2001 Participation and Activity Limitation Survey: Issue 5 — Profile of the Housing Conditions of Canadians Aged 15 Years and Older with a Learning Disability

Introduction

This Research Highlight is one in a series which examines the housing conditions and characteristics of Canadian with disabilities who are aged 15 years and older. It focuses on those with a learning disability. Data used in this Highlight are from the 2001 Participation and Activity Limitation Survey (2001 PALS). PALS is Canada’s principal national survey focusing on people with disabilities. It provides information on the prevalence and severity of certain types of disability, on the use of and unmet need for supports, and on participation in various everyday activities.

Definitions

Population with Disabilities Examined in this Highlight

This Highlight examines the population 15 years of age and older only. The data presented here and in subsequent Highlights will differ from the first issue in this series which was based on the 2001 Census because of some key differences between the 2001 Census and 2001 PALS with respect to identifying people with disabilities. The 2001 PALS identifies an estimated 945,000 fewer people aged 15 years and older with a disability than did the 2001 Census. This is because some individuals who responded “Yes” to the Census disability questions responded “No” to the more detailed questions on the 2001 PALS related to specific types of disabilities. It is also due to differences in the geographic coverage — the 2001 Census includes the people living in the territories and in First Nations communities but these areas and their populations are excluded from the 2001 PALS.

Disability in the 2001 PALS

The 2001 PALS asks about specific domains of functioning in which one may experience ongoing difficulties doing activities and identifies 10 specific types of disabilities (as well as an “unknown1” category):

  • Mobility
  • Agility
  • Seeing
  • Hearing
  • Speaking/communicating
  • Developmental
  • Learning
  • Memory
  • Emotional/psychological
  • Pain

The 2001 PALS includes three ways to look at disability characteristics: type(s) of disability that an individual reports, number of types of disabilities that an individual reports, and a severity measure that includes the nature and extent of the individual’s disability across all the types of disabilities reported by the individual.

Learning Disability

In the 2001 PALS, an individual with a learning disability is someone who has difficulty in general with his/her ability to learn and/or has been told by a teacher, doctor or other health professional that he/she has a learning disability.

The term “learning disability” was first applied in the early 1960s within the education system. The early educational focus of identification has led to sparse documentation for older Canadians who had already left the school system.

The definition of disability used in PALS differs from the definition embraced by the Learning Disabilities Association of Canada (LDAC).2 According to the LDAC definition, an individual cannot have a learning disability and a developmental disability. PALS does not make this distinction and accepts the responses given by the individual concerning the nature and extent of his/her disability. Of the 442,000 who have a learning disability, 93,400 or 21.1% of persons with a learning disability also report that they have a developmental disability.

Core Housing Need

Households3 are considered to be in core housing need if they do not live in and do not have sufficient income to access acceptable housing. The term “acceptable housing” refers to housing that is in adequate physical condition, of suitable size and affordable.

  • Adequate dwellings are those reported by their residents as not requiring any major repairs.
  • Suitable dwellings have enough bedrooms for the size and make-up of resident households, according to the National Occupancy Standard (NOS) requirements.4
  • Affordable dwellings cost less than 30% of before-tax household income.5

A household is said to be in core housing need if its housing falls below at least one of the adequacy, suitability or affordability standards and it would have to spend 30% or more of its before-tax income to pay the median rent of alternative local housing.

When discussing core housing need, household data exclude farm, band and reserve households (for which shelter costs are not collected by the Census). It also excludes households with shelter costs that equal or exceed their income, or incomes of zero or less.

Findings

Persons with a Learning Disability Aged 15 Years and Older

Among persons who report having a disability, an estimated 442,000 or 13% have a learning disability (see Table 1).

