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The Caledon Institute of Social Policy is Canadian social policy

To understand the development of Canadian social policy during the last 25 years, you must appreciate the role of the Caledon Institute of Social Policy, which closed it doors on November 30th, 2017.

The Maytree Foundation hosted a conference celebrating the Institute’s accomplishments, and paying tribute to the vision and energy of its principles: Michael Mendelson, Sherri Torjman, and its founder Ken Battle (whose engagement in social policy advocacy began under the pseudonym Grattan Gray).

The Institute’s publications are archived on the Maytree Foundation site. Maytree also published a tribute volume:  25 years of informing the debate: A tribute to the Caledon Institute of Social Policy .

The volume includes a timeline of major milestones in the impact Caledon had on social policy, and over 30 tributes from colleagues, social policy analysts, and public servants, including three Canadian Prime Ministers. Collectively they make interesting, informative, and very touching reading.

Here is my contribution, included in the volume, which you can download in its entirety.

Read more…

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The Canada Child Benefit is an important innovation in cash benefits to families with children

The Canada Child Benefit offers a policy option that the United States should consider in pursuing a goal to reduce child poverty by half.

The commitment to address child poverty has waxed and waned in Canada since an all-party resolution was passed in the House of Commons in late 1989 committing the federal government to “seek to eliminate child poverty by the year 2000.”

Poverty and social policy are now high on the agenda of the current federal government, which intends—over the course of the next six months—to articulate a poverty reduction strategy, but which has already taken a major step toward this goal by introducing the “Canada Child Benefit” in its first budget. This program came into effect in July 2016, and represents a major revamping of cash support to families with children.

The Canada Child Benefit represents an important improvement in the incomes of families with children, the government forecasting that by the end of its first full year of operation in 2017 the program would almost halve the number of children in poverty from the level prevailing in 2013. This innovation merits attention from policy makers in the United States and other countries.

I made a presentation to the “The Committee on Building an Agenda to Reduce the Number of Children in Poverty by Half in 10 Years” of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.

The program of the June 20th public information gathering included presentations from eight experts. I was the only participant from outside of the United States. Download the slides of my presentation: Presentation-Corak-National-Academy-Sciences-Engineering-Medicine-Child-Poverty.

It was based on a background report I prepared for the committee, which you can also download: Text-Corak-National-Academy-Sciences-Engineering-Medicine-Child-Poverty. The report details the nature of the program, compares it to the programs it replaced, and offers links to additional resources helpful in simulating the impact a similar design could have in other countries.

Poor children are twice as likely to grow up to be poor adults in some Canadian communities than in others

Intergenerational cycles of poverty vary across Canada, with low income children in some places facing a less than one-in-five chance of growing up to be poor adults, but in others the rate is more than double. The strong majority of children raised by lower income parents face a greater than one-in-four chance of growing up to be low income adults, and for many these odds were at least as high as one-in-three.

The chance that poverty will be passed on across the generations is 30 percent for the country as a whole, and the majority of children, 54 percent, live in 97 of a total of 266 municipalities where the chances of falling into an intergenerational cycle of low income are between 25 and 30 percent. A further 24 percent of poor live in a community where these chances are at least 0.30 but under 0.35.

There are 23 municipalities with a 40 percent or greater chance of an intergenerational cycle of low income. These communities are all small in population, and account for two percent of the total number of children.

There is a greater than 40% chance of intergenerational poverty In 23 Census Divisions

There are only seven of 266 communities in which the probability of a cycle of low income is less than 20 percent, representing only 1.6  percent of all children.

There is less than a 20% chance of intergenerational poverty in seven Census Divisions

The average parent income in these communities is below the national average. This raises the possibility that geographic mobility may be an important aspect of intergenerational mobility. The two Ontario communities listed in the above table are not areas in which there was significant economic growth, but the distances and costs associated with moving to nearby regions that were poles of growth—more specifically Toronto—were likely low.

 

[ The findings described in this post are drawn from my recently released research paper called “Divided Landscapes of Economic Opportunity: The Canadian Geography of Intergenerational Income Mobility.” You can learn more about this research, and download a copy of the paper and host of other information by reading the page devoted to this project at: MilesCorak.com/Equality-of-Opportunity . ]

I have a new job, and if you want to know more read this post

I have a new job! During the 2017 calendar year I am the “Economist in Residence” at Employment and Social Development Canada. I report to the Deputy Minister of this very large federal government department responsible for the major threads in Canada’s social safety net—insurance, investment, and income distribution that enhance capabilities and opportunities promoting the freedom Canadians have to lead the lives they value.

