Data sources, methods and definitions

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Data sources

This study used data from the 1999 and 2012 Survey of Financial Security (SFS). The SFS is a survey that collects information from a sample of Canadian families on their assets, debts, employment, income and education. Information is collected on the value of all major financial and non-financial assets and on the money owing on mortgages, vehicles, credit cards, student loans and other debts.

The SFS covers the population living in the 10 provinces. Excluded from the survey's coverage are persons living on reserves and other Aboriginal settlements in the provinces; official representatives of foreign countries living in Canada and their families; members of religious and other communal colonies; members of the Canadian Forces living on military bases or