United Way Toronto Research and Reports

At United Way, conducting research to better understand trends that impact life in Toronto is one of the ways we’re able to develop long-term strategies targeting specific communities and inequities. Doing so is helping us address the root causes of social problems in our city. Through research, we’re able to coordinate and target our resources, allowing us to achieve measurable, sustainable results over time.

Here, you will find an archive of all our past research in chronological order, starting with the most recent reports.

Employment Precarity and Household Well-being

Leadership Solutions report cover

United Way Toronto’s newest report, It’s More than Poverty: Employment Precarity and Household Well-being examines dramatic changes in precarious employment over the last few decades, revealing that only sixty percent of all workers in our region have stable, secure jobs. In addition to looking at the impact of precarious employment on individuals, the report also looked at its harmful effect on families and communities.

Closing gaps and creating opportunities in Toronto’s inner suburbs

Leadership Solutions report cover

Building Strong Neighbourhoods: Closing gaps and creating opportunities in Toronto’s inner suburbs provides an update on United Way’s work to improve conditions in neighbourhoods where there is an increasing concentration of poverty. The report outlines major milestones we’ve achieved against our goal of ensuring that no one in our city is disadvantaged because of where they live.

United Way Toronto’s integrated strategy guiding our work with youth, agencies and partners

United Way Toronto’s integrated strategy guiding our work with youth, agencies and partners

Released in December 2012, United Way Toronto’s Youth Impact Plan (YIP) articulates an integrated strategy to guide our work with youth, agencies and partners from all sectors. YIP identifies three outcome areas known as the “three E’s” (economic security, social and civic engagement, and educational attainment) that will focus our efforts as we work with sector partners, government and our youth-serving member agencies to achieve systemic positive change for Toronto’s youth.

Declining Income, Housing Quality and Community Life in Toronto’s Inner Suburban High-Rise Apartments

Poverty by Postal Code 2: Vertical Poverty presents new data about the growing concentration of poverty in the City of Toronto and the role that high-rise housing is playing in this trend, while building upon the findings from Poverty By Postal Code, which looked at the spatial concentration of family poverty in Toronto over the past two decades.

A New Approach to Zoning for Apartment Neighbourhoods 2012


This apartment neighbourhood zoning report was commissioned in 2011 as a follow-up to the findings of Poverty by Postal Code 2: Vertical Poverty. The aim of this report was to identify existing policy barriers and contemplate policy alternatives to enable Toronto’s many hundred apartment neighbourhoods to reach their potential as healthy, vibrant and more complete communities.

Selected findings of this study were presented at the May 2012 Planning and Growth Management Committee at the City of Toronto. Following this presentation, the committee directed the Planning Division of the City of Toronto to work with United Way Toronto and project partner, the Centre for Urban Growth and Renewal, to develop a city-wide zoning strategy for apartment neighbourhoods to address the opportunities and challenges outlined in this report.

A report of the strong neighbourhood task force

Torontonians Speak Out report cover

In April 2003, the Toronto City Summit Alliance released its report, Enough Talk, which called upon the Prime Minister and Premier to implement a new fiscal deal for municipalities, and to immediately address the need for new physical infrastructure in the Toronto area. It also pressed government to address the urgent need for more affordable housing, improved access to post-secondary education, quicker economic integration of newcomers, and new social infrastructure in the city’s poorest neighbourhoods.

The Strong Neighbourhood Task Force was formed in April 2004 to take up the challenge of Enough Talk. A joint initiative of United Way Toronto and the City of Toronto, and with the support of the Government of Canada and the Province of Ontario, the goal of the Strong Neighbourhood Task Force was to build an action plan for revitalizing Toronto neighbourhoods. The Task Force made 10 reccomendations within the report.

Poverty by Postal Code

Poverty by Postal Code report

The number of poor Toronto neighbourhoods is rising at a rapid rate.

In the past two decades, Toronto has changed dramatically and not all for the good. The income gap is widening and neighbourhood poverty has intensified. As the numbers of high poverty neighbourhoods increase—especially in the inner suburbs—everyone’s quality of life suffers. United Way Toronto explored the changing geography of neighbourhood poverty in Poverty by Postal Code. Poverty by Postal Code encourages public debate and action—the first steps in preserving Toronto as one of the best places in the world to live.

See maps of the changing geography of neighbourhood poverty over the last 20 years.

Decade of Decline

report cover: decade of decline

This report provided important new data on the financial circumstances of Torontonians in the 1990s. While other research studies have examined income trends at the national and provincial levels in the 1990s, and in Toronto in the first half of the decade, this study was the first to focus on what happened to Torontonians during the entire decade. Tax-filer data were used to track income over the 10-year period, confirming that at the decade’s end, the financial situation of Torontonians had worsened significantly.

This report was prepared jointly by United Way Toronto and Canadian Council on Social Development

Building Leadership in Toronto’s Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector


This report investigated and reported on the latest cutting edge thinking about nonprofit leadership and how best to develop and support that leadership. It also presented the most progressive and up-to-date ways of evaluating programs to ensure they deliver what is intended. The focus is on paid leaders, namely senior executive managers of nonprofit organizations, and the underlying theme is the recognition that collaborative, multipartner programs are the most sustainable and effective strategies to address the nonprofit sector’s leadership challenges.

Read the following:

Youth Policy: What Works and What Doesn’t?

