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Canadians have not gotten much richer in the last 10 years

2016 census data shows just a 10.8 percent increase in median household incomes

EDITOR’S NOTE: The previous version of this article incorrectly assumed that Statistics Canada’s measure of median income was not adjusted for inflation, or “nominal”. However, the census data on incomes measures “real median incomes”, meaning that these numbers are indeed, adjusted for inflation. This story has been updated to reflect that information.

As the cost of living in urban Canada continues to go up, it turns out that Canadians aren’t bringing in much more income than they were a decade ago.


The latest census data from Statistics Canada indicates an almost negligible increase in the median income of Canadian households over the last 10 years or so. In 2005, the median household income was $63,457 — half of Canadian households earned more than that number, and half earned less. By 2015, median incomes had only risen 10.8 percent to $70,336 — that’s an income growth of just one percent per year, on average.

But if you live in any one of Canada’s urban centres, especially Toronto and Vancouver, that slight increase in median incomes won’t go far. Inflation, which is factored into Stats Canada’s calculation of median income, is a simultaneous increase in prices across the board. But prices of individual goods and services especially, tend to be higher in cities. Back in say 2007, you could get a Japanese lunch special for not more than $7.99 — you’d be hard-pressed to have a substantial lunch in Toronto today for anything under $10.

Not to mention the fact that if you’re living in Toronto or Vancouver, your rent or mortgage payments eat up a sizeable chunk of monthly income — much more than the 30 percent threshold that most financial experts would recommend.

Stats Canada data tells us that in Toronto, a city where the average price of a home is just slightly less than a million dollars, median incomes barely budged between 2005 ($75,862) and 2015 ($78,373). The cost of a dwelling however, has gone up substantially. In 2005, an average home in the Greater Toronto Area cost somewhere in the range of $350,000 to $400,000. At it’s April 2017 peak, the average home in the GTA was closing in on $1 million. That of course translates into higher mortgage payments, and higher rents overall,


Other interesting points to note:

Ontario’s median household income only increased by 3.8 percent between 2005 and 2015, landing at $74,287, due mostly to the massive rise in part-time employment and the meagre growth of well-paying full-time jobs.

Saskatchewan saw a massive increase in median household incomes between 2005 and 2015 — a remarkable 36.5 percent, owing to the flood of oil and gas jobs in the province since it turned itself into the second largest producer of oil in the country.

Roughly 14 percent, or 1.68 million Canadian households, fell into the “low-income” category, meaning that they earned less than the median household income. The good news is that number hasn’t changed much since 2005, but the bad news is that we seem to have done nothing much to reduce the number of low-income households in the country.

The incomes of individuals earning over $234,130, which Statistics Canada defines as the “one percent”, grew by 14 percent

Income inequality was surprisingly flat over the last decade. The incomes of individuals earning over $234,130, which Statistics Canada defines as the “one percent”, grew by 14 percent — this was in sharp contrast to the growth in income that one-percenters experienced between 1995 and 2005, which was four times faster than those in the 70th to 80th percentile of the income pyramid.

Same-sex couples, especially males, tended to earn more than heterosexual couples. The median income of male same-sex couples was $100,707; females came in at $92,857. By contrast, opposite-sex couples took home a median income of $87,605.

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