A recent United Way report revealed shocking statistics about the rise of low-income earners in Peel Region. In 1980, Peel was composed of mostly middle-income neighborhoods, but over the last few decades that has changed significantly.

While the number of high- and very high-income neighbourhoods in Peel has declined since 1980, the increase in low-income neighbourhoods is more dramatic. Low-income neighbourhoods once made up just 2 per cent of Peel Region; by 2015, that had increased to 52 per cent.

The report also defines the difference between “polarization” and “income inequality.” Polarization occurs when income disparity increases at opposite ends of the spectrum, such as the “disappearing middle class.” Income inequality shows how unevenly income is distributed across individuals or neighbourhoods within a region.

Part of the problem, according to United Way CEO Daniele Zanotti, is that “social infrastructure is not keeping pace with need and so you’ve got a demand of supports close to home and not an abundance of supply.” This point is supported by Brampton Mayor Linda Jeffrey who says poor decisions were made over the last few decades when trying to keep up with Brampton’s explosive population growth. “We, as a city, really were just focused on building houses,” she added in an interview with CBC.

The United Way report mentions that not only a lack of access to resources (such as housing, education, health services, and social capital), but also discriminatory treatment according to gender, race, and ethnicity can contribute to polarization and income equality.

What could this mean for residents of Peel Region? The report suggests that as income inequality grows, “the neighbourhood where you live increasingly matters in whether or not the promise of a fair chance is true for you.” It also describes how income inequality has been associated with things like lowered life expectancy, higher rates of violence and addiction, increased rates of bankruptcy, and decreasing feelings of commonality with people from different backgrounds.

Still, the report points out that these outcomes are not inevitable. In addition to various initiatives being undertaken by the United Way, Brampton Mayor Linda Jeffrey says the city is already working to address these issues, citing improved transit and the upcoming university as opportunities to reduce the gap in equality.