Table 1 — Number and percent of persons aged 15 years and older, by type of disability, 2001
  Number %
Percentages add to more than 100% because people can report more than one disability.
Source: 2001 PALS
All types of disabilities 3,352,300 100.0
Hearing 1,013,700 30.2
Seeing 586,800 17.5
Speaking/communicating 356,300 10.6
Mobility/agility 2,692,800 80.3
Pain 2,332,300 69.6
Learning 442,000 13.2
Memory 414,900 12.4
Developmental 117,000 3.5
Emotional / psychological 517,700 15.4
Unknown 94,400 2.8

The incidence of learning disability varies among the ten provinces with Quebec showing the highest rate at about 14% and New Brunswick, the lowest rate at about 10% (see Table 2).

Table 2 — Number of persons aged 15 years and older with a learning disability and relative to any type of disability, Canada and the provinces, 2001
Geography Persons aged 15 years and older % with a learning disability
with any type of
disability
with a learning
disability
Source: 2001 PALS
CANADA 3,352,300 442,000 13.2
Newfoundland and Labrador 57,500 7,500 13.0
Prince Edward Island 17,500 2,200 12.6
Nova Scotia 144,300 16,600 11.5
New Brunswick 97,500 10,100 10.4
Quebec 560,100 79,400 14.2
Ontario 1,413,900 193,400 13.7
Manitoba 133,400 15,800 11.8
Saskatchewan 110,100 14,600 13.8
Alberta 320,200 37,300 11.6
British Columbia 497,700 65,200 13.1

Age and Gender

The average age of persons with a learning disability (at 46 years) is much younger than those reporting any type of disability (at 59 years).6 The average age of females is slightly older than males for those with a learning disability (47 compared to 46). The percentage of persons with a disability who have a learning disability decreases with age and this holds true for both males and females. While 44% of persons with a disability aged 15 to 24 have a learning disability, only 5% of persons 65 or older have a learning disability (see Table 3).

The percentage of males with disabilities who report a learning disability is higher than for females (16% compared to 11% respectively). Males report a higher percentage than females in all age groups, a finding that is consistent with the literature that indicates that males are more likely to have a learning disability than females.7 The largest difference is reported in the 15 to 24 age group.

Table 3 — Number of persons aged 15 years and older with a learning disability and relative to any type of disability, by sex and age group, 2001
Sex Age group Persons aged 15 years and older with % with a learning disability
any type of
disability
a learning
disability
Source: 2001 PALS
Both sexes 15 years and older 3,352,300 442,000 13.2
15 to 24 years 148,000 65,400 44.2
25 to 44 years 618,300 142,600 23.1
45 to 64 years 1,162,700 161,300 13.9
65 years and older 1,423,200 72,600 5.1
Male 15 years and older 1,487,800 242,900 16.3
15 to 24 years 73,000 38,900 53.3
25 to 44 years 283,900 78,300 27.6
45 to 64 years 541,400 85,800 15.8
65 years and older 589,500 39,800 6.8
Female 15 years and older 1,864,500 199,100 10.7
15 to 24 years 75,000 26,500 35.3
25 to 44 years 334,400 64,300 19.2
45 to 64 years 621,300 75,600 12.2
65 years and older 833,700 32,800 3.9

Severity of Disability

About 73% of persons with a learning disability have a severe or very severe disability, compared to 41% of persons reporting any type of disability (see Table 4).

There are differences when the data is examined by age group. Among persons aged 15 to 24 years, 49% of persons with a learning disability have a severe or very severe disability. Among persons in the same age group who report any type of disability, 30% are classified as having a severe or very severe disability.

Table 4 — Number of persons aged 15 years and older with a learning or any type of disability, by severity of disability, 2001
Severity of disability Persons aged 15 years and older
with any type of disability with a learning disability
(#) (%) (#) (%)
Source: 2001 PALS
Total 3,352,300 100.0 442,000 100.0
Mild 1,134,800 33.9 49,800 11.3
Moderate 838,800 25.0 69,600 15.7
Severe 903,500 27.0 140,100 31.7
Very severe 475,100 14.2 182,500 41.3

Housing Characteristics of Persons with a Learning Disability who are Living in a Household in Core Housing Need

At the Canada level, 22% of persons aged 15 years and older with a learning disability live in a household in core housing need, higher than the incidences of people without disabilities (9%), and with any type of disability (17%) (see Table 5). The rate varies among the ten provinces, with the lowest incidence in New Brunswick at 14% and the highest in British Columbia at 32%.

