Young Canadians’ Income Down, Debt Up Over Past 40 Years


While average incomes for most Canadians have stagnated over the past 40 years, young people have been hit especially hard.

Statistics Canada data shows that median incomes for Canadians aged 25-34 dropped by 12% over the past 30 years, falling from $42,700 in 1976 to $37,400 in 2016. The chart below illustrates this drop.

While their income has fallen, debt levels of young households (defined as households in which the primary economic earner(s) are under 35) have increased sharply. The chart below shows average total debt loads for young households.

One element of this is rising student debt levels. Total student debt has increased by 52% since 1999, as the chart below shows.

Some of this has been driven by more people going to college or university. Governments have juiced post-secondary education attainment rates on the theory that this would increase incomes for graduates. But as we have seen, while young people racked up student debts, their incomes did not increase.

Young Canadians have rising debt loads and falling incomes. For them, the existing economic order is not delivering the goods. This basic fact cannot be avoided by policymakers forever, and resolving it will require substantial changes to the structure of our economy.

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Young Canadians’ Income Down, Debt Up Over Past 40 Years