: The TDSB has now published the census on its website. Global Toronto has also produced a series of topical reports from some of the results.

Income data from Statistics Canada’s National Household Survey is set to be released August 14, 2013.

Toronto Divided? Professor David Hulchanski’s PowerPoint presentation to TDSB’s Inner City Advisory Committee. 2010

Racialized poverty & academic performance: A tentative exploration of the latent effects of social capital on educational achievement, 2010

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