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Study: Youth postsecondary attendance by parental income and province of residence, 2001 to 2014

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Released: 2017-04-10

The percentage of 19 year-olds enrolled in postsecondary education in Canada increased steadily from 2001 to 2014. While there were more youth enrolled in postsecondary education from across the parental income distribution, the increase was somewhat larger among those from the bottom of the distribution.

Larger gains were also registered among youth from Ontario, Quebec, and the Atlantic provinces, compared with youth from Western Canada. While the general rise in postsecondary enrolment has been well-documented, information has not previously been available on enrolment by parental income.

A new study, "Youth postsecondary attendance by parental income and province of residence", uses family-level taxation data to provide new insights on postsecondary enrolment rates among 19 year-olds by parental income and province of residence.

The share of 19 year-olds attending a postsecondary institution rose steadily, from 52.6% in 2001 to 63.8% in 2014—an increase of 11.2 percentage points.

Among youth whose parents were in the bottom 20% of the income distribution (that is, the bottom quintile), the share attending a postsecondary institution rose from 37.7% in 2001 to 47.1% in 2014—an increase of 9.4 percentage points. By comparison, among those whose parents were in the top 20% of the income distribution (that is, the top quintile), the share attending postsecondary rose from 72.6% in 2001 to 78.7% in 2014—an increase of 6.1 percentage points.

As a result, the difference in postsecondary attendance rates between youth from the top and bottom quintiles narrowed from 34.9 percentage points in 2001 to 31.6 percentage points in 2014.

Increases in postsecondary enrolment over the study period were largest among youth from Ontario, Quebec and the Atlantic provinces. Among these provinces, enrolment rates increased most among youth from Newfoundland and Labrador (+18.7 percentage points) and Ontario (+16.1 percentage points) and least among youth from Nova Scotia (+9.1 percentage points). These gains far outpaced those in Western Canada, with gains in enrolment rates ranging from 5.9 percentage points in British Columbia to near-zero in Saskatchewan.

Young women outnumbered young men in postsecondary institutions through the study period. Enrolment rates of 19 year-old women rose from 61.1% in 2001 to 71.7% in 2014, while those of 19 year-old men increased from 45.2% to 56.5%. The gender gap in enrolment remained largely unchanged over the period.


The research article, "Postsecondary Enrolment by Parental Income: Recent National and Provincial Trends," which is part of Economic Insights (Catalogue number11-626-X), is now available.

Contact information

For more information, or to enquire about the concepts, methods or data quality of this release, contact us (toll-free 1-800-263-1136; 514-283-8300;

To enquire about the concepts, methods or data quality of this release, contact Marc Frenette (613-864-0762;, Social Analysis and Modelling Division.

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