Check your stats folks

Eighty per cent of Canadians live in cities. This is a claim made routinely in the media, but it really isn’t true and the mistake lies in lazy reading of statistics, according to Globe and Mail columnist Roy MacGregor.

In a recent Globe column titled “City slickers and the legend of Canada as an urban nation,” MacGregor notes that the claim appears in various forms “regularly in newspapers and in broadcast commentary across the country, an absurdity as hard to kill as the notion that porcupines shoot quills or that astronaut Neil Armstrong took his legendary ‘one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind’ in Sudbury.”

StatsCan defines an “urban” centre as a an area with 1,000 or more population. And as MacGregor points out, “The media, then, substitutes ‘city’ for ‘urban’ (why not?) and we end up with this continuing misread of the country.”

MacGregor notes:

“This idea that 80 per cent of Canadians live in cities – the other 20 per cent being yokels – comes courtesy of Statistics Canada and a non-thinking media.”