Community Mapping Tool: Mapping At-Risk Communities in Canada

What is the Community Mapping Tool?

The Community Mapping Tool is a new resource that is helping Pathways to Education Canada better understand children and youth and the places where they live. It allows users to compare communities across Canada, pinpointing where young people live and the tremendous diversity of Canadian communities. It describes how many people have graduated from high school – and how many have completed post-secondary education. It also looks at the challenges that some communities face – high rates of poverty and many people in the community working in the low-wage job market.

Through this tool, Pathways will identify key community-level trends and the educational challenges young people face. Local information is essential to mobilizing the skills, resources, and networks necessary to ensure that young people succeed.

At Pathways, we envisage a day when no student is left unable to complete high school and pursue a post-secondary education, regardless of their background, income, or location. 

About the Tool

What is the purpose of the Community Mapping Tool?

The Community Mapping Tool helps to paint the picture of communities across the country – highlighting indicators that matter most for youth and education. It has been designed to help Pathways to Education identify communities where large numbers of young people are at risk of poor learning outcomes, and to complement Pathways’ existing program evaluation activities.

The Community Mapping Tool is a starting place for Pathways and others to learn about the communities within which they operate – information that can lead to positive change for young people and their futures.

Who might benefit from the Community Mapping Tool?

Pathways to Education Canada hopes that the Community Mapping Tool will be of interest and use to a wide audience. A mapping tool and the wealth of community information underlying it can be used in a variety ways, including to:

  • Assess community needs and resources;
  • Identify priorities and shape action agenda;
  • Engage community members; and
  • Establish accountability for outcomes.

Like Pathways, community-based organizations can use the mapping tool to gather information about the people that they service to better tailor their programs.

Students and researchers can use the tool for research projects and to look at patterns across cities, regions, and provinces/territories.

Teachers can use the Community Mapping Tool to create engaging instructional material and course curriculum.

Community advocates can design visually engaging community campaigns and support ongoing community engagement around issues of local importance.

Funders can track important community-wide trends to help set priorities and contribute to meaningful program evaluation.

All users will be able to create compelling narratives about their communities and the critical role of learning and education for young people.

Who created the Community Mapping Tool?

Pathways to Education Canada has partnered with the Canadian Council on Social Development (CCSD) to develop the Community Mapping Tool. The CCSD is a non-governmental, not-for-profit organization, which was founded in 1920. Its mission is to develop and promote progressive social policies inspired by social justice, equality, and the empowerment of individuals and communities.

The CCSD has developed a strong expertise in social research using both quantitative and qualitative methodologies, with a particular emphasis on community research. Its flagship program, the Community Data Program (CDP), is a gateway to data for municipalities and community sector organizations. Established in the mid-1990s, this unique and customized data collection is the only one of its kind in Canada:

The Data behind the Community Mapping Tool

What are the indicators?

Children and Youth by Age

  • Children aged 8 to 11 (number / % of total population)
  • Children aged 12 to 19 (number / % of total population)


  • Single-parent families (number / % of all families)

Ethno-Cultural Make-up

  • Aboriginal population (number, % of total population)
  • Aboriginal population aged 15-24 (number, % of population aged 15-24)
  • Recent immigrants (number, % of total population)
  • Immigrant population aged 15-24 (number, % of population aged 15-24)
  • Visible minority population (number, % of total population)
  • Population with no knowledge of official languages – English or French (number, % of total population)

Income and Employment

  • Average after-tax income for population aged 25+
  • Low income population (Low Income Measure-After Tax) (number, % of total population)
  • Youth low income population (aged 15-24) (number, % of population aged 15-24)
  • Modest income population (number, % of total population)
  • Households in subsidized housing (number, % of all households)
  • Population 20-34 that is unemployed (number, % of labour forced aged 20-34)
  • Population 35-64 that is unemployed (number, % of labour force aged 35-64)
  • Population 25+ working in retail, accommodation and food services (number, % of employed workers aged 25+)

Educational Attainment

  • Population 20-24 with no educational diploma or certificate (number, % of population aged 20-24)
  • Population 20-34 with postsecondary educational degree or certificate (number, % of population aged 20-34)
  • Population 35-64 with postsecondary educational degree or certificate (number, % of population aged 35-64)

Important Definitions

Low income has been measured using the Low Income Measure based on After-Tax Income. The Low income measure after tax (LIM-AT) is a fixed percentage (50%) of median adjusted after-tax income of households observed at the person level, where 'adjusted' indicates that a household's needs are taken into account.

