Spotlight on Canadians: Results from the General Social Survey
Canadians’ perceptions of neighbourhood disorder, 2014

By Adam Cotter

Release date: March 2, 2016 Correction date: (if required)

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Highlights

  • According to results from the 2014 General Social Survey on Victimization, just under one-quarter (23%) of Canadians aged 15 and over perceived disorder in their neighbourhood, down slightly from 2004 (25%).
  • The most commonly identified neighbourhood disorder was people using or dealing drugs, which was considered a big or moderate problem by 10% of Canadians.
  • Compared to the national average, residents of Alberta and Quebec were more likely to perceive neighbourhood disorder, while those living in New Brunswick and Ontario were less likely.
  • A higher proportion of those who live in the population core of a census metropolitan area perceived disorder compared to those who lived outside the core, such as in suburbs or rural areas.
  • Generally, perceptions of neighbourhood disorder decrease with age, as Canadians between the ages of 25 and 34 were most likely to perceive disorder.
  • Canadians who live in neighbourhoods with higher median household incomes, regardless of individual income, are less likely to perceive neighbourhood disorder.
  • Residents of neighbourhoods with a relatively high proportion of low-income families and lone-parent families were more likely to perceive neighbourhood disorder, while those living in areas with higher proportions of homeowners and lower levels of resident turnover were less likely to perceive disorder.
  • Across Canada’s eight largest CMAs, the proportion of residents who perceived disorder was 2 to 4 times higher among those living in neighbourhoods with the highest proportion of low-income households, compared to those who lived in neighbourhoods with a relatively low proportion of low-income households.

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The neighbourhood is an important component of the daily lives of many citizens, and neighbourhoods with visible signs of disorder can contribute to perceptions of vulnerability and fear of crime (Pain 2000). Indeed, data from the General Social Survey on Victimization show that Canadians who perceive one or more indicators of neighbourhood disorder are more likely to report being afraid when walking alone after dark, using or taking public transportation, or when home alone in the evenings. Canadians who perceive disorder in their neighbourhoods also report lower average life satisfaction than those who do not. Conversely, cohesive neighbourhoods can foster a sense of belonging, community, perceptions of safety, and create connections and increased social capital (Forrest & Kearns 2001; Martin 2003).

One of the better-known articulations of this relationship is the “broken windows” theory, which suggests that visible and apparent signs of disorder in a neighbourhood can influence residents to withdraw from community or neighbourhood interaction, while also signalling to others that these types of behaviours or activities are more acceptable or less likely to be detected or punished in these areas (Wilson & Kelling 1982). More recently, researchers have suggested that the relationship between disorder, fear, and crime is not as explicit or directional as originally stated. Rather, the three are related components of similar social processesthe notion that disorder leads to crime or that disorder and crime are necessarily separate phenomena which are easily distinguishable by residents has been contested (Brunton-Smith 2011; Gau & Pratt 2008). Though the concepts of disorder and crime may not be distinct, asking residents about neighbourhood disorder can provide important context to how Canadians perceive their neighbourhoods.

This report examines Canadians’ perceptions of neighbourhood disorder based on results from the 2014 General Social Survey (GSS) on Victimization. An overview of the perceived prevalence of neighbourhood disorder is presented by province and census metropolitan area (CMA), and differences by demographic characteristics are explored. In addition, perceptions of neighbourhood disorder and selected neighbourhood-level characteristics, based on data from the National Household Survey (NHS) and the Census, are examined at the national level and for Canada’s eight largest CMAsNote 1.

In this article, the concept of neighbourhood is based on two different definitions. The NHS and Census definition is based on geographic locationNote 2, while a respondent may perceive their neighbourhood to be, for example, their city, their street, their block, or any unspecified area. Thus, it is important to note that the neighbourhood, as defined by the NHS or the Census, may not correspond exactly with the respondent’s perception of their neighbourhood.

Most Canadians do not perceive disorder in their neighbourhood

The majority of Canadians do not perceive disorder in their neighbourhoods.Note 3 Approximately 6.6 million Canadians, or just under one-quarter (23%) of those aged 15 years and over, indicated that there was a problem in their neighbourhood in 2014. Fewer than one in ten (8%) believed that there were one or more big problems (Table 1, Chart 1).