Table 5 — Persons aged 15 years and older living in households in core housing need, by disability status, Canada and the provinces, 2001
Geography Persons aged 15 years and older living in a household in core housing need
with any type of
disability
with a learning
disability
without
disabilities
(#) (%) (#) (%) (#) (%)
Source: 2001 PALS
CANADA 563,900 16.8 95,700 21.7 1,757,000 9.1
Newfoundland and Labrador 10,700 18.5 1,600 21.3 35,900 10.3
Prince Edward Island 2,500 14.5 400 18.2 6,600 7.8
Nova Scotia 25,100 17.4 3,400 20.5 55,000 9.6
New Brunswick 11,700 12.0 1,400 13.9 31,800 6.7
Quebec 89,200 15.9 19,500 24.6 376,300 7.4
Ontario 247,800 17.5 34,400 17.8 772,900 10.5
Manitoba 17,300 13.0 3,500 22.2 40,600 6.6
Saskatchewan 12,400 11.3 2,500 17.1 31,100 6.4
Alberta 45,100 14.1 7,900 21.2 124,800 7.1
British Columbia 102,000 20.5 21,100 32.4 282,100 11.2

Urban/Rural

The probability of living in a household in core housing need is higher in urban areas than in rural areas for persons reporting any type of disability (17% versus 13% respectively) and for persons without disabilities (10% versus 6% respectively). However, for persons with a learning disability, there is little difference between those living in rural areas versus those living in urban areas (both at approximately 22%).

Tenure

More than one-third (37%) of persons with a learning disability who live in rental accommodations are living in a household in core need compared to 11% of persons with a learning disability who live in dwellings owned by a member of the family (see Table 6).

Table 6 — Persons aged 15 years and older living in a household in core housing need, by disability status and tenure, 2001
Tenure Persons aged 15 years and older living in a household in core housing need
with any type of
disability
with a learning
disability
without
disabilities
(#) (%) (#) (%) (#) (%)
Source: 2001 PALS
Canada total 563,900 16.8 95,700 21.7 1,757,000 9.1
Owned by a member of the family 202,300 8.9 30,300 11.4 673,500 4.8
Rented 361,600 33.6 65,400 37.2 1,083,400 21.1

Demographic and Socio-Economic Characteristics of Persons Aged 15 Years and Older with a Learning Disability Living in a Household in Core Housing Need

Age and Gender

People with a learning disability who are living in a household in core housing need are almost evenly split between males and females (see Table 7). This compares to those in core housing need who report any type of disability (where 62% are female) and who report no disabilities (where 58% are female).

Males with a learning disability who live in a household in core need are likely to be younger than females: more than half (55%) of such males are under 45 years of age while among such females this proportion is 48%. The largest difference between males and females with a learning disability who live in a household in core housing need occurs among seniors aged 65 years and older, where only 8% of such males are seniors, compared to 15% of such females (see Table 7).

Table 7 — Persons aged 15 years and older living in a household in core housing need, by disability status, sex and age group, 2001
Sex Age group Persons aged 15 years and older living in a household in core housing need
with any type of
disability
with a learning
disability
without
disabilities
(#) (%) (#) (%) (#) (%)
Source: 2001 PALS
Both sexes 15 years and older 563,900 100.0 95,700 100.0 1,757,000 100.0
15 to 24 26,500 4.7 11,800 12.3 386,100 22.0
25 to 44 120,700 21.4 37,400 39.1 755,200 43.0
45 to 64 199,200 35.3 35,500 37.1 402,000 22.9
65 and older 217,500 38.6 11,000 11.5 213,700 12.2
Males 15 years and older 211,800 100.0 47,700 100.0 745,100 100.0
15 to 24 11,500 5.4 6,800 14.3 182,200 24.5
25 to 44 51,900 24.5 19,300 40.5 317,200 42.6
45 to 64 90,300 42.6 17,700 37.1 181,200 24.3
65 and older 58,100 27.4 3,900 8.2 64,600 8.7
Females 15 years and older 352,000 100.0 48,100 100.0 1,011,800 100.0
15 to 24 15,100 4.3 5,100 10.6 204,000 20.2
25 to 44 68,700 19.5 18,100 37.6 438,000 43.3
45 to 64 108,900 30.9 17,800 37.0 220,800 21.8
65 and older 159,400 45.3 7,100 14.8 149,100 14.7

