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Wanna be rich? Be a white, middle-aged man

OTTAWA -- For all the growing diversity the 2011 census and related surveys have portrayed in Canada, Wednesday's final release reveals a contrasting constant: the richest of the rich in Canada are married, middle-aged white men.

The rest of us are up to our eyeballs in mortgage debt.

Statistics Canada has published the final batch of data from its new and controversial national household survey -- the survey meant to stand in for the long-form census scrapped by the Conservatives in 2010. The release was delayed for a month due to a glitch.

It shows the median family income in Canada is $76,000 -- generally higher in the West than the East -- while the median individual income is $27,600. That means just as many individuals earn less than $27,600 as earn more.

The richest 10 per cent of individuals are making more than $80,400. And the very rich -- the 272,600 individuals that make up the top one per cent -- are all making more than $191,100.

Those people are making an average of $381,300 each, 10 times the average Canadian income of $38,700. The large discrepancy between the median and the average suggests there is a very small percentage of the super-rich.

The portrait of the rich differs starkly from the portrait of Canada in general that has been exposed in previous releases of the census and NHS. Data up till now have shown an increasingly diverse population -- aging, but also multi-racial, open to unconventional family structures, with women making huge strides in the workplace.

The rich, on the other hand, are a throwback: overwhelmingly male, between the ages of 45 and 54, almost always married or living in a common-law relationship.

Education pays. Despite recent questioning of the value of university degrees, more than two-thirds of the top one per cent had a university degree, compared with 20.9 per cent of the total population. And almost one-quarter of those who had a university degree had found a way to work themselves into the top 10 per cent of income earners.

"The high income is really reflective of the old Canada, which is much less diverse," said Doug Norris, chief demographer at Environics Analytics.

But as immigrant populations become more established and as women gain ground in the workplace, the income data will slowly start to reflect the broader diversity of the population, he predicted. "Over time, I think you'll see that diversity creeping in."

Already, the NHS shows second-generation immigrants are making far more money than the national median. And ethnic groups that are well-established in Canada, such as Japanese immigrants, are also well above the median.

As for the other end of the spectrum, the bottom 10 per cent of income earners tend to live in cities, especially Montreal. Low-income neighbourhoods are known for their high proportions of visible minorities and recent immigrants, and a preponderance of single parents.

While the national median annual income for a full-time worker is $50,699, the median for a visible-minority worker is just $45,128. For a First Nations full-time worker, the median income is $41,684.

The highest income in Canada is found in the area around Fort McMurray in the Alberta oilsands, where median family income is $186,782.

Meanwhile, baby boomers may be looking to trade their traditional single-family homes for the convenience and comfort of the condo craze, but a mass exodus is likely still a long ways off, real-estate experts and retirees say.

Indeed, the latest numbers from the survey suggest condominiums are becoming the domain of both young and old. Among owners, 20 per cent are under the age of 35, compared with 10.5 per cent for other dwellings.

Canadians are swimming in housing debt. About 3.3 million households, some 25 per cent, spent 30 per cent or more of their total income on shelter -- mortgage or rent payments, plus utility bills, property taxes and condo fees -- exceeding the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. measure of affordability. Those that exceeded the threshold did so to the tune of an average of $1,259 a month, about $510 more than what CMHC's measure suggests they can afford.

 

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 12, 2013 A16

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