From Coast to Coast: Provincial Rates of Low-Income among Canadians With and Without Disabilities


Following the 2006 Census, Statistics Canada used the Participation and Activity Limitation Survey (PALS) to gather information about people with disabilities. Disability was defined as any long-term or recurring difficulty in activities related to hearing, seeing, communicating, mobility, agility, learning or similar activities or a condition or health problem that reduces the amount or kind of activity people can do at home, work, school or other activities such as transportation or leisure. Based on PALS, 16.5% of adults or almost 4.2 million Canadians have at least one disability.

Together, the Census and PALS provide information about people with disabilities who live on low incomes (people in households that spend after taxes 20% or more than the average on food, shelter and clothing). This is the after tax low-income cut-off (LICO) and is sometimes called the ‘poverty line’. It doesn’t include disability-related costs such as medication, services, or aids for mobility, communication or learning. In 2005 almost half a million (20.5%) working-age adults 15 to 64 years with disabilities lived on a low income. This fact sheet looks at the low income rates of people with and without disabilities in each province, and also compares the rates of low-income among people living in rural and urban communities who do and do not have disabilities. Canada’s territories (Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut) are not included because Statistics Canada has not developed a low-income cut-off for these regions.

Comparing Provincial Rates of Disability and Low-Income Status

Canadians with disabilities are twice as likely to be living in poverty as people who do not have disabilities (20.3% vs. 10.7%, respectively). Provincial low-income rates are as follows:

  • British Columbia has the lowest ratio, where people with disabilities are 1.5 times more likely than people without disabilities to live in poverty (19.6% vs. 13.2%).
  • In Alberta, 13.7% of people with disabilities live in poverty compared to 8.5% of people who do not have disabilities.
  • Saskatchewan’s residents with disabilities have a low-income rate of 17.4% compared to 9.5% of its residents without disabilities.
  • Manitoba is close to the national rate, with 20.1% of people with disabilities and 9.7% of people without disabilities living in low-income homes.
  • In Ontario the low-income rates are 18.3% and 10.3% for people with and without disabilities, respectively.
  • In New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island, which have been grouped together due to low population counts in order to meet Statistics Canada’s standards, those with disabilities are 2.3 times more likely to live in poverty than their counterparts without disabilities (17.3% vs. 7.7%).
  • Nova Scotians with disabilities experience poverty at a rate of 16.8% compared to 8.9% among people without disabilities.
  • Quebec has the highest ratio, as people with disabilities are 2.7 times more likely to live in poverty than those without disabilities (32% vs. 12%, respectively).
  • Newfoundland and Labrador also experience a high rate of poverty among people with disabilities living there, as they are 2.5 times more likely to have a low income than people without disabilities (22.9% vs. 9.1%).

Urban and Rural Differences in Low-Income Status


  • Community type and size affect low-income rates: people who live in rural communities are about half as likely to have low incomes as people who live in cities and towns.
  • In rural settings 11.3% of people with disabilities live on low incomes compared to 5.6% of people without disabilities.
  • People with disabilities who live in urban communities live on low-incomes at a rate of 22.9%, while 11.4% of their counterparts without disabilities live on low household incomes.
  • Regardless of type of community, however, people with disabilities remain about twice as likely to live in low income households as people without disabilities.

This information was produced through the Council of Canadians with Disabilities’ Disabling Poverty/Enabling Citizenship project, which is funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council's (SSHRC) Community-University Research Alliances (CURA).