Homeowner versus non-homeowner differences in household food insecurity in Canada

  • Lynn McIntyreEmail author
  • Xiuyun Wu
  • Valerie C. Fleisch
  • J. C. Herbert Emery


The risk of food insecurity, lack of access to adequate food because of financial constraints, is low for homeowners relative to renters in Canada; yet it is unclear if this is due to the characteristics of who owns versus who rents, or a direct protective effect of homeownership over renting. We examined this question by looking at the correlates of food insecurity among households by homeownership status. We used a population-based sample, the 2009–2010 Canadian Community Health Survey, in which both housing tenure and food insecurity were measured. A decomposition approach allowed us to examine the difference in prevalence of food insecurity between non-homeowner and homeowner households that was not accounted for by household-level characteristics such as income or contextual factors. As expected, household food insecurity was much lower among homeowner households (3.3 %) than non-homeowner households (17.9 %). Household and contextual characteristics accounted for 71 % of the overall difference in the odds of being food insecure, leaving 29 % of the gap attributable to the protective impact of homeownership. Closing this gap could include the introduction of institutional policies that mirror the protection from home equity and governmental policy supports afforded to homeownership.


Food insecurity Housing Homeownership Rental Decomposition statistics Canada 



This study was funded by Canadian Institutes of Health Research Operating Grant MOP-89731 and a Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) Chair in Gender and Health. The study was approved by the University of Calgary/Alberta Health Services (Calgary Zone) Conjoint Health Research Ethics Board. We thank Daniel J. Dutton for his assistance with the decomposition statistics.