Living Arrangements

About 40% of people with a learning disability who live in a household in core housing need live alone, lower than the proportion of those with any type of disability (46%) but considerably higher than for those without disabilities (21%) (see Table 8).

Table 8 — Persons aged 15 years and older living in a household in core housing need, by disability status and living arrangements, 2001
Living arrangements Persons aged 15 and older who are living in a household in core housing need
with any type of
disability
with a learning
disability
without
disabilities
(#) (%) (#) (%) (#) (%)
Source: 2001 PALS
All types of living  arrangements 563,900 100.0% 95,700 100.0% 1,757,000 100.0
Living alone 261,900 46.4% 37,800 39.5% 370,300 21.1
Non-family person, living with others 38,500 6.8% 8,000 8.4% 125,800 7.2
Lone-parent family 89,300 15.8% 19,500 20.4% 407,400 23.2
Couple families without children 103,200 18.3% 9,000 9.4% 241,000 13.7
Couple families with children  70,900 12.6% 21,500 22.5% 612,300 34.8

Immigrant Status

Among persons aged 15 and older with a learning disability living in a household in core housing need, 13% are immigrants compared to 37% of persons without disabilities (see Table 9).

Table 9 — Persons aged 15 years and older living in a household in core housing need, by disability status and immigrant status, 2001
Immigrant status Persons aged 15 and older who are living in core housing need
with any type of
disability
with a learning
disability
without
disabilities
(#) (%) (#) (%) (#) (%
Source: 2001 PALS
Canada total 563,900 100.0 95,700 100.0 1,757,000 100.0
Non-immigrant 426,500 75.6 82,900 86.6 1,106,900 63.0
Immigrant 134,400 24.4 14,800 13.4 650,100 37.0

Household Income

For the purpose of this analysis, the pre-tax household income of Canadian households with at least one person aged 15 years and older were assessed and divided into five equally sized income groups or quintiles ranging from low income to high income.

High income: $96,936 or more
Upper income: $67,812 to $96,935
Middle income: $46,896 to $67,811
Moderate income: $27,418 to $46,895
Low income: Less than $27,418

Regardless of disability status, the great majority of persons living in core housing need are in households in the lowest income quintile: 90% of persons with a learning disability are in the lowest quintile compared to 77% of those without disabilities (see text box and Table 10).

Table 10 — Persons aged 15 years and older living in a household in core housing need, by disability status and household income quintile, 2001
Household income quintiles Persons aged 15 years and older who are living in a household in core housing need
with any type of disability with a learning disability without disabilities
(#) (%) (#) (%) (#) (%)
* Number suppressed because of sample size.
Source: 2001 PALS
Canada total 563,900 100.0 95,700 100.0 1,757,000 100.0
High, Upper, Middle
($46,896 or more)
* * * * 27,200 1.5
Moderate ($27,418 to $46,895) 59,000 10.5 9,600 10.0 383,100 21.8
Low (less than $27,418) 501,500 88.9 86,100 90.0 1,346,600 76.6

Sources of Personal Income

Only 18% of persons with a learning disability living in a household in core housing need report wages and salaries as a source of personal income compared to almost half (48%) of persons without disabilities (see Table 11). Similarly, persons with a learning disability and who are living in households in core housing need are less likely to report self-employment as a source of income than persons without disabilities (2% compared to 7%). The differences in the age structure of the two populations contribute to these differences in income from employment.

A large percentage of individuals living in a household in core need report some income from government sources.8 About 88% of people with a learning disability who are living in core housing need have income from government sources, compared to 82% for persons without disabilities living in core housing need (see Table 11).

