Issue 17-104: 2016 Census: Household Income in Canada Highlights

September 13, 2017

Statistics Canada has released the fourth set of Census results. This is the first release of annual income information and focuses on income distribution in 2015 spanning a wide range of geographies, from Canada, provinces and territories, to metropolitan areas.

The next release is October 25th, 2017 and will profile census data on immigration and ethnocultural diversity, housing, and aboriginal peoples.

Income in B.C.

Median household income in B.C. grew 12.2% between 2005 and 2015 to reach $69,995 in 2015. B.C. saw the fifth largest pace of growth among provinces in this period; growth was also above the Canadian average (+10.8%).

Median income grew across all metropolitan areas, with the lowest increases in Powell River (+0.2%), Port Alberni (+1.4%) and Quesnel (+2.0%), and the largest in Dawson Creek (+31.6%), Fort St. John (+27.5%) and Terrace (+24.6%).

Among the Census Metropolitan Areas (CMAs), Kelowna (+19.5%) saw the largest household income increase between 2005 and 2015, to reach $71,127, followed by Abbotsford-Mission (+14.1%). Abbotsford-Mission had the highest median income among CMAs in 2015 at $73,598, while Vancouver was second with a median household income of $72,662.

Low Income in B.C.

The percentage of persons in low income in B.C. – that is, the percentage of households with income of less than half of the median income of all households (using the After Tax Low Income Measure) – increased slightly from 15.4 to 15.5 percent between 2005 and 2015. The percentage of people with low income in B.C. remains above the national average of 14.2%.

Low income rates are not distributed evenly across the province, with Port Alberni (+20.3%) and Nelson (+18.3%) registering the largest percentage of population with low income, and Fort St. John (+7.3%) and Squamish (+9.7%) having the lowest.

Children are more likely to live in low income households with a rate of 18.5% in 2015, compared to 14.9% for adults. This pattern is true in every province, except Quebec where adults are more likely to live in low income households than children.

Households contributing to RRSPs, RPPs or TFSAs in B.C.

This is the first time in which information relating to the use of Tax-Free Savings Accounts (TFSAs) is included in the census.

Approximately 64.2% of households in B.C. contributed to at least one of Registered Retirement Savings Plans (RRSPs), Registered Pension Plans (RPPs) or TFSAs in 2015. TFSAs had the highest median contribution ($7,645) as well as the largest share of households who contributed (+42.0%). The median contribution for RPPs was $4,259, just slightly above the median for RRSPs of $4,225; however, RRSPs were more widely used, with 33.5% of households contributing in 2015 compared to 25.7% of households contributing to RPPs.

Total income of couples in B.C.

Partner's incomes were fairly equal in 31.1% of couples. A man had the relatively higher income in 51.8% of couples, above the national average of 50.7%. In 17.1% of the couples, a woman had the higher income. Note that these data are averages and include all couple types (e.g. same-sex couples, couples with and without children).

Vancouver had the highest rate of couples in which a woman was the higher income earner at 18.5%, followed by Victoria at 17.8%. Fort St. John had the highest percentage of households with a man having the higher income (+66.1%) and the lowest rate of households with a woman having the larger income (+8.9%).

The combined median total income of couples was $86,150 in 2015. The higher income partner had a median income of $58,875 while the lower income partner had a median income of $23,232.

National Highlights

According to the newly released 2016 Census data, the median household income was $70,336 in 2015, up from $63,457 in 2005. Household income growth between 2005 and 2015 was led by Nunavut (+36.7%), Saskatchewan (+36.5%) and other resource-rich provinces, while Ontario (+3.8%) and Quebec (+8.9%) saw single-digit increases.

The percentage of people with low income rose slightly from 14.0% in 2005 to 14.2% in 2015. The increase was not even across regions, with Saskatchewan and Newfoundland and Labrador seeing large declines, while Ontario saw the largest increase. Alberta remained the province with the smallest low income rate, while Nova Scotia had the highest.

According to the 2016 Census, 65.2% of Canadian households contributed to at least one of an RRSP, RPP or TFSA in 2015. Approximately 40.4% of households contributed to a TFSA. TFSAs were the most popular of the three registered savings accounts, particularly among households with incomes of $80,000 or less. Households with incomes above $80,000 were more likely to contribute to RRSPs than to TFSAs.

Nationally, the median income for couples was $87,688 on average. The highest income earner had median income of $59,121, while the lower income spouse had a median income of $25,015. Partner's incomes were fairly equal in 32.0% of couples, in 50.7% of couples a male had the higher income, and in 17.3% a female had the higher income.

Data Source: Statistics Canada, Census 2016.