Complicance with ethical standards

Conflicts of interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


  1. Bartfeld, J., & Dunifon, R. (2005). State-level predictors of food insecurity and hunger among households with children. Contractor and Cooperator Report No. 13 [online]. Retrieved April 4, 2015, from
  2. Berger, L., Heintze, T., Naidich, W. B., & Meyers, M. K. (2008). Subsidized housing and household hardship. Journal of Marriage and Family, 70, 934–949.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bickel, G., Nord, M., Price, C., Hamilton, W. L. & Cook, J. T. (2000). Guide to Measuring Household Food Security, Revised 2000. USDA, Food and Nutrition Service. Retrieved April 3, 2015, from
  4. Blinder, A. S. (1973). Wage discrimination: Reduced form and structural variables. Journal of Human Resources, 8, 436–455.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bryant, T. (2004). The role of political ideology in rental housing policy in Ontario. Housing Studies, 19, 635–651.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Brzozowski, M., & Crossley, T. F. (2011). Viewpoint: Measuring the well-being of the poor with income or consumption: A Canadian perspective. Canadian Journal of Economics, 44, 88–106.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Burke, T., & Ralston, L. (2003). Analysis of expenditure patterns and levels of household indebtedness of public and private rental households, 1975 to 1999. Melbourne: Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute.Google Scholar
  8. Carter, T. (1997). Current practices for procuring affordable housing: The Canadian context. Housing Policy Debate, 8, 593–631.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Che, J., & Chen, J. (2001). Food insecurity in Canadian households. Health Reports, 12, 11–22.Google Scholar
  10. Clayton, F. A. (2010). Government subsidies to homeowners versus renters in Ontario and Canada. Report prepared for federation of rental housing providers of Ontario and Canadian Federation of Apartment Associations, August. Retrieved April 3, 2015, from
  11. Coleman-Jensen, A., Gregory, C. & Singh, A. (2014). Household food security in the United States, 2014. Economic Research Report No. (ERR-173). (Washington, DC: US Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service). Retrieved April 3, 2015, from
  12. Conroy, S. J., & Sandy, J. (2012). Using Blinder–Oaxaca decomposition to estimate the coastal premium for residential housing prices in San Diego County. Academy of Economics and Finance Journal, 3, 45–52.Google Scholar
  13. Cutler-Triggs, C., Fryer, G. E., Miyoshi, T. J., & Weitzman, M. (2008). Increased rates and severity of child and adult food insecurity in households with adult smokers. Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, 162(11), 1056–1062.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Dalton, T. (2009). Housing policy retrenchment: Australia and Canada compared. Urban Studies, 46, 63–91.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. DeSilva, S., & Elmelech, Y. (2009). Housing inequality in the United States: A decomposition analysis of racial and ethnic disparities in homeownership. Bard College, Working Paper No. 565, May. Retrieved April 2, 2015, from
  16. Dietz, D., & Haurin, D. R. (2003). The social and private micro-level consequences of homeownership. Journal of Urban Economics, 54, 401–450.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Dupuis, A. (1998). Home, home ownership and the search for ontological security. The Sociological Review, 46, 25–47.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Dutton, D. J., & McLaren, L. (2011). Explained and unexplained regional variation in Canadian obesity prevalence. Obesity, 19, 1460–1468.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Emery, J. C. H., Bartoo A. C., Matheson, J., Ferrer, A., Kirkpatrick, S. I., Tarasuk, V., & McIntyre, L. (2012). Evidence of the association between household food insecurity and heating cost inflation from Canada 1998–2001. Canadian Public Policy, 38, 181–215.Google Scholar
  20. Emery, J. C. H., Fleisch, V. C., & McIntyre, L. (2013a). How a guaranteed annual income could put food banks out of business. SPP Research Papers University of Calgary School of Public Policy, 6(37), 1–20.
  21. Emery, J. C. H., Fleisch, V. C., & McIntyre, L. (2013b). Legislated changes to federal pension income in Canada will adversely affect low income seniors' health. Preventive Medicine, 57, 963–966.Google Scholar
  22. Fairlie, R. W. (2005). An extension of the Blinder-Oaxaca decomposition technique to logit and probit models. Journal of Economic and Social Measurement, 30(4), 305–316.Google Scholar
  23. Fletcher, J. M., Andreyeva, T., & Busch, S. H. (2009). Assessing the effect of changes in housing costs on food insecurity. Journal of Children and Poverty, 15, 79–93.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Galster, G. C., & Santiago, A. M. (2008). Low-income homeownership as an asset-building tool. In M. A. Turner, H. Wial, & H. Wolman (Eds.), Urban and regional policy and its effects (pp. 60–108). Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press.Google Scholar