Modest Income We define modest income as the percentage of the total population with household income greater than the Low Income Measure (measured after tax), but below the 30th income percentile.

Density of Low Wage Employment: Another important risk factor in disadvantaged neighbourhoods is the quality of available employment. Neighbourhoods where workers rely disproportionately on employment in sectors like retail trade are more likely to experience low incomes. For the mapping tool, we include the proportion of all employed workers aged 25 years and older working in retail and accommodation and food services. These industries have the lowest hourly and weekly wage and their incidence was correlated with the rate of low income.

Subsidized Housing: Subsidized housing refers to dwellings that are subsidized, including rent geared to income housing, social housing, public housing, government-assisted housing, non-profit housing, rent supplements, and housing allowances.

Visible Minority: Statistics Canada uses the definition of visible minorities included in the Employment Equity Act. The Employment Equity Act defines visible minorities as 'persons, other than Aboriginal peoples, who are non-Caucasian in race or non-white in colour.' The visible minority population consists mainly of the following groups: South Asian, Chinese, Black, Filipino, Latin American, Arab, Southeast Asian, West Asian, Korean, and Japanese.

Aboriginal Population: The mapping tool reports on those who identify themselves as Aboriginal people, that is, as First Nations (North American Indian), Métis, or Inuk (Inuit). It also includes those who report being a Registered or Treaty Indian (that is, registered under the Indian Act of Canada) and/or being a member of a First Nation or Indian band.

New Immigrant: New Immigrants are defined as those who immigrated to Canada between 2006 and 2011, the year of the last Census.

How were these indicators chosen?

These indicators have been chosen based on an extensive review of community well-being research and the characteristics of communities that nurture their young people – specifically the known factors associated with early school leaving and learning success. This research was undertaken to assist Pathways to Education to better understand the experience of its different Program partner locations as part of their ongoing program evaluation activities. This information helps to tell the Pathways "story" in each community – stories often obscured or masked in national or provincial statistics.

For an extensive discussion of community-level child indicators, see Claudia Coulton and Jill Korbin (2007), "Indicators of Child Well-Being through a Neighborhood Lens," Social Indicators Research, Vol. 84, No. 3.

Where Does the Data Come From?

Community-level data for the Community Mapping Tool has been obtained from Statistics Canada, specifically the 2011 Census of Population and the 2011 National Household Survey. These indicators have been acquired through the Canadian Council on Social Development’s Community Data Program – a unique repository of custom community-level data in Canada.

The data source for each indicator is available by clicking the small “i” in the indicator – in the indicator menu.

For more information about the Census, please see:

For more information about the National Household Survey, please see:

What levels of geography are included in the Community Mapping Tool?

This mapping tool presents information on four different geographies, including: Provinces and Territories; Census Divisions (CDs); Census Subdivisions (CSDs); and Census Tracts (CTs) within Census Metropolitan Areas (CMAs) and Census Agglomerations (CAs).

Census Division (CD) is a group of neighbouring municipalities joined together for the purposes of regional planning and managing common services. Examples of a census division include a county, regional municipality, or a regional district.

Census Metropolitan Area (CMA) / Census Agglomeration (CA) is an area consisting of one or more neighboring municipalities situated around a major urban core. A census metropolitan area must have a total population of at least 100,000 of which 50,000 or more live in the urban core. A census agglomeration must have an urban core population of at least 10,000.

Census subdivision (CSD) is typically a municipality but may also be an area deemed to be equivalent to a municipality for statistical reporting purposes such as an Indian reserve or an unorganized territory.

Census tract (CT) is a geographic area with a population of 2,500 to 8,000. They are located in census metropolitan areas and in census agglomerations with an urban core population of 50,000 or more in the previous census.

