A natural experimental study of the protective effect of home ownership on household food insecurity in Canada before and after a recession (2008–2009)

Lynn McIntyre, Xiuyun Wu, Cynthia Kwok, J.C. Herbert Emery


OBJECTIVES: Home ownership as opposed to renting is associated with lower rates of food insecurity, the latter being a marker of household economic deprivation associated with adverse health outcomes. It is unclear whether this relationship persists during a major economic decline, or whether different subgroups of home owners are equally protected. The 2008–2009 recession in Canada was tied to events in the United States related to inappropriate mortgage financing; the impact of the recession on food insecurity among home owners may identify policies to mitigate recessionary outcomes.

METHODS: We used a before-and-after natural experimental design using data from the Canadian Community Health Survey (CCHS) cycles 2007/2008 (pre-recession) and 2009/2010 (post-recession) with information on household food insecurity, home ownership versus renting, and socio-demographics. Applying multivariable logistic regression, we examined changes in household food insecurity by housing tenure and sex over the period.

RESULTS: Pre-recession, food insecurity affected 3.3% of home owners and 17.1% of renter households. Among home owners, the risk of food insecurity increased post-recession by 10%, which was not statistically significant. Post-recession, and with adjustment, although renters’ higher absolute risk of food insecurity persisted, male-respondent home owners experienced the highest rate of increase in food insecurity prevalence by subgroup (OR = 1.26, 95% CI: 1.06–1.50) versus renters (OR = 1.17, 95% CI: 1.05–1.29).

CONCLUSION: Housing policies in Canada protected most home owners from precarity during the 2008–2009 economic recession; however, male-respondent home owners exhibited a unique economic vulnerability during this time. Implications of Canadian home ownership policies are discussed in light of differential vulnerability of home owner groups.


Natural experiment; housing tenure; food insecurity; economic recession; home ownership; Canada

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.17269/cjph.108.5568