Youth Policy report: Waht

A Review of Youth Policy Models From Canada and Other Jurisdictions

This report is a review of youth policy frameworks examining how different jurisdictions approach youth policy. Formal policy responses to systemic youth issues were examined from 11 jurisdictions at the local, regional and national levels from across Canada and internationally. This report identifies the approaches government can take to contribute to long-term positive outcomes for youth.

Read the report: Youth Policy: What Works and What Doesn’t 2008 (PDF — 1.13 MB)


Toronto’s Youth Serving System

Youth Policy report: Waht

Fragmented paths to youth development

This report examined youth policy and program coherence. It provides a review of the systems and policy structures across the Toronto youth-serving sector.

Read the report: Toronto’s Youth Serving System 2008 (PDF — 900 KB)

Background research: Youth Serving System: Backgrounder (PDF — 42 KB)

The persistent growth of family poverty in Canada’s largest city

Losing Ground, a research report released by United Way Toronto in November 2007, documents how Toronto families with children 17 years of age and under are faring financially compared to families in the Toronto Census Metropolitan Area (CMA), in the province, and across Canada. By examining median incomes, rates of low income, depth of poverty, and warning signs of poverty, the report’s key findings have led to eight recommendations.

Read the report: Losing ground (PDF — 1 MB)

Read the executive summary: Losing ground (PDF—705 KB)

This report builds on and updates the findings of several groundbreaking reports, Strong Neighbourhoods: A Call to Action (2005), Poverty by Postal Code (2004) and Decade of Decline report (2002), TD Economics Special Report (2007) and Modernizing Income Security for Working Age Adults (MISWAA)’s Time for a Fair Deal report (2006)

Torontonians Speak Out


What are Toronto’s most pressing social issues? This United Way Toronto’s report described the top issues according to Toronto residents. The report was based on 38 consultations in 20 neighbourhoods across the city with youth and seniors, business, faith, and community leaders. Torontonians Speak Out is the first step in United Way Toronto’s current public priority-setting process to better understand social needs in Toronto’s neighbourhoods, guide funding decisions and work with other partners to address social issues facing our city.

Opening the Doors—Making the Most of Community Space

Torontonians Speak Out report cover

United Way task force calls for improved access to community space

Toronto is experiencing a shortage of space where children can attend homework clubs, where newcomers can attend ESL classes and where seniors can meet friends and neighbours. Access to schools and other public spaces in the community is crucial to the health of our neighbourhoods and our city. A United Way task force studying this problem released a report, Opening the Doors—Making the Most of Community Space, to prompt governments, business and the voluntary sector to preserve and promote community use of space.

Two Solutions for Urban Poverty

Torontonians Speak Out report cover

Former United Way Toronto President Frances Lankin participated in the TD Forum on Canada’s Standard of Living in October 2002, at the invitation of A. Charles Baillie, Chairman of TD Bank Financial Group. She joined a number of Canadian leaders to debate and discuss Canada’s standard of living challenge. In preparation for the Forum, she submitted a report, Two Solutions for Urban Poverty, which proposed solutions related to urban poverty.

Our Shrinking Public Space

Torontonians Speak Out report cover

As schools were forced to impose higher user fees and shut down buildings to after-hours use, Toronto was seeing a growing shortage of affordable and accessible community space. That meant activities like after-school programs, summer day camps and sport and recreational activities for children are being threatened or cancelled altogether. As part of its Strong Neighbourhoods, Healthy City strategy, United Way Toronto launched a Task Force to address the issue of our shrinking public space.

Engaging Users, Reducing Harm

Report cover: Engaging users, reducing harm.

Over the past decade, social service agencies have begun to experiment with the concept of harm reduction—the attempt to ameliorate the adverse health, social, or economic consequences associated with the use of moodaltering substances without necessarily requiring a reduction in the consumption of these substances. While use-related harm reduction interventions such as needle exchanges, safe crack kits and condom distribution have attracted the greatest attention, the initiatives documented by this Toronto-based research project have adopted a more complex and comprehensive focus: on the exclusion of many low-income drug and alcohol users from mainstream social services and entitlements. These initiatives have applied the principles of harm reduction to resolve the problem of inappropriate and inaccessible services for users.

United Way’s Deputation to the Romanow Commission

report cover: UW's deputation to the Romanow Commission

Our member agencies know from years of experience, the devastating impact of homelessness, poverty, family violence, and persistent unemployment on the health of their clients. They also witness the tremendous positive change that support service have on the physical and mental health of their clients—seniors, for example, whose strength is regained after joining meal programs; whose mental health is improved upon participation in regular social programs; and whose personal safety and well-being are restored with the provision of personal care and homemaking services.

United Way announces Strong Neighbourhood; Healthy City

report cover: Strong Neigbhourhood

Social need in the inner suburbs: Etobicoke, North York, York, East York, and Scarborough.

A Commitment to Care: Community Support Services for Seniors

report cover: A commitment to care

United Way Toronto has a long tradition of support for seniors’ services that goes back to the 1950s, when three community agencies with an exclusive seniors’ focus became members. Today, United Way Toronto has 41 member agencies that deliver seniors’ programming, 21 of which focus primarily on seniors, and 20 that also serve other client groups.

Toronto at a Turning Point

report cover: Turning Point

The City of Toronto has long held the enviable reputation as one of the best cities in the world in which to live and do business. This reputation is built on a foundation of rich cultural diversity, healthy neighbourhoods, clean and safe streets, a modern and efficient infrastructure, and social cohesion supported by a strong network of social services. As Toronto competes on the global stage with other major North American cities for investment and jobs, the strength of this foundation becomes increasingly important. However, this foundation is under stress and social need has become more acute and visible.

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