Description for Chart 1
Data table for Chart 1 Table summary
This table displays the results of Canadians' perceptions of neighbourhood disorders A big problem and A moderate problem (appearing as column headers).
  A big problem A moderate problem
People attacked because of skin colour/ethnicity/religion 1 1
People being drunk or rowdy in public places 2 4
People hanging around on the streets 2 5
Noisy neighbours or loud parties 2 5
Garbage or litter lying around 3 5
Vandalism/graffitti/other damage to property/vehicles 2 5
People using or dealing drugs 4 6
Total - any type 8 15
Note:
Responses of don't know/not stated are excluded from the calculation of percentages.
Source:
Statistics Canada, General Social Survey on Victimization, 2014.

Certain types of neighbourhood disorder were more commonly identified as problems by Canadians. One in ten (10%) Canadians perceived drug use or drug dealing to be a problem in their neighbourhood, while a smaller proportion believed that people being attacked because of their skin colour, ethnicity, or religion was a problem in their neighbourhood (2%).

On the whole, the proportion of Canadians perceiving neighbourhood disorder has declined slightly over the past decade (Chart 2). In 2014, 23% perceived one or more issues of neighbourhood disorder, two percentage points lower than in 2004 (25%).Note 4 That said, when examining specific disorders on their own, the proportion of those who believed garbage or litter lying around, people hanging around on the streets, and people being attacked due to skin colour, ethnicity, or religion were problems was unchanged, while Canadians were slightly more likely to believe noisy neighbours or loud parties were an issue, compared with 2004. For each of the other indicators, however, a smaller proportion of Canadians perceived them to be problems in 2014 compared to 2004.

Description for Chart 2
Data table for Chart 2 Table summary
This table displays the results of Canadians' perceptions of neighbourhood disorder 2004, 2009 and 2014 (appearing as column headers).
  2004 2009 2014Chart 2, Note 
People attacked because of skin colour/ethnicity/religion 3Chart 2, Note *** 2 2
People being drunk or rowdy in public places 7Chart 2, Note * 8Chart 2, Note * 6
People hanging around on the streets 7Chart 2, Note ** 6 6
Noisy neighbours or loud parties 6Chart 2, Note *** 5Chart 2, Note * 7
Garbage or litter lying around 7Chart 2, Note ** 8 8
Vandalism/graffitti/other damage to property/vehicles 9Chart 2, Note * 9Chart 2, Note * 8
People using or dealing drugs 13Chart 2, Note * 13Chart 2, Note * 10
One or more big or moderate problems 25Chart 2, Note * 24Chart 2, Note * 23
Note *

significantly different from reference category (p < 0.05)

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Note **

significantly different from 2009 (p < 0.05)

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Note ***

significantly different from reference category (p < 0.05) and 2009 (p < 0.05)

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Note 

reference category

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Note:
Responses of don't know/not stated are excluded from the calculation of percentages.
Source:
Statistics Canada, General Social Survey on Victimization, 2004, 2009, and 2014.

Perceptions of social disorder decline while physical disorder remains stable

Previous research has differentiated between physical and social indicators of disorder (Hinkle & Yang 2014; Keown 2008). Broadly, physical disorder refers to issues or problems which can be observed or perceived visually, while social disorder is related to perceptions of interactions or relationships with others who are present in a neighbourhood (Hinkle & Yang 2014). Using the questions included in the GSS, perceptions of vandalism, graffiti, and other damage to property or vehicles and garbage or litter lying around can be considered indicators of physical disorder. On the other hand, people using or dealing drugs, noisy neighbours or loud parties, people hanging around on the streets, people being drunk or rowdy in public places, and people being attacked due to their skin colour, ethnicity, or religion can be used to measure perceptions of social disorder.

In 2014, Canadians were more likely to perceive social disorder in their neighbourhood compared to physical disorder (18% versus 13%), a finding which is consistent with results from 2004 and 2009. In addition, the overall downward trend in perceptions of neighbourhood disorder has been driven by a decrease in the perception of social disorder. Since 2004, Canadians have remained equally likely to state that physical disorder is an issue in their neighbourhood, while the proportion who perceive social disorder has declined, down 3 percentage points.

Residents of Alberta, Quebec more likely to perceive neighbourhood disorder

Perceptions of neighbourhood disorder vary across the provinces. In 2014, a higher proportion of residents of Alberta (26%) and Quebec (25%) perceived disorder in their neighbourhoods compared to the national averageNote 5 (Table 2). In contrast, perceptions of neighbourhood disorder were below average in Ontario (22%) and New Brunswick (19%).

