# You Are Probably NOT the “Middle Class”

. . . at least, not according to the definition of the Canadian government.

Let me explain.  It all depends on what method you use to calculate the figure.

See, there’s two methods used to calculate this.  Perhaps you’ll remember some similar exercises from your high school math class (and perhaps not; quite a few of us flush that stuff as soon as we’re out of high school because we don’t think of it as being of practical use in the real world; but I digress.)

One is to rank family incomes from poorest to richest, and then isolate the middle 50%.  What’s meant by that is that if you were to make a list of every family income in Canada, with the richest of us at the top and the poorest of us at the bottom, you would then draw two lines to indicate the “middle,” based on sheer numbers of families.

According to the 2013 census there were 13,320.610 total families.

Now half of that (13,320,610 / 2) is 6,660,305.

So then the other half of this total (the other 6,660,305) falls above and below that.  Half of it would be above the top line (3,330,152 and a half,) and half of it would be below that line (another 3,330,152 and a half; not sure what they do with the half.)  So that diagram might look like this:

3,330,152.5 “wealthy” families

6,660,305 “middle class” families

3,330,152.5 “poor” families

If you happen to be in those middle 6,660,305 families, you might consider yourself “middle class”.

If you’re thinking, “Hey, wait a minute!  That’s a pretty broad scope in there!” you’d be right.  “Middle class” by this definition might encompass people who make as little as \$24,000 a year and people who make as much as \$120,000 a year.  I can tell you from personal experience that there’s a very different reality for someone on the low end of that as opposed to the high end of that.  Take a look at this:

This diagram, which comes from the Ministry of Employment and Social Development Canada, clearly shows this world-view.  After taxes, 20% of us are currently making less than \$20,000 a year (which looks closer to about \$15,000 to me based positioning); 60% of us are actually making a little less than \$55,000 a year, and 20% of us make \$140,000 a year or more.

• The middle 60 per cent of families earned an average of \$53,500 after tax in 2011, according to numbers posted on the website for Employment and Social Development Canada.

I’m not convinced this is the best method of determining what “middle class” looks like.  But this is probably slightly more accurate than the other method, which is to compare the annual incomes of all of Canada’s families, select the “median,” and then consider everything from 50 and 150 percent of that number to be the “middle class.”

Again, this is pretty subjective.  It all depends on where you draw the median; which is defined at Dictionary.com as:

Arithmetic, Statistics. the middle number in a given sequence of numbers, taken as the average of the two middle numbers when the sequence has an even number of numbers:

4 is the median of 1, 3, 4, 8, 9.

So basically what happens is that economists and statisticians who work for our government consider the highest and lowest incomes in the country, find the number that’s smack in between them, and then say if you make from half, to one and a half times that number, you’re in the “middle class.”  According to that same recent article at CBC:

The total median 2012 income for families, defined in this case as all couples with or without kids, was \$81,980, according to Statistics Canada.

So that would include people who make between \$40,990 and \$122,970 a year by that reckoning (and the Canadian finance minister says it does.)

If you’re thinking, “That sounds pretty arbitrary,” again you’d be right.  And notice the huge difference between the “income of the middle 60%” and “the median income”?  Also notice that this includes “all couples with or without kids.”  Well, what about singles?

A slightly older article at CBC (Sept. 2013), says of the last census that:

It shows that the median family income in Canada is \$76,000 — generally higher in the west than the east — while the median individual income is just \$27,600. That means just as many individuals earn less than \$27,600 as earn more.

Why is this significant?  Well, check this pie chart:

So almost a third of us are single people; and the median income for a single person is only \$27,600 a year.  The median.  You remember, that arbitrary line?

Okay, so since I don’t have a list of incomes to work from, let’s try to estimate the average income based on the percentage of singles versus couples, based on their respective median incomes.  If you multiply that 27% by the median \$27,600 they make; and then multiply the remaining 73% by the median \$76,000 they make, then add those figures together and divide by a hundred to get the average, you would get a slightly-less dramatic average-median income of \$62,932 a year.

Now when you consider that single-parent families with children outnumbered couples with children in the most recent census, that’s important to know, isn’t it?  Especially since these figures make no differentiation between families with children, and families without.  Women are still more likely to be single parents than men, though the ratio between is decreasing, and women still make less than men on average.

Trying to calculate the average would seem to be the most accurate method, but the bell curve skews the results.  With 25,797,510 people in Canada, (again, according to Statistics Canada,) adding up the total income of each individual by using the median of each income bracket (for instance, the \$10,000 a year bracket to the \$15,000 a year bracket was calculated at \$12,500) and dividing it by the total number of individual citizens, each one of us made an average of \$279,398.13 last year.  Wow, that sure would be nice, eh?  I once calculated that I could live happily and need nothing on \$100,000 a year . . . Go ahead, check my figures if you like.  But of course that’s horse dung because according to that same 2011 CBC article, only 1% of us make \$381,300 or more, and that’s still ten times what the average Canadian makes (though I’m not sure where they get that figure.)  And the gap is increasing.  Incidentally, if you’re checking my numbers, \$381,300 is the figure I used to estimate the income of those above the \$250,000 mark.

The article also says:

The richest 10 per cent of individuals are making more than \$80,400. And the very rich — the 272,600 individuals who 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.

Okay, so wait a minute.  I thought the 2012 median income for Canadians was \$81,980 in 2012.  Wasn’t it?  But you’re saying only ten percent of individuals are making about that or more?  How is that any indicator of the “average middle-class Canadian family” then?

Oh, and last but not least, people with disabilities are consistently in the low 20%.  My family; me, a person without disabilities, married to a man with disabilities, relies on \$15,246.56 a year.  I had a small business, and was forced out of it by the reporting rules of BC’s disability department, which considers the total income of your sole proprietorship, before expenses, to be your personal income.  We lived for three years on what the store made, and keep in mind that eventually I had to close my store because I was taking home less than we receive on my hubby’s disability.  How many more are out there living like that?

I think I know five people who make \$81,980 a year or more; three of them are my doctor, my lawyer, and my chiropractor (and I’m not even sure about him.)

I have to say that if the median is considered to be that high, my understanding of the middle class, and our government’s understanding of the middle class, are two very different things, and it’s probably no wonder they seem completely out of touch with the needs of average Canadians.

Sources:

From CBC.ca: