Richard Florida
by Richard Florida
Fri Aug 27th 2010 at 1:04pm UTC

Toronto’s Geography of Class

A new report from our Martin Prosperity Institute team charts the geography of class in Toronto. The map below shows the deep underlying economic – class - divisions of the city and can also help us understand the current polarized mayor’s race.

The map shows the concentration of three broad classes of work across the city’s census tracts. The kind of work people do is the hallmark of social-economic class and the map shows a city where the dominant classes occupy, literally, two different social, economic, and geographic spaces. This segmented pattern mirrors the same trend identified by earlier research on the worsening residential segmentation of the city highlighted by my University of Toronto colleague David Hulchanski.

Higher-paying, higher-skill creative class jobs – in fields spanning science and technology; business and management; arts, culture, and entertainment; health care and education – are concentrated in a T-shape pattern radiating out of the downtown core of the city. Lower-skill, lower-wage jobs surround the creative class T and are concentrated in more outlying areas. Toronto’s geography reflects a city that has become almost completely post-industrial: There are very, very few districts left in the city where working class jobs are the dominant concentration. But where those jobs are can help us understand the mayor’s race and Toronto’s increasingly class-polarized politics.

The two leading candidates come from completely different economic and geographic worlds. The only working class concentrations in the upper left-hand quadrant of the map are in or very close to Rob Ford’s city council riding. Prior to running for mayor, George Smitherman represented the Toronto Centre Provincial riding, an area that is at the virtual apex of the creative class zone.

Toronto needs to come to grips with its growing class divide, and to develop strategies that can begin to address it if it wants to retain the tolerance, social cohesion, and commitments to social justice which have so long been its hallmarks.

7 Responses to “Toronto’s Geography of Class”

  1. Mike L. Says:

    RF, this map is a great boon for property developers. It tells us where the currently cheaper SC areas are that will soon transform into expensive CC areas. Those look like some attractive water-front SC tracts.

  2. Tessa Says:

    The thing that always amazes me about maps of class distinction for Toronto is how much the upper classes follow the subway lines.

    Also, the names given to the classes may attempt to distinguish this from industrial classes, but the basics facts are the same. There’s one class that has dominant economic power, is continuing to get wealthier, is doing work that is not very labourous, and is generally above another. The other class does labour work and is almost entirely underpaid relative to their contribution to society, they hold little power and are subservient to another class, working for that class. The basic economic model of capitalism doesn’t change, even when the economy does.

  3. Tessa Says:

    Out of curiosity, though – how did you discern between the different classes? What census information did you use? Was it income or just job type?

  4. Wendy Says:

    Re: wealthier prefering proximity to transit. This fits with a poll we did of apartment and condo dwellers last year. Those earning >$75K (household income) were more likely to say transit proximity was an essential factor in selecting their home than those with lower incomes.

    Makes sense. Driving a car in GTA rush hour(s) traffic hardly seems like something to aspire to.

  5. Neil H Says:

    This isn’t very surprising, though. Land use policy in Toronto has long been to concentrate jobs around transit nodes, especially heavy rail. The only professions that can cover the rent required to pay for the more expensive construction types necessary for tall buildings are the creative class. This suggests a greater mix of densities is needed to maintain a diverse and integrated job base, something explicitly reflected in San Francisco’s zoning districts. I would like to know where people who work in each of these sectors live – that would be a much more valid indicator of geographic class divisions.

  6. Michael Says:

    This is a good direction–hope you can do more of it.

    I’ve noticed some past studies have done averages over very large metros, and these averages seem to miss the small dense clusters.

    In areas like Los Angeles, which have smaller dense “creative” areas and larger working-class areas, this kind of local approach might yield big insights.

  7. Vass Bednar Says:

    My response is to Tessa – to produce this research at the Martin Prosperity Institute we used the most recent Canadian census data (2006) and we did not use income. Instead, we categorized the groups according to the National Occupation Codes (NOCS) at the two digit-level (that’s what was available). At their most detailed, the NOCS are 4-digits. We have a system of grouping each occupational class (Service, Working, Creative) according to these occupational codes, which allows us to differentiate the labour force by type of work. If you want to look at some work related to the spatial distribution of income in the City of Toronto, check out Hulchanski’s (2007) work on “The Three Cities.”