Similarly, perceptions of physical and social disorder varied by province (Chart 3). Compared to the national trend, residents of Alberta (16%) and Manitoba (16%) were more likely to perceive physical disorder in their neighbourhood, while residents of Ontario (12%), Newfoundland and Labrador (10%), Prince Edward Island (8%), and New Brunswick (8%) were less likely. One in five (20%) residents of Quebec and British Columbia indicated that they perceived social disorder in their neighbourhood, while perceptions of social disorder were lower in Ontario (16%) and New Brunswick (14%).

Description for Chart 3
Data table for Chart 3 Table summary
This table displays the results of Perceptions of physical and social neighbourhood disorder Social disorder and Physical disorder (appearing as column headers).
  Social disorderChart 3, Note 2 Physical disorderChart 3, Note 1
Total - Canada's provincesChart 3, Note  18 13
British Columbia 20Chart 3, Note * 13
Alberta 19 16Chart 3, Note *
Saskatchewan 19 13
Manitoba 18 16Chart 3, Note *
Ontario 16Chart 3, Note * 12Chart 3, Note *
Quebec 20Chart 3, Note * 12
New Brunswick 14Chart 3, Note * 8Chart 3, Note *
Nova Scotia 18 13
Prince Edward Island 15 8Chart 3, Note *
Newfoundland and Labrador 21 10Chart 3, Note *
Chart 3, Note *

significantly different from reference category (p < 0.05)

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Chart 3, Note 

reference category

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Chart 3, Note 1.

Includes all respondents who indicated that vandalism, graffiti, or other damage to property or vehicles or garbage or litter lying around were big or moderate problems.

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Chart 3, Note 2.

Includes all respondents who indicated that noisy neighbours or loud parties, people hanging around on the streets, people using or dealing drugs, people being drunk or rowdy in public places, or people being attacked due to their skin colour, ethnicity, or religion were big or moderate problems.

Return to note 2 referrer

Note:
Responses of don't know/not stated are excluded from the calculation of percentages.
Source:
Statistics Canada, General Social Survey on Victimization, 2014.

In most provinces, the perceptions of neighbourhood disorder have remained stable since 2004 (Table 2). That said, compared to a decade ago, fewer residents of British Columbia and New Brunswick stated that there were one or more big or moderate problems in their neighbourhood, each down 4 percentage points. Newfoundland and Labrador was the only province where residents were more likely to perceive neighbourhood disorder compared with 2004, up 8 percentage points.  This increase was found for both social disorder and physical disorder, up 5 and 4 percentage points, respectively.Note 6

Perception of neighbourhood disorder above average in Montréal, Vancouver

Compared to all Canadians living within a census metropolitan area (CMA), residents of Montréal and Vancouver were more likely to perceive one or more problems in their neighbourhood (Table 3). While, for the majority of CMAs, residents’ perceptions of neighbourhood disorder was similar to the average, those living in smaller CMAs were generally less likely to perceive disorder. Of the ten CMAs where the perception of neighbourhood disorder was below average, eight had fewer than 500,000 residents: Saint John, Victoria, St. Catharines–Niagara, Windsor, Trois-Rivières, Kelowna, Kingston, and Moncton. The exceptions to this were Ottawa and Hamilton, where residents were less likely than average to perceive neighbourhood disorder despite being the sixth- and ninth-largest CMAs by population in 2014.

In addition to the variation by CMA, there is variation in the perception of disorder within CMAs. While some research has explored physical and social disorder in non-urban areas (Reisig & Cancino 2004), a considerable amount of literature explores neighbourhood disorder in the urban context (Body-Gendrot 2001; Sampson 2009; Sampson & Raudenbush 1999). In 2014, residents who lived in the population core of a CMA were generally more likely than residents of other areas within a CMA to perceive neighbourhood disorder (Chart 4). This did not hold true for residents of areas outside of CMAs, where there was no significant difference between those living in population centres and other areas.

Description for Chart 4
Data table for Chart 4 Table summary
This table displays the results of Perception of neighbourhood disorder Core and Other (appearing as column headers).
  CoreChart 4, Note  Other
Montréal 31 20Chart 4, Note *
Toronto 24 16Chart 4, Note *
Vancouver 29 22Chart 4, Note E: Use with caution
All other CMAs 23 16Chart 4, Note *
Non-CMA 23 21

E use with caution

Note *

significantly different from reference category (p < 0.05)

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Note 

reference category

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Note:
The core is the population centre with the highest population, around which a CMA or a CA is delineated. The core must have a population (based on the previous census) of at least 50,000 persons in the case of a CMA. Responses of don't know/not stated are excluded from the calculation of percentages.
Source:
Statistics Canada, General Social Survey on Victimization, 2014.

Perceptions of neighbourhood disorder highest among 25-to-34-year-old Canadians

Beyond geographical differences, individual characteristics can also influence perceptions of neighbourhood disorder (Sampson & Raudenbush 2004). Compared to all Canadians, perceptions of physical, social, and overall disorder were highest among those aged 25 to 34, before decreasing with age (Table 4, Chart 5).

Description for Chart 5
Data table for Chart 5 Table summary
This table displays the results of Perceptions of neighbourhood disorder Physical disorders , Social disorder and Total (appearing as column headers).
  Physical disordersChart5, Note 1 Social disorderChart5, Note 2 TotalChart5, Note 3
15 to 24 13 19 24
25 to 34 17Chart 5, Note ** 23Chart 5, Note ** 29Chart 5, Note **
35 to 44 15Chart 5, Note ** 20Chart 5, Note ** 25Chart 5, Note *
45 to 54 13 19 25
55 to 64 11Chart 5, Note ** 16Chart 5, Note ** 21Chart 5, Note **
65 to 74 10Chart 5, Note ** 15Chart 5, Note ** 20Chart 5, Note **
75 and over 5Chart 5, Note ** 8Chart 5, Note ** 12Chart 5, Note **
TotalChart 5, Note  13 18 23
Note *

significantly different from reference category (p < 0.05)

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Note **

significantly different from reference category (p < 0.01)

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Note 

reference category

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Note 1.

Includes all respondents who indicated that vandalism, graffiti, or other damage to property or vehicles or garbage or litter lying around were big or moderate problems.

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Note 2.

Includes all respondents who indicated that noisy neighbours or loud parties, people hanging around on the streets, people using or dealing drugs, people being drunk or rowdy in public places, or people being attacked due to their skin colour, ethnicity, or religion were big or moderate problems.

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Note 3.

Includes all respondents who indicated that at least one physical or social disorder was a big or moderate problem in their neighbourhood.

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Note:
Responses of don't know/not stated are excluded from the calculation of percentages.
Source:
Statistics Canada, General Social Survey on Victimization, 2014.

While there was no difference in their perceptions of physical disorder, women were somewhat more likely than men to perceive social disorder in their neighbourhood (19% of women compared with 17% of men) (Table 4). More specifically, men and women were similar in their perceptions of each neighbourhood disorder with the exception of people using or dealing drugs, which women were slightly more likely to perceive as a problem (10% compared to 9%).

Lower household income associated with higher perceptions of neighbourhood disorder

Canadians with the lowest household incomes are more likely to perceive neighbourhood disorder compared to those with the highest incomes. Among Canadians whose household income was in the lowest quartile, more than one in four (27%) perceived neighbourhood disorder. This proportion decreased as income rose, with 24% of those in the second quartile, 21% of those in the third quartile, and 16% of those in the highest household income quartile perceiving neighbourhood disorder (Table 4). 

However, when neighbourhood income is taken into consideration, this relationship shifts. Regardless of individual income, Canadians who live in neighbourhoods with higher median household incomes are less likely to perceive neighbourhood disorder (Chart 6).

Description for Chart 6
Data table for Chart 6 Table summary
This table displays the results of Perceptions of neighbourhood disorder Lowest quartile of household income, Second quartile of household income, Third quartile of household income and Highest quartile of household income (appearing as column headers).
  Lowest quartile of household income Second quartile of household income Third quartile of household income Highest quartile of household income
Lowest quartile 32 30 29 23Chart 6, Note *
Second quartile 26Chart 6, Note ** 23Chart 6, Note ** 21Chart 6, Note *** 15Chart 6, Note ***
Third quartile 24Chart 6, Note ** 20Chart 6, Note ** 19Chart 6, Note *** 18Chart 6, Note ***
Highest quartile 22Chart 6, Note ** 19Chart 6, Note ** 17Chart 6, Note ** 14Chart 6, Note ***
Note *

significantly different from lowest quartile of household income only (p < 0.05)

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Note **

significantly different from lowest quartile of median neighbourhood household income only (p < 0.05)

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Note ***

significantly different from both lowest quartile of household income (p < 0.05) and lowest quartile of median neighbourhood household income (p < 0.05)

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Note:
Responses of don't know/not stated are excluded from the calculation of percentages.
Sources:
Statistics Canada, General Social Survey on Victimization, 2014; 2011 National Household Survey.

In other words, while a higher individual household income is associated with lower perceptions of neighbourhood disorder, this correlation can be impacted by neighbourhood factors, such as median household income. For example, an individual whose household income is in the top 25% of Canadian households but who lives in a neighbourhood where the median income is in the lowest quarter is more likely than a Canadian with a relatively low income in a higher-income neighbourhood to perceive disorder. This relationship was apparent for perceptions of both physical and social disorder.

Many neighbourhood-level characteristics influence perceptions of disorder

Research on perceptions of neighbourhood disorder has underlined the importance of exploring individual perceptions in conjunction with characteristics about the neighbourhood, as perceptions are influenced by a number of factors including observable conditions, interactions, individual characteristics, and neighbourhood composition (Franzini et al. 2008). Using data from the National Household Survey (NHS) and the Census, some neighbourhood characteristics can be examined.

Certain neighbourhood characteristics are associated with varying levels of perceived disorder (Table 5, Chart 7).  In particular, residents of neighbourhoods with a relatively high proportion of low-income families and lone-parent families were more likely to perceive neighbourhood disorder, while those living in areas with higher proportions of homeowners and lower levels of resident turnover were less likely to perceive disorder. This was the case for perceptions of both physical and social disorder.

Description for Chart 7
Data table for Chart 7 Table summary
This table displays the results of Perception of neighbourhood disorder Lowest quartile and Highest quartile (appearing as column headers).
  Lowest quartileChart 7, Note  Highest quartile
Persons under 65 years of age 21 26Chart 7,Note **
Lone-parent family households 17 33Chart 7,Note **
Recent immigrants 21 29Chart 7,Note **
Visible minorities 20 28Chart 7,Note **
Lived at the same address 5 years earlier 31 17Chart 7,Note **
Homeowners 35 16Chart 7,Note **
Low-income families 16 34Chart 7,Note **
Note **

significantly different from reference category (p < 0.01)

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Note 

reference category

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Note:
Responses of don't know/not stated are excluded from the calculation of percentages.
Sources:
Statistics Canada, General Social Survey on Victimization, 2014; 2011 Census of Population; Statistics Canada, 2011 National Household Survey.

Neighbourhood-level characteristics in Canada’s largest census metropolitan areas

While examining neighbourhood-level characteristics at the national level provides some insight into perceptions of social disorder in general, exploring these characteristics at a smaller level of geography allows for the identification of certain characteristics which may be uniquely related to residents’ perceptions of disorder across Canada.

Looking at neighbourhood-level characteristics across Canada’s eight largest CMAs shows similar trends, though the particular proportion of residents who perceive disorder differs. For example, across all eight CMAs, those who lived in a neighbourhood with a high proportion of low-income households or a low proportion of homeowners were more likely to perceive neighbourhood disorder (Table 6).

The relationship between neighbourhood characteristics and perception of disorder was not uniform across CMAs, however. Overall, residents of neighbourhoods with the highest proportion of population under 65 were more likely to perceive disorder than those living in areas with the lowest proportion of residents under the age of 65 (26% versus 21%). In Edmonton, however, residents who lived in areas with the highest proportion of persons under the age of 65 were least likely to perceive neighbourhood disorder, unlike the trend found in Toronto, Winnipeg, and Vancouver where the national trend was reflected.

Residents of neighbourhoods with less turnover perceive less disorder

Across Canada’s eight largest CMAs, those who live in neighbourhoods with a comparatively low level of resident turnover are less likely to state that there are big or moderate issues in their neighbourhood (Chart 8). While in Quebec and Calgary there was no significant difference, in each of the other CMAs, those who lived in an area where relatively few residents had moved in the past five years were considerably less likely to perceive neighbourhood disorder.

Description for Chart 8
Data table for Chart 8 Table summary
This table displays the results of Perception of neighbourhood disorder Lowest quartile of residents who lived at the same address 5 years earlier and Highest quartile of residents who lived at the same address 5 years earlier (appearing as column headers).
  Lowest quartile of residents who lived at the same address 5 years earlierChart 8, Note  Highest quartile of residents who lived at the same address 5 years earlier
Quebec 25Chart 8, Note E: Use with caution 18Chart 8, Note E: Use with caution
Montréal 46 18Chart 8, Note **
Ottawa 28 15Chart 8, Note *Note E: Use with caution
Toronto 27 16Chart 8, Note **
Winnipeg 37 14Chart 8, Note **Note E: Use with caution
Calgary 26 20Chart 8, Note E: Use with caution
Edmonton 34 17>Chart 8, Note **Note E: Use with caution
Vancouver 39 21>Chart 8, Note **

E use with caution

Note *

significantly different from reference category (p < 0.05)

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Note **

significantly different from reference category (p < 0.01)

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Note 

reference category

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Note:
Responses of don't know/not stated are excluded from the calculation of percentages.
Sources:
Statistics Canada, General Social Survey on Victimization, 2014; 2011 National Household Survey.

This difference was most apparent among residents of Montréal. In neighbourhoods where the proportion of residents who had moved was higher, 46% of residents perceived disorder, 29 percentage points higher than the proportion of residents in lower-turnover areas (18%).  In Winnipeg, residents of higher-turnover areas were more than twice as likely to perceive disorder compared to those who lived in lower-turnover areas (37% compared with 14%E).

Higher proportion of low-income households associated with increase in perception of disorder

Across the eight CMAs examined, the proportion of residents who perceived disorder was 2 to 4 times higher among those living in neighbourhoods with the highest proportion of low-income households compared to those who lived in neighbourhoods with relatively fewer low-income households (Chart 9). In Montréal (49%), Edmonton (45%), and Winnipeg (45%), nearly half of those living in neighbourhoods with higher proportions of low-income households perceived one or more types of neighbourhood disorder.

Description for Chart 9
Data table for Chart 9 Table summary
This table displays the results of Perception of neighbourhood disorder Lowest quartile of low-income households and Highest quartile of low-income households (appearing as column headers).
  Lowest quartile of low-income householdsChart 9, Note  Highest quartile of low-income households
Quebec 12Chart 9, Note E: Use with caution 31Chart 9, Note **
Montréal 17 49Chart 9, Note **
Ottawa 12Chart 9, Note E: Use with caution 30Chart 9, Note **
Toronto 16 33Chart 9, Note **
Winnipeg 15Chart 9, Note E: Use with caution 45Chart 9, Note **
Calgary 21 40Chart 9, Note **
Edmonton 11Chart 9, Note E: Use with caution 45Chart 9, Note **
Vancouver 21 38Chart 9, Note **

E use with caution

Note **

significantly different from reference category (p < 0.01)

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Note 

reference category

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Note:
Low-income households are determined based on 2010 after-tax low-income measure. Responses of don't know/not stated are excluded from the calculation of percentages.
Sources:
Statistics Canada, General Social Survey on Victimization, 2014; 2011 National Household Survey.

Factors associated with perceptions of neighbourhood disorder

Several neighbourhood characteristics are associated with the likelihood of perceiving neighbourhood disorder. However, many of these characteristics are interrelated. As a result, a regression model was developed in order to examine characteristics which remain significant when other measures of interest are held constantNote 7 (Table 7). The model combines both neighbourhood and individual characteristics in order to determine which characteristics remain significantly associated with perceptions of neighbourhood disorder.

The model shows that, when all factors of interest are held constant, lower likelihoods of perceiving neighbourhood disorder are associated with being male, being over the age of 55, being in the highest household income quartile among Canadians, and being a non-Aboriginal person (Table 7). Furthermore, several neighbourhood-level characteristics remain significant when other factors were held constant. In particular, living in a neighbourhood with a higher proportion of persons under the age of 65 and a higher proportion of low-income households increased the probability of perceiving neighbourhood disorder more than any other factor when other neighbourhood characteristics were held constant, while living in an area with a high proportion of homeowners decreased the likelihood of perceiving disorder.

Summary

The majority of Canadians do not perceive big or moderate problems in their neighbourhoods, as just under one-quarter (23%) perceived some kind of neighbourhood disorder in 2014. One in ten (10%) Canadians believed that people using or dealing drugs was a problem in their neighbourhood, the most commonly perceived neighbourhood disorder. Those who lived in a population core within a CMA were more likely to perceive disorder compared with those who lived within a CMA but outside the core.

