A large proportion of the crowd mingling among the tents of a farmers market are seniors. A couple are children.

Low income prevalence dropping on Gabriola

Editor’s note: This appears to be another example of high living costs driving away working age families. Gabriola is becoming an island for seniors and tourists.

By Rachelle Stein-Wotten, Gabriola Sounder, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

More people on Gabriola appear to have higher incomes, according Statistics Canada data.

The prevalence of low-income dropped between the 2020 and 2016 censuses. In 2015, 24.9 per cent of people in the Gabriola Local Trust Area were considered low income while in 2020, that was reduced to 17.8 per cent.

That doesn’t necessarily mean the overall financial picture is improving for Gabriolans, say Dyan Dunsmoor-Farley and Jennefer Laidley, two Gabriola researchers who have studied the island’s population and community health data for a number of years.

“It would be great if what’s happening is that the people who had low incomes in 2015 had much higher incomes in 2020, but we’re not sure that’s the case.” With the population increasing by nearly 500 people in five years, it’s possible more people with higher incomes are moving to the area, and that those in certain age groups, like families with children, are moving away, they said.

“This shift in the low-income statistics may also be a result of families with children who are at the lower end of the income scale no longer being able to afford to live here anymore and so have moved elsewhere.

“So it could be the case that we haven’t actually lifted children or working-age adults out of poverty in our community. It could be that people who have moved here with children and are of working age are doing well. So we’ve either lost those children/working-age adults or their poverty has been diluted by an increase in families with children/working-age adults with higher incomes.”

Just over 80 per cent of Electoral Area B residents aged 15 years and older received COVID-19 government income support and benefits in 2020. In B.C. overall, 74.5 per cent of people received supports like the Canada Emergency Response Benefit and others, while across Canada 68.4 per cent did.

On Gabriola, median after-tax income of households increased 19.7 per cent between 2015 and 2020 to $56,000. In the City of Nanaimo, it increased 16.5 per cent to $68,500 while in Regional District of Nanaimo Area A (Cedar and Yellowpoint), the median income increased 14 per cent to $77,500.

Compared to the regional district as a whole, British Columbia and Canada, the Gabriola area has a higher proportion of households wth lower incomes but about the same proportion in the middle income range.

Top image credit: There were already a large proportion of seniors in this 2004 picture of the Saturday Farmer’s Market on Gabriola Island – Photo by Active Steve via Flickr (CC BY SA, 2.0 License)

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