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Jean-Yves Duclos is the Minister responsible, and his mandate letter is full of challenges, not least of which involves leading the development of a Canadian “Poverty Reduction Strategy,” and improving the Employment Insurance program to reflect the changing nature of work.

I report directly to the Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development Canada, and my position is formally structured as an “interchange” with the University of Ottawa, where I will return in 2018. You can think of me as being on “loan” from my university to the public service.

The “Economist in Residence” is a new position in this department, but is modeled on a longstanding program at the Department of Finance called the “Clifford Clark Visiting Economist.” This program invites outside experts to visit the Department of Finance and work on relevant public policy issues that depend on department priorities, and also mesh with the visitor’s skills and interests. My appointment is an instance of another department doing something similar, at least for one year.

The Canadian public service is organized very differently than in the United States, where political appointments lead to a major churning of senior levels as each new government starts its mandate. This does not happen at all to the same degree in Canada, leading to greater continuity among senior management and a non-partisan basis for hiring and promotion. Some people see this as a great advantage, fostering a professional public service, but others also note some downsides, stressing the importance and value of renewal.

My job description asks me “to provide rigorous and objective advice on a range of key policy issues.” This is a refreshing opportunity, and it is exactly what I intend to do. Indeed, rigorous and objective advice is the tone I have tried to set on this blog, so if you are curious to know more about me—where I stand, how I think, what I’m interested in—feel free to read on!

Tony Atkinson has died

anthony-atkinson

Tony Atkinson has died.

Tony Atkinson is a great economist because he is a master at all the challenges defining the subject.

He is a theorist of the first order.

And his theory informs measurement.

And better measurement guides the search for, the gathering of, and the presentation of better information.

And theory, measurement, and information are in the service of better public policy, better social decisions for the least advantaged … in his country, and across the globe.

Tony Atkinson is a great economist, and he was a great human being.

Kind.

Generous.

Without ego.

Full of empathy.

And I am grateful to have learned, and to be able to continue to learn, so much from his writings and example.

And I am grateful to have crossed his path.

tony-atkinson-inscribes-my-copy-of-his-book-inequality

Tony Atkinson’s inscription in my copy of his last book, Inequality: What can be done?

[ If you want to know more about this great economist, start with this post which will also direct you to his website.

Beatrice Cherrier has written a lovely tribute to Professor Atkinson, paying respect to his fundamental contributions to public economics: “Remembering Tony Atkinson as the architect of modern public economics.”

Thomas Piketty has done the same, paying respect to his empirical work on income inequality: “Passing of Anthony B. Atkinson.”

Andrew Leigh offers both a professional and a touching personal sketch of the man: “Tony Atkinson is the economist who had the measure of inequality.” As does Thomas Piketty: “Passing of Anthony B. Atkinson.”

Tony’s most recent contribution—continuing a long line of work on poverty—-is a World Bank report known as the Atkinson Report. Read Francisco Ferreira’s blog post: “Tony Atkinson (1944-2017) and the measurement of global poverty.”

And read this, from his colleagues at the London School of Economics: Tony Atkinson 1944-2017.

The Financial Times published an obituary on January 2nd, 2017 called “Sir Tony Atkinson, economist and campaigner; 1944-2017;” The New York Times on January 3rd, 2017, “Anthony B. Atkinson, Economist Who Pioneered Study of Inequality, Dies at 72;” and The Economist on January 7th, Anthony Atkinson, a British Economist and expert on inequality, died on January 1st . ]

I’ve been blogging for five years, and here are my 10 favourite posts

With the New Year approaching, permit me the opportunity to wish you and yours peace and prosperity.

The end of 2016 marks the fifth year of my blog, and I’m grateful to my students and readers for making it worthwhile, and particularly to those who have taken the time to reblog, comment on, or otherwise share one of my 148 posts.

Rather than offer you the usual top ten most popular posts, here are links to my favourite posts written at some point since I started blogging in November 2011. They are not necessarily the most viewed, but I like them because they best illustrate the principles motivating my writing:

  1. Write about what you know, and give readers the opportunity and resources to learn more.
  2. Focus on what is relevant—what people want to read, and what contributes to a constructive conversation about public policy.
  3. Do this in a professional way that uses the principles of economics.

Here are links to my ten favourite posts of the last five years.

Read more…

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