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Canadian Income Survey, 2015

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Released: 2017-05-26

Median after-tax income, economic families and persons not in an economic family



-0.4% decrease

(annual change)

The median after-tax income of Canadian families and unattached individuals was $56,000 in 2015, virtually unchanged from 2014. Since the start of the Canadian Income Survey in 2012, the median after-tax income of Canadians has increased 2.9%.

Senior families, where the highest income earner was 65 years of age or older, had a median after-tax income of $57,500 in 2015, up 5.7% from 2012. After-tax income of these families has been climbing steadily since at least the mid-1970s. In 1976, senior families received $33,100 in after-tax income.

In 2015, unattached individuals 65 years of age or older had a median after-tax income of $26,300, while their non-senior counterparts reported $29,400. Both groups have seen little change in their median after-tax income since 2012.

Families where the highest income earner was 64 years of age or younger had a median after-tax income of $82,600 in 2015, up 3.0% from 2012. Within this group, two-parent families with children had a median after-tax income of $94,200, up 6.8% from 2012.

Lone-parent families ($45,700) had less than half the median after-tax income of two-parent families in 2015, virtually unchanged from 2012. These two groups of families have seen their incomes grow steadily since the mid-1990s.

Incidence of low income

According to the after-tax low income measure (LIM-AT), almost 5 million people or 14.2% of the population lived in low income in 2015, up 1.2 percentage points from 2014 but little changed from 2012. The LIM-AT is an internationally used measure of low income. The concept underlying the LIM-AT is that all persons in a household have low income if their household after-tax income falls below half of the median after-tax income.

For children 17 years of age and under, just over one million or 15.2% lived in low income in 2015. Among children living in two-parent families, 12.4% lived in low income, while 38.2% of children living in female headed lone-parent families lived in low income.

For seniors living in an economic family, 7.7% or 315,000 lived in low income, up 1.5 percentage points from 2012, while the rate for unattached seniors was four times higher at 32.0%, up 3.7 percentage points from 2012.

Increase in government transfers associated with child benefit programs

Government transfers play an important role in supporting Canadian families and individuals. The transfers received in 2015 varied by family type.

Median government transfers for senior families rose 3.0% from 2014 to $27,500 in 2015, compared with a 1.8% increase to $17,400 for unattached seniors.

Among families where the highest income earner was 64 years of age or younger, median government transfers rose 27.0% from 2014 to $4,700 in 2015. The increases were pronounced for couples with children, whose median government transfers rose from $4,300 in 2014 to $5,800 in 2015. Meanwhile, lone-parent families saw their median government transfers rise from $9,600 to $11,500.

This significant change for families with children was attributable to additional income received from the Universal Child Care Benefit (UCCB), which was enhanced by the federal government and, to a lesser extent, the Children's Fitness Tax Credit. In 2016, to simplify and consolidate the existing child benefits, the Canada Child Tax Benefit (CCTB) and the UCCB were replaced by the Canada Child Benefit.

The median amount of income tax, both federal and provincial, paid by families and unattached individuals in 2015 was $6,800, up 6.3% from 2012 but virtually unchanged from 2014.

Employment income rises since 2012

In 2015, 20.6 million people had employment income. Median employment income for all workers was $33,100 in 2015, up 2.5% from 2012 but virtually unchanged from 2014.

Nationally, 11.6 million people worked both full year and full time in 2015 and their median employment income was $51,200. Alberta ($62,100) posted the highest median employment income in 2015, while New Brunswick had the lowest ($44,600). The median employment income for full-year full-time workers in Ontario was $53,000 in 2015, up 2.9% from 2014.

Impact of the 2015 oil crisis on Alberta

By the end of second quarter of 2015, Canada was in the midst of an economic downturn, caused largely by a rapid drop in oil prices over the preceding year. Hardest hit by this price shock was Canada's largest oil producing province, Alberta.

While the LIM-AT rate of low income in Alberta was virtually unchanged from 2014 (6.9% in both 2014 and 2015), the downturn was reflected in a number of ways in the province. For example, the total number of full-year and full-time workers was down 6.1%, from 1.6 million in 2014 to 1.5 million in 2015. This decrease was largely driven by working males, as their ranks fell 9.1%, from 929,000 workers in 2014 to 844,000 workers in 2015.

Telling Canada's story in numbers; #ByTheNumbers

In celebration of the country's 150th birthday, Statistics Canada is presenting snapshots from our rich statistical history.

Total income refers to income from all sources including market income or government transfers. In 2015, average total family income was $82,600, while in 1951 it was $29,200 (expressed in 2015 dollars).

Over the last six decades, there has been a significant shift in the sources contributing to total income, away from earnings towards private retirement income and government transfers. In 1951, income from employment accounted for nearly 90% of total income in Canada. This share dropped to just over 72% in 2015. This drop was partially offset by retirement income, which rose from 1% in 1951 to nearly 8% in 2015, and government transfer payments, which increased from 5% to almost 13% over this period.

Using data from 1976 to 2015, it becomes apparent that an important driver of the increase in government transfers was from Canada Pension Plan and Quebec Pension Plan (CPP/QPP) benefits. From 1976 to 2015, the share of income received from CPP and QPP rose five fold, from 0.7% to 3.9% of total income. In 2015, the proportion of families receiving CPP/QPP benefits more than tripled from 1976 (10.5% in 1976 compared with 32.6% in 2015).

  Note to readers

The Canadian Income Survey estimates are based on probability samples and are therefore subject to sampling variability. As a result, estimates will show more variability than trends observed over longer time periods.

In this release, differences between estimates are reported only where they are statistically significant at the 95% confidence level.


An economic family refers to a group of two or more persons who live in the same dwelling and are related to each other by blood, marriage, common-law, adoption or a foster relationship. This concept differs from the census family concept used for subprovincial data in the Annual Income Estimates for Census Families and Individuals.

This release analyses income on the basis of medians. The median is the level of income at which half the population had higher income and half had lower. Dollar estimates are expressed in 2015 constant dollars to factor in inflation and enable comparisons across time in real terms.

After-tax income is the total of market income and government transfers, less income tax.

Market income consists of employment income, private pensions as well as income from investments and other market sources.

Employment income consists of wages and salaries, commissions, net-income from unincorporated non-farm and or professional practice and net farm self-employment income

A full-year full-time worker is a person who is 16 years of age and over, who was employed 52 weeks in the year, and worked on average 30 or more hours per week.

Government transfers include benefits including Old Age Security, Guaranteed Income Supplement, Canada and Quebec Pension Plan, Employment Insurance, Social Assistance, Goods and Services Tax Credit, provincial tax credits and various types of child benefits.

Low income in this release is calculated using the after-tax Low Income Measure (LIM-AT). Individuals are defined as having low income if their adjusted after-tax income falls below 50% of the median adjusted after-tax income. Adjusted after-tax income is derived by dividing household income by the square root of the household size and assigning this value to all persons in the household.

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; or Media Relations (613-951-4636;

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