StatsCan: Class Warrior

The cover of the papers today were all about the StatsCan release on income for Canada. The Toronto Star claimed it was bad for immigrants, the poor and women (though if the world were to end tomorrow, the headline in the Star would be: World To End: Unfair for Immigrants, Poor and Women) and The Globe and Mail also predicted doom and gloom.

The formidable Mr. Corcoran points out a truism that is too often ignored in the media: you can get stats to say whatever you want to say.

"There are 8.8 million families in Canada, representing 26.7 million people or 87% of the population. Since 1980, the median income of these families has risen 11.1% to $66,343. These are real inflation-adjusted dollars.
Couples with children made up 46% of families, and their median income rose 21% from 1980 to $82,943. But the StatsCan report doesn’t break the family income data into high- and low-income segments.
So I asked a StatsCan official for the numbers, and what they show is that — to use the ideological vernacular — the poor are getting richer. In 1980, the lowest 20% of families had income of $21,134. By 2005, the lowest group earned $24,379, for a gain of $3,245 or 15%. The top income-earning group had median income of $116,000 in 1980, rising to $143,000 in 2005, for a gain of 23%."

Just to drive a few more stakes into the heart of this class warfare monster:

"First, Statistics Canada only examines “earnings” or employment income. It does not consider all other forms of income, including retirement income, investment income and government transfer payments.

Naturally, individuals and families in the bottom income group receive significantly more of their total income from government transfer payments than middle or upper income groups.
These transfers include Old Age Security (OAS) pensions, Employment Insurance, child benefits and GST tax credits. In fact, $52 out of every $100 received by families in the in the lowest income group comes from government sources. Clearly, the Statistics Canada measure has the potential for grossly understating real income at the bottom end.
When we examine income inequality using total income, the conclusion that the poor are getting poorer disappears. Specifically, median total income of those in the bottom 20% actually increased from $21,134 in 1980 (in today’s dollars) to $24,379 in 2005."

Of course, you can't have a news story that read: 'StatsCan: Things Are Looking Up, Actually'. That doesn't really sell newspapers, and certainly doesn't jive with the current atmosphere of economic Ragnarok.

Some funny bits from the Globe and Mail story:

"Ms. Macpherson, about to turn 22, has just completed a film, communications and popular culture degree at Brock University, but she suspects she'll need a master's degree to get a good job, and that she'll be forced to work while trying to upgrade her education. Meanwhile, grown-up luxuries her father and grandfather had at her age don't even register on her radar."

Might it be that the job market isn't clamoring for graduates with degrees in pop culture?

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