Canada almost as unequal as U.S. when it comes to wealth

When it comes to inequality, Canada may not be so different from our southern neighbours after all.

Driving the news: The wealthiest 0.1% of Canadians own 12.4% of total wealth in the country, according to a new study by Social Capital Partners, a Toronto-based think tank.

  • That level of inequality is similar to that of the U.S., where the wealthiest 0.1% has 16.2% of total wealth. It’s also significantly more than our official estimates suggest. 

Why it matters: Not only does the report puncture a national myth — that Canada is a much more equal place when it comes to money than the U.S. — but it also raises questions about how much our national data-gathering agency even knows about wealth inequality in the first place.

  • The root of the problem is that Statistics Canada collects data on the wealthiest 5% of Canadians, but a sample that large misses how heavily wealth is skewed towards the richest people in that group.
  • Because of that, the report notes, “families who owned a nice detached home in Vancouver – and nothing else – were put in the same wealth category as the Irving family.”

Zoom out: Discussions about inequality often focus on how much people make (income) rather than how much they own (wealth). That’s largely because we don’t have very good data about the latter, but some research finds that high wealth inequality is the more harmful of the two.