Canadians who live in neighbourhoods with higher median household incomes are less likely to perceive neighbourhood disorder. Residents of neighbourhoods with a relatively high proportion of low-income families and lone-parent families were more likely to perceive neighbourhood disorder, while those living in areas with higher proportions of homeowners and lower levels of resident turnover were less likely to perceive disorder.

Data sources

This report is based on data from the 2014 General Social Survey on Victimization. The target population consisted of persons aged 15 and older living in Canada’s 10 provinces, excluding people living full-time in institutions. The number of respondents was 33,127 in 2014.

Trend analysis was done using the 2004 and 2009 General Social Surveys on Victimization. For more information on the data sources, please consult the following documents:
www.statcan.gc.ca/gsssafety

In this report, missing responses have been excluded from the denominator.

As part of the General Social Survey (GSS) program, a series of derived variables related to small area characteristics was developed from the 2011 Census and National Household Survey (NHS) profiles. These small area characteristics were added to the GSS analytical file and for the most part, are presented as proportions associated with the small areas where the survey respondents live.

For the purposes of the GSS, census tracts (CT) and census subdivisions (CSD) are used to designate the geographic level associated with “small area characteristics. For areas not broken down into CTs, the small area characteristics proposed in the master file are based on the CSD, a generic term that designates municipalities (as defined by provincial/territorial statutes) or territories deemed to be municipal equivalents for statistical purposes.

Since the estimates from the GSS are based on a sample of persons and small area characteristics relate to a geographic entity, the analysis must take this difference into account. More specifically, when the interpretation involves small area characteristics, the unit of analysis must be the respondent. As a result, variables from the NHS and the Census are typically transformed from continuous to categorical (i.e., analyzed in quartiles). 

More information on the NHS and the Census is available: www.statcan.gc.ca/census

References

Body-Gendrot, S. 2001. The politics of urban crime. Urban Studies, 38(5-6), 915-928.

Brunton-Smith, I. 2011. Untangling the relationship between fear of crime and perceptions of disorder: Evidence from a longitudinal study of young people in England and Wales. British Journal of Criminology, 51, 885-899.

Forrest, R. & Kearns, A. 2001. Social cohesion, social capital, and the neighbourhood. Urban Studies, 38(12), 2125-2143.

Franzini, L., O’Brien Caughy, M., Murray Nettles, S., & O’Campo, P. 2008. Perceptions of disorder: Contributions of neighbourhood characteristics to subjective perceptions of disorder. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 28, 83-93.

Gau, J.M. & Pratt, T.C. 2008. Broken windows or window dressing? Citizens’ (in)ability to tell the difference between disorder and crime. Criminology and Public Policy, 7(2), 163-194.

Hinkle, J.C. & Yang, S.M. 2014. A new look into broken windows: What shapes individuals’ perceptions of social disorder? Journal of Criminal Justice, 42, 26-35.

Keown, L-A. 2008. Life in metropolitan areas: A profile of perceptions of incivility in the metropolitan landscape. Canadian Social Trends, 86. Catalogue no. 11-008-X.

Martin, D.G. 2003. Enacting neighbourhood. Urban Geography, 24(5), 361-385.

Pain, R. 2000. Place, social relations and the fear of crime: A review. Progress in Human Geography, 24(3), 365-387.

Reisig, M.D. & Cancino, J.M. 2004. Incivilities in nonmetropolitan communities: The effects of structural constraints, social conditions, and crime. Journal of Criminal Justice, 32, 15-29.

Sampson, R.J. 2009. Disparity and diversity in the contemporary city: social (dis)order revisited. The British Journal of Sociology, 60(1), 1-31.

Sampson, R.J. & Raudenbush, S.W.  2004. Seeing disorder: Neighbourhood stigma and the social construction of “broken windows”. Social Psychology Quarterly, 67(4), 319-342.

Sampson, R.J. & Raudenbush, S.W. 1999. Systematic social observation of public spaces: A new look at disorder in urban neighbourhoods. American Journal of Sociology, 105(3), 603-651.

Wilson, J.Q. & Kelling, G.L. 1982. Broken windows: The police and neighbourhood safety. Atlantic Monthly, 211, 29-38.

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