Fact sheets create discussion about rural AND urban income

Date: September 4, 2014

This commentary is about the Focus on Rural Ontario fact sheets concerning Income and is provided by Nancy Fischer, Senior Program Analyst with Social Services at the City of Peterborough and Dawn Berry-Merriam, the Research & Policy Analyst for the Peterborough Social Planning Council.

It is exciting to see the new release of Focus on Rural Ontario fact sheets. They provide analysis in areas that often municipalities do not have the resources to explore. Concentrating on income gaps is a great way to kick off the new fact sheets, providing one indicator on the general economic well being of the communities.

Peterborough is a partially non-metro census division – an urban centre surrounded by an extensive rural geography. In some ways, our community behaves like a metro census division and in other ways it looks more like a non-metro census division. The comparisons between the average income, metro and non-metro income gaps and the male and female income gaps highlight some of the diversity partially non-metro census divisions may experience. It is interesting, though, that all incomes (both metro and non-metro) decline during weak economic times, but non-metro incomes have declined more slowly and are continuing to close the gap since 2000.

Locally, there are often questions about the differences across our geographic area between more rural communities and the urban core. Often it is assumed that the urban core would have higher incomes, but there are many low income areas located in the more urban neighbourhoods. These fact sheets introduce thoughtful analysis about rural income patterns but they also serve to start new conversations and explorations about income distribution within our areas. As mentioned in the fact sheets, the struggle with looking at average income is that it sometimes hides trends such as highly diverse incomes in an area.

We looked at the fact sheets and combined them with other sources, and it raised some questions for planners in our area to consider.

Entrepreneurship is a key source of income in our area. Recent findings by the Conference Board of Canada show that Peterborough has the highest percentage of immigrant entrepreneurs in Canada. This statistic on immigrant entrepreneurship in our community is a strong endorsement for both the business climate and quality of life in Peterborough. Across 35 Canadian Census Metropolitan Areas (CMAs), the highest rates of immigrant self-employment in 2012, were in:

  • Peterborough– 36%
  • Kelowna – 29%
  • St. Catharines - Niagara – 24%
  • Kingston – 23%
  • Hamilton – 22%
  • Victoria – 22% (1)

A question raised from this information is, “What has been the impact of diversification on our economic health?”

There are more people living in the City of Peterborough than the County of Peterborough. Some questions arising from this information are, “Could this be due to people migrating into the city to access services that are not available in the rural parts of our community?” and “Do the metro and non-metro income differences that we see from the fact sheets also exist between rural areas and the more urban areas within census divisions?”

The Rural Ontario Institute welcomes comment on issues of importance in rural Ontario. If you have perspective to share, please call us at 519-826-4204 or email

(1) Mario Lefebvre, Director, Centre for Municipal Studies, The Conference Board of Canada, Benchmarking the Global Attractiveness of Canadian Cities, October 21, 2013