How often will the data and tool be updated?

The data used in this mapping tool are drawn from the Census of Population and National Household Survey, both of which are updated every five years. The tool will be updated with each release.

Using the Mapping Tool

Pathways’ Community Mapping Tool is an easy-to-use web mapping application that lets you view different kinds of information about communities across Canada. You can view individual indicators, such as the population of children aged 12 to 19, on your map, and compare your selected community against others. This tutorial will guide you through the steps needed to do these things.

For more information about the indicators and sources of information used to build this mapping tool, please see: More Info

Opening Screen

Opening Screen Image

  1. The indicator drop-down list allows the user to change the indicator being displayed on the map. A definition for each indicator is available by clicking the Information icon to the left of the indicator.
  2. The zoom-slider changes the scale of the map. The geographic layers displayed at wide zoom levels (Census Divisions, Provinces) are different than the layers displayed at narrow zoom levels (Census Tracts, Census Subdivisions).  See below for details on changing the geographic layer and More Info for definitions of the geographies used in the Mapping Tool.
  3. Location iconThis icon indicates the location of a Pathways Program host organization. Catchment areas for these organizations are indicated on the map with a dashed line.
  4. Hovering the mouse pointer over an area of interest will display the value for the selected indicator.
  5. The colour-coded legend displays indicator value ranges. This legend changes depending on the indicator selected.

Moving through the Map

Moving through the Map image

  1. Clicking on the map will zoom into the geographic region of interest and display the area's name and indicator values. Both the count and percentage values are displayed.
  2. Indicator data can be downloaded in CSV format. The geographic level of the available data will vary with the geographic layer selected (see #4).
  3. Additional indicator values can be displayed by clicking on 'Other indicators'.
  4. At wide zoom levels, the user can select between displaying Census Division data or Provincial data. At narrow zoom levels, the user can select between displaying Census Tract or Census Subdivision data.

Comparing Census Tracts

Comparing Census Tracts image

  1. Upon selecting a Census Tract, the Census Tract's numeric identifier will appear and the Compare Census Tracts option will be made available. This option generates a chart comparing the Census Tract of interest to the Canadian and provincial averages as well as the closest 15 Census Tracts.
  2. The chart can be downloaded in PDF format.
  3. The selected Census Tract will be highlighted in black.
  4. Moving the mouse pointer over the chart will highlight a comparison Census Tract in white (see 3 above). Clicking on a Census Tract result in the chart will re-focus the map to that Census Tract.

Mapping Communities

Taking “Community” into Account

The Community Mapping Tool is an exciting tool developed by Pathways to Education to better understand and tackle the educational challenges facing young people in disadvantaged communities. For Pathways, doing the best for young people means taking community into account – that is, understanding students within the context of their family, school, and larger community.

Pathways uses community-level information, in conjunction with extensive engagement with local stakeholders, to identify and select new Pathways Program locations and to tailor programming to the unique needs of students.

The Value of Community Indicators

Understanding the community context of students and families is important as it helps to identify the relative scale of the challenges students face, the assets they bring to the table, and the factors influencing their experience in the Pathways Program.

It is also important for determining the needs of particular groups of youth such as newcomers or Aboriginal children, helping to adapt the Program to the circumstances of different communities, and to allocate available resources most effectively.

Community indicators provide a summary of baseline conditions and trends against which change can be assessed over time. Comparing local data with other communities in the same municipality or province complements student information collected by Pathways, providing further insight into the trajectory and impact of its programs across the country.

The Community Mapping Tool has been designed with all of these objectives in mind.

Other Community Mapping Projects

The Community Mapping Tool is one of several community indicator projects that have emerged over the last decade to attempt to measure community well-being in Canada and around the world. Innovative tools are being developed to tell community stories and help to mobilize positive change.

Some of the examples below highlight the power of data visualization and community reporting:

Wellbeing Toronto (City of Toronto)

  • Wellbeing Toronto is a web-tool that measures community well-being across the City of Toronto's 140 neighbourhoods. Based on work for the Strong Neighbourhoods Task Force, this mapping tool provides information on a host of community-level indicators of well-being, drawing on administrative, socio-demographics, and infrastructure service data across 11 well-being domains. It allows users to custom select and combine indicators and see their results instantly on a map.