  25. Gibson, M., Petticrew, M., Bambra, C., Sowden, A. J., Wright, K. E., & Whitehead, M. (2011). Housing and health inequalities: A synthesis of systematic reviews of interventions aimed at different pathways linking housing and health. Health and Place, 17, 175–184.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Grinstein-Weiss, M., Shanks, T. R. W., Manturuk, K. R., Key, C. C., Paik, J. G., & Greeson, J. K. P. (2010). Homeownership and parenting practices: Evidence from the community advantage panel. Children and Youth Services Review, 32, 774–782.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Health Canada. (2010). Household food insecurity in Canada in 20072008: Key Statistics and Graphics. Retrieved April 3, 2015, from
  28. Health Canada. (2012). The household food security survey module. Retrieved April 3, 2015, from
  29. Hiscock, R., Kearns, A., MacIntyre, S., & Ellaway, A. (2001). Ontological security and psycho-social genefits from the home: Qualitative evidence on issues of tenure. Housing, Theory, and Society, 18, 50–66.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Hulchanski, J. D. (1994). The use of housing expenditure-to-income ratios: Origins, evolution and implications. Background Paper #2. Toronto: Ontario Human Rights Commission.Google Scholar
  31. Hulchanski, J. D. (2002). Housing policy for tomorrow’s cities. Discussion Paper F/27 Family Network. Ottawa: Canadian Policy Research Networks.Google Scholar
  32. Hulchanski, J. D. (2007). Canada’s dual housing policy. Assisting owners, neglecting renters. Research Bulletin #38. (Center for Urban and Community Studies).Google Scholar
  33. Jann, B. (2008). A Stata implementation of the BlinderOaxaca decomposition. ETH Zurich Sociology Working Paper. (Zurich, Switzerland: ETH Zurich).Google Scholar
  34. Jiménez-Rubio, D., & Hernández-Quevedo, C. (2011). Inequalities in the use of health services between immigrants and the native population in Spain: What is driving the differences? European Journal of Health Economics, 12, 17–28.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Kirkpatrick, S. I., & Tarasuk, V. (2003). The relationship between low income and household food expenditure patterns in Canada. Public Health Nutrition, 6, 589–597.Google Scholar
  36. Kirkpatrick, S. I., & Tarasuk, V. (2007). Adequacy of food spending is related to housing expenditures among lower-income Canadian households. Public Health Nutrition, 10, 464–473.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Kirkpatrick, S. I., & Tarasuk, V. (2011). Housing circumstances are associated with household food access among low-income urban families. Journal of Urban Health, 88, 284–296.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Lambie-Mumford, H. (2013). ‘Every town should have one’: emergency food banking in the UK. Journal of Social Policy, 42(1), 73–89.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Ledrou, I., & Gervais, J. (2005). Food insecurity. Health Reports, 16, 47–52.Google Scholar
  40. Leete, L., & Bania, N. (2010). The effect of income shocks on food insufficiency. Review of Economics of the Household, 8, 505–526.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Lindberg, R. A., Shenassa, E. D., Acevedo-Garcia, D., Popkin, S. J., Villaveces, A., & Morley, R. L. (2010). Housing interventions at the neighborhood level and health: A review of the evidence. Journal of Public Health Management and Practice, 16, S44–S52.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Lorenz, S. (2012). Socio-ecological consequences of charitable food assistance in the affluent society: The German Tafel. International Journal of Sociology and Social policy, 32, 386–400.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Macintyre, S., Ellaway, A., Der, G., Ford, G., & Hunt, K. (1998). Do housing tenure and car access predict health because they are simply markers of income or self esteem? A Scottish study. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, 52, 657–664.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Macintyre, S., Ellaway, A., Hiscock, R., Kearns, A., Der, G., & McKay, L. (2003). What features of the home and the area might help to explain observed relationships between housing tenure and health? Evidence from the west of Scotland. Health and Place, 9, 207–218.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Manturuk, K., Lindblad, M., & Quercia, R. G. (2010). Homeownership and sense of control during economic recession: A propensity score analysis. Working Paper. (Center for Community Capital, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill).Google Scholar
  46. Martin-Fernandez, J., Grillo, F., Parizot, I., Caillavet, F., & Chauvin, P. (2013). Prevalence and socioeconomic and geographical inequalities of household food insecurity in the Paris region, France, 2010. BMC Public Health, 13, 486. doi: 10.1186/1471-2458-13-486.
  47. Mason, K. E., Baker, E., Blakely, T., & Bentley, R. J. (2013). Housing affordability and mental health: Does the relationship differ for renters and home purchasers? Social Science and Medicine, 94, 91–97.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. McIntyre, L., Bartoo, A. C., & Emery, J. C. H. (2013). When working is not enough: Food insecurity in the Canadian labour force. Public Health Nutrition, 17, 49–57.Google Scholar
  49. McIntyre, L., Pow, J., & Emery, J. C. H. (2014). A path analysis of recurrently food insecure Canadians discerns employment, income, and negative health effects. Journal of Poverty, 19, 71–87.Google Scholar
