Study: Measuring voluntary interhousehold transfers

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In 2008, Canadian households received $8.5 billion in voluntary interhousehold transfers from other households. This is twice the dollar amount of court-ordered alimony and child support payments received by Canadian households.

It is also comparable in size to major government social programs, like social assistance and child tax benefits.

Interhousehold transfers are a flow of economic resources between households. In some cases, people in one household monetarily support people in other households. These would include parents who support students away at school, immigrants sending money to family members in their home countries, or someone helping out a friend who has fallen on hard times.

Between 1998 and 2008, the number of households that sent voluntary interhousehold transfers increased by 51% from 3.6 million to 5.4 million. During the same period, the proportion of households that sent transfers rose from 31% to 41%.

Although year-to-year changes vary, the total amount of interhousehold transfers followed an upward trend during this 10-year period. After inflation was taken into account, Canadian households sent 46% more in voluntary interhousehold transfers in 2008 than in 1998.

In comparison, real household income increased 33% and charitable donations rose 32% over the same period.

The incidence and amount of voluntary interhousehold donations increased with household income. Both indicators were twice as high among households in the top quarter of the income scale than among those in the bottom quarter.

Note: The article "Measuring voluntary interhousehold transfers in Canada" presents trends in the incidence and level of voluntary interhousehold transfers in Canada using the Survey of Household Spending. It also discusses concepts and measurement issues related to interhousehold transfers, as well as alternative measures based on the Survey of Labour and Income Dynamics and the Survey of Financial Security.

Definitions, data sources and methods: survey numbers, including related surveys, 2620, 3508 and 3889.

The article "Measuring voluntary interhousehold transfers in Canada" is now available in the May 2011 online edition of Perspectives on Labour and Income, vol. 23, no. 2 (75-001-X, free), from the Key resource module of our website under Publications. A detailed report is also available online, under the same module, as part of the Income Research Paper Series (75F0002M2011001, free).

For more information, or to enquire about the concepts, methods or data quality of this article, contact Jackson Chung (613-951-4005;, Income Statistics Division.