Learning Opportunity Index (Toronto District School Board)

  • The Learning Opportunity Index (LOI), developed by the Toronto District Board of Education, ranks each school based on measures of the external challenges affecting student success. The TDSB developed this index in order to identify children facing significant barriers to success and to direct additional resources schools and communities serving these students. The LOI measures the relative need and compares all schools on the same set of objective indicators, including measures of income and poverty, parents’ education, and the proportion of single-parent families in a community. The TDSB has calculated some variation of this index for over 30 years.

My Peg (City of Winnipeg)

  • MyPeg is a web-based community profile that has been developed by the United Way of Winnipeg. It measures the well-being of Winnipeg’s neighbourhoods by tracking key indicators, presenting data, maps, and stories from the community on a range of topics.

Cartodiplôme (La Chaire UQAC–Cégep de Jonquière sur les conditions de vie, la santé et les aspirations des jeunes (VISAJ)) 

  • Cartodiplome is a mapping tool that has been developed to track and report on the completion of secondary school in Quebec. Users are able to compare rates of high school completion and non-completion for boys and girls between regions and municipalities across the province. The maps as well as the underlying data can be downloaded and printed.  

OECD Regional Well-Being (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development)

  • The OECD Regional Well-being web tool is one of the resources that has been developed as a part of their larger Better Life Initiative. The centerpiece of the project is a Better Life Index, an interactive web-based tool that measures well-being across nine domains. The Regional web tool allows you to measure well-being in your region (defined in Canada at the provincial level), and compare it with 362 other OECD regions.

Opportunity Index (Opportunity Nation and Measure of America, US)

  • The Opportunity Index is a composite measure of the educational, economic, and civic factors that expand opportunity. It is produced annually by Opportunity Nation and Measure of America. The Index focuses on the conditions present in different communities and is designed to help local communities connect economic, academic, civic ,and other factors that support increased opportunity and economic mobility. The 2015 Opportunity Index provides Opportunity Scores for 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia, and Opportunity Grades for 2,673 counties.

Measure of America (Social Science Research Council, US)

  • Measure for America is a project of the Social Science Research Council. Its signature project is the American Human Development Index, an alternative to GDP and other money metrics that tells the story of how ordinary Americans are faring. The Index is comprised of health, education, and income indicators and allows for well-being rankings of the 50 states, 436 congressional districts, county groups within states, women and men, and racial and ethnic groups. Through national and state reports, thematic briefs, and the project’s interactive website, Measure of America aims to breathe life into numbers, using data to create compelling narratives that foster greater understanding of the challenges facing the United States and greater support for people-centered policies. 

CCRS Interactive State Map (College and Career Readiness Success Centre, US)

  • The CCRS Interactive State Map presents the broad landscape of college and career readiness. The map provides a snapshot of key college and career readiness policies, including college and career ready definitions, college and career ready metrics, and programs and structures. The website links to additional research produced by the Centre.

Rich Blocks, Poor Blocks (Chris Persaud, US)

  • Rich Blocks Poor Blocks maps income, rent, and other data in nearly every state, county, zip code, and census tract in the United States. This interactive website compiles information from the American Community Survey. Individuals can register for unlimited access to all maps and underlying data for an annual fee.

How do you cite the Community Mapping Tool?

For the web pages, please cite:

Community Mapping Tool (2016). Name of page cited. Pathways to Education Canada. Date accessed, from website: XXX

If you are citing the Map page, you should cite it as:

Community Mapping Tool. Name of map, Geography level, Data date; generated by name of person who generated the map, using Pathways to Education Canada Community Mapping Tool (date accessed).


For more information about the Pathways to Education Community Mapping Tool, please contact:

Konrad Glogowski
Director, Research and Knowledge Mobilization
[email protected]

Pathways to Education Canada
439 University Avenue, 16th Floor 
Toronto, ON M5G 1Y8

Phone: 416 646 0123
Toll free: 877 516 0123
Fax: 416 646 0122