Table 11 — Persons aged 15 years and older living in a household in core housing need, by type of disability status and sources of personal income, 2001
Sources of personal income Persons aged 15 years and older living in a household in core housing need
with any type of disability with a learning disability without disabilities
(#) (%) (#) (%) (#) (%)
Percentages add to more than 100% because people can report more than one source of income.
Source: 2001 PALS
Canada total 563,900 100.0 95,700 100.0 1,757,700 100.0
Wages and salaries 93,800 16.6 17,500 18.3 843,100 48.0
Income from Government 532,300 94.4 83,700 87.5 1,434,500 81.6
Income from self-employment 20,500 3.6 2,100 2.2 128,400 7.3
Other income, such as retirement pensions, dividends and interest on bonds, deposits and savings, alimony, child support, scholarships, etc. 28,500 5.1 3,500 3.7 121,100 6.9

Level of Education

Among persons with a learning disability living in a household in core housing need, 53% have not completed high school compared to 40% of persons without disabilities. Only 10% of persons with a learning disability in core housing need report their highest level of education as university, either with or without a degree, compared to 21% of persons without disabilities (see Table 12).

Among those aged 25 to 44 years, 42% of persons with a learning disability living in a household in core housing need have less than high school graduation compared to 29% of persons without disabilities.

The level of educational attainment has little impact on the incidence of living in a household in core need for people with a learning disability (see Table 12).

Table 12 — Persons aged 15 years and older living in a household in core housing need, by disability status and highest level of education, 2001
Highest level of education Persons aged 15 years and older living in a household in core housing need
with a learning disability without disabilities
(#) (%) Incidence of core housing need (#) (%) Incidence of core housing need
Percentages add to more than 100% because people can report more than one source of income.
Source: 2001 PALS
Canada total 95,700 100.0 21.7% 1,757,000 100.0 9.1
Less thanhigh school graduation 50,500 52.8 21.9% 708,000 40.3 13.2
Secondary school graduation certificate 10,500 11.0 21.0% 247,400 14.1 8.7
Trades certificate or diploma 3,700 3.9 22.3% 53,300 3.0 8.0
Other non-university 21,400 22.4 22.3% 378,900 21.6 7.5
University but no degree 5,600 5.9 19.4% 173,600 9.9 8.3
At least bachelor degree 4,100 4.3 20.8% 195,800 11.1 6.0

Health Status

More than half (54%) of persons with a learning disability who are living in a household in core housing need consider that their general health status is fair or poor, compared to 48% of individuals who report any type of disability (see Table 13).

Table 13 — Persons aged 15 years and older with disabilities living in a household in core housing need, by type of disability and general health status, 2001
General health status Persons aged 15 and older who are living in a household in core housing need with
any type of disability a learning disability
(#) (%) (#) (%)
Source: 2001 PALS
Canada total 563,900 100.0 95,700 100.0
Excellent 21,300 3.8 5,300 5.5
Very good 92,000 16.3 11,400 11.9
Good 157,100 27.9 21,600 22.6
Fair 174,300 30.9 33,900 35.4
Poor 95,400 16.9 18,200 19.0
Not stated, refusal or don't know
 23,900 4.2 5,300 5.5

Summary of Findings

Persons Aged 15 and Older with a Learning Disability

General Characteristics

  • About 13% of Canadians with disabilities aged 15 years and older report having a learning disability; the proportion varies among the provinces, with New Brunswick the lowest at 10% and Quebec the highest at 14%.
  • In contrast to other disability types, the proportion of persons aged 15 and older reporting with a learning disability decreases with age and this is true for both males and females.
  • The percentage of males with disabilities who report a learning disability is higher than for females (16% compared to 11% respectively).
  • Almost three-quarters (73%) of persons with a learning disability have a severe or very severe disability.

