Where is Canada’s world-topping middle class hiding?
The riddle of the middle
by Tim Querengesser
As Canadians look at debt-laden finances, many wonder where Canada’s apparently world topping middle class has hidden. In April, a Luxembourg Income Study Database study found that between 2000 and 2010, Canada’s middle class became the wealthiest of all G8 nations. For the first time, ever, Canada’s median earners brought in more than their counterparts in the U.S. – US$18,700, and likely growing.
The findings challenged a lot of rhetoric. Liberal leader Justin Trudeau had just before said he would champion Canada’s vanishing middle class. And in February, the Conservative government noted that spiraling household debt meant that middle class dreams were now “more myth than reality.”
Could it be, however, that our measuring sticks are warped? Americans now earn less, relatively speaking, except those at the top. Canadian incomes, the Luxembourg study found, exceeded the U.S. equivalent in all lower percentiles, but lagged at the top. So, did Canada’s middle actually fatten or did the U.S. suddenly get abs? Similarly, between 2000 and 2010, export commodity prices grew quickly, sprinkling wealth throughout Canada. But between 2000 and 2010, household debt also grew by 44 per cent, outpacing income growth.
Which means Canada’s middle class might be hiding in Alberta. Since 1998, the average income of a couple with children here grew by 45 per cent, compared to the national average of 37 per cent.