  50. Meyer, B. D., & Sullivan, J. X. (2003). Measuring the well-being of the poor using income and consumption. Journal of Human Resources, 38, 1180–1220.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Meyer, B. D., & Sullivan, J. X. (2011). Viewpoint: Further results on measuring the well-being of the poor using income and consumption. Canadian Journal of Economics, 44, 52–87.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Moloughney, B. (2004). Housing and population health: The state of current research knowledge. Ottawa: Canadian Population Health Initiative and Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation.Google Scholar
  53. Newell, F. D., Williams, P. L., & Watt, C. G. (2014). Is the minimum enough? Affordability of a nutritious diet for minimum wage earners in Nova Scotia (2002–2012). Canadian Journal of Public Health, 105(3), e158–e165.Google Scholar
  54. Nord, M., Coleman-Jensen, A., & Gregory, C. (2014). Prevalence of U.S. Food insecurity is related to changes in unemployment, inflation, and the price of food. ERR-167, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service, June. Retrieved April 3, 2015 from
  55. Oaxaca, R. (1973). Male-female wage differentials in urban labor markets. International Economic Review, 14, 693–709.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Office of Nutrition Policy and Promotion. (2007). Income-related household food security in Canada. Report No. H164-42/2007E. (Ottawa, ON: Health Canada).Google Scholar
  57. Olabiyi, O. M., & McIntyre, L. (2014). Determinants of food insecurity in higher-income households in Canada. Journal of Hunger and Environmental Nutrition, 9, 433–448.Google Scholar
  58. Pollack, C. E., Griffin, B. A., & Lynch, J. (2010). Housing affordability and health among homeowners and renters. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 39, 515–521.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Public Health Agency of Canada. (2008). The chief public health officer’s report on the state of public health in Canada 2008. Retrieved April 3, 2015, from
  60. Rohe, W. M., Quercia, R. G., & Van Zandt, R. S. (2007). The social-psychological effects of home ownership. In W. M. Rohe & H. L. Watson (Eds.), Chasing the American dream: New perspectives on affordable homeownership (pp. 215–232). Ithanca: Cornell University Press.Google Scholar
  61. Rohe, W. M., Van Zandt, S., & McCarthy, G. (2001). The social benefits and costs of homeownership: A critical assessment of the research. Low Income Home Ownership Working Paper Series. Joint Center for Housing Studies, Harvard University.Google Scholar
  62. Shapcott, M. (2008). Housing. In D. Raphael (Ed.), Social determinants of health: Canadian perspective (2nd ed., pp. 205–220). Toronto: Canadian Scholars’ Press Inc.Google Scholar
  63. Shaw, M. (2004). Housing and public health. Annual Review of Public Health, 25, 397–418.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Sherraden, M. (2005). Inclusion in asset building: Testimony for hearing on building assets for low-income families before the subcommittee on social security and family policy senate finance committee. Washington, DC: U.S. Senate.Google Scholar
  65. Sinai, T. M., & Souleles, N. (2003). Owner occupied housing as insurance against rent risk. Working paper. (Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania).Google Scholar
  66. Smith, M., Finlayson, G., Martens, P., Dunn, J., Prior, H., Taylor, C., et al. (2013). Social housing in Manitoba Part II: Social housing and health in Manitoba: A first look. Winnipeg, MB: Manitoba Centre for Health Policy.Google Scholar
  67. Statistics Canada. (2010a). Canadian Community Health Survey—Annual Component (CCHS). Retrieved April 3, 2015, from
  68. Statistics Canada. (2010b). Household food insecurity, 20072008. Retrieved April 5, 2015, from
  69. Statistics Canada. (2013). 2011 National household survey: Homeownership and shelter costs in Canada. Retrieved April 5, 2015, from
  70. Stone, M. E. (1993). Shelter poverty: New ideas on housing affordability. Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press.Google Scholar
  71. Swanton, S. (2009). Social housing wait lists and the one-person household in Ontario. CPRN Research Report, Canadian Policy Research Networks Inc. and Social Housing Services Corporation, January.Google Scholar
  72. Tarasuk, V., Mitchell, A., & Dachner, N. (2014). Household food insecurity in Canada, 2012. PROOF (Research to Identify Policy Options to Reduce Food Insecurity) Report. Retrieved April 3, 2015 from
  73. Tarasuk, V., & Vogt, J. (2009). Household food insecurity in Ontario. Canadian Journal of Public Health, 100, 184–188.Google Scholar
  74. United Nations. (no date). Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights: Special Rapporteur on adequate housing as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living, and on the right to non-discrimination in this context. Retrieved June 18, 2014, from
  75. Weitzman, M., Baten, A., Rosenthal, D. G., Hoshino, R., Tohn, E., & Jacobs, D. E. (2013). Housing and child health. Current Problems in Pediatric and Adolescent Health Care, 43, 187–224.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lynn McIntyre
    • 1
    Email author
  • Xiuyun Wu
    • 1
  • Valerie C. Fleisch
    • 1
  • J. C. Herbert Emery
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Community Health Sciences, Cumming School of MedicineUniversity of Calgary, Teaching Research and Wellness (TRW) BuildingCalgaryCanada
  2. 2.Department of Economics, Faculty of ArtsUniversity of CalgaryCalgaryCanada

Personalised recommendations