Persons Aged 15 and Older with a Learning Disability Living in a Household in Core Housing Need

Housing Characteristics

  • 22% of persons aged 15 years and older with a learning disability live in a household in core housing need compared to 9% of persons without disabilities. This proportion varies considerably among the provinces, with the highest (32%) reported in British Columbia and the lowest (14%) in New Brunswick.
  • The incidence of living in a household in core housing need for persons with a learning disability who are living in rental housing is higher than the incidence for persons without disabilities (37% compared to 21% respectively).
  • The incidence of core housing need is also higher for those living in housing that is owned: 11% for persons with a learning disability compared to 5% for persons without disabilities.

Demographic and Socio-Economic Characteristics

  • Males with a learning disability living in a household in core need are likely to be younger than females: more than half (55%) of these males are under 45 compared to 48% of such females, and only 8% of males are seniors (65+) compared to 15% of females.
  • 40% of persons aged 15 and older with a learning disability who live in a household in core housing need live alone compared to 21% of individuals without disabilities.
  • 13% of persons with a learning disability who are living in a household in core housing need are immigrants compared to 37% of persons without disabilities.
  • 90% of persons aged 15 and older with a learning disability who live in a household in core housing need had a household before-tax income in the lowest income quintile (less than $27,418).
  • 18% of persons aged 15 and older with a learning disability who live in a household in core housing need report wages and salaries as a source of personal income, compared to 48% of such persons without disabilities.
  • 53% of persons aged 15 and older with a learning disability who live in a household in core housing need have not completed high school, compared to 40% of such persons without disabilities.
  • 54% of persons aged 15 and older with a learning disability who live in a household in core housing need report a health status of fair or poor.

Acknowledgements

MHC provides funding for housing content on the Census of Canada and on Statistics Canada surveys. Statistics Canada information is used with the permission of Statistics Canada. Users are forbidden to copy and redisseminate data for commercial purposes, either in an original or modified form, without the express permission of Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation and, where applicable, Statistics Canada. More information on Statistics Canada data can be obtained from its Regional Offices or at 1-800-263-1136.

CMHC Project Manager: Janet Kreda

Housing Research at CMHC

Under Part IX of the National Housing Act, the Government of Canada provides funds to CMHC to conduct research into the social, economic and technical aspects of housing and related fields, and to undertake the publishing and distribution of the results of this research.

1 People who answer “Yes” to one of the questions on general limitations and “No” to the specific disability-type questions are classified as having “nature of disability unknown.”

2 http://www.pacfold.ca/download/Supplementary/Definition.pdf

3 Refers to all private households. People living in collective dwellings (see Statistics Canada, 2001 Census Dictionary, Cat. No. 92-378-XIE, pages 190 – 193) are excluded by definition.

4 According to the NOS, enough bedrooms means one bedroom for each cohabitation adult couple; unattached household member 18 years of age and over; same-sex pair of children under the age of 18; and additional boy or girl in the family, unless there are two opposite-sex siblings under 5 years of age, in which case they are expected to share a bedroom. A household of one individual can occupy a bachelor unit (i.e., a unit with no bedroom).

5 Shelter costs include the following:

  • for renters, rent and payments for electricity, fuel, water and other municipal services; and
  • for owners, mortgage payments (principal and interest), property taxes, and any condominium fees, along with payments for electricity, fuel, water and other municipal services. Costs associated with maintenance and repairs are not considered part of shelter costs.

Income data collected by the 2001 Census refer to the calendar year preceding the Census, while shelter cost data are for 2001.

6 Housing conditions cannot be assessed for households that report shelter costs that equal or exceed their income or households that have incomes of zero or less. An estimated 837,500 people aged 15 or older are excluded from the data.

7 Badian, N. (1999). “Reading disability defined as a discrepancy between listening and reading comprehension: A longitudinal study of stability, gender differences and prevalence.” Journal of Learning Disabilities 32(2): 138-148.

8 This includes Old Age Security, Guaranteed Income Supplement, benefits from Canada or Quebec Pension Plan, benefits from Employment Insurance, and other income from government sources such as provincial income supplements and welfare payments.

Published: July 2010

Canada

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