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New prosperity index indicates $9,000 income gap for African Nova Scotian men

HALIFAX — A new report tracking the economic prosperity of Nova Scotia’s Black community collects a series of statistics, including some that highlight a significant wage gap for Black men in the province.
Statistics vital to tracking the economic prosperity of Nova Scotia’s Black community have been gathered in a first of its kind report. Carolann Wright, executive director of the Road to Economic Prosperity team at the Halifax Partnership, poses for a photo at the launch of a report on the economic prosperity of African Nova Scotians at the Halifax Central Library, Wednesday, May 22, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Keith Doucette

HALIFAX — A new report tracking the economic prosperity of Nova Scotia’s Black community collects a series of statistics, including some that highlight a significant wage gap for Black men in the province.

Drawing on a number of sources, including the 2021 census, the African Nova Scotian Prosperity and Well-being Index shows a gap in average after-tax income of $8,960 for Black men compared to the province's general male population.

People considered at least "third generation" in Canada — meaning they and their parents were born in the country — had the lowest average after-tax income compared with second- and first-generation Black Nova Scotians. Third-generation Black people are the "proxy" for the historic African Nova Scotian community, and they earned $32,760 in 2020, the report says.

Released Wednesday, the first-of-its-kind report on the province's Black community compiles data covering population, labour, income, education, housing and well-being in order to show where progress has been made and where gaps need to be closed.

Carolann Wright, an executive director with Halifax's economic development organization — the Halifax Partnership — said the income section of the report stands out for her because of the questions it raises.

“Is it about justice or is it about education or dropout rates?” Wright asked. “For me that’s a huge piece because that actually determines how we show up in the job market, and it determines how we are able to afford our homes — it’s all those things that are connected.”

Irvine Carvery, co-chair of the report’s advisory council, said the index is a measuring tool that advocacy and community groups can use to bring about change.

“You know the ... adage, what doesn’t get measured doesn’t get changed,” Carvery told reporters, adding that the challenge ahead will be in sharing the information with people and organizations, including government, that can help the Black community increase wealth.

“This data is not to point fingers, it’s to identify gaps and to encourage dialogue with our partners in order to change those numbers,” he said.

Census data included in the index also show that between 2016 and 2021 the Black population in Nova Scotia grew more quickly than Nova Scotia’s population overall, a trend that was led by international migration, primarily from Nigeria.

In all, 28,220 Nova Scotians self-identified as Black, representing three per cent of the provincial population. The fastest-growing groups were Black men and women between the ages of 20 and 44. “This is promising news for the economy in general, when many employers report difficulty filling jobs, as it indicates an increase in the number of people in prime working age,” the report states.

On the housing front, 2021 figures indicate 17.2 per cent of Black Nova Scotians lived in unaffordable housing, meaning households spent 30 per cent or more of their income on shelter. The share was 5.1 percentage points higher than for the overall population.

Less than half of Black households in Nova Scotia — 45.8 per cent — owned their own homes.

Shekira Grant, who co-chairs the youth council for the report and who works on housing, said the index gives a concrete starting point to address needs the Black community has long known require attention.

“What our community has known intuitively is now on paper so we can no longer deny that this is the reality for Black Nova Scotians,” said Grant.

The report makes a total of 14 recommendations, including that the province's Black community expand its data sources by co-operating with universities, community groups and governments. A recommendation calls on all orders of government to recognize descendants of Nova Scotia’s historic 52 Black communities as a “distinct people.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 22, 2024.

Keith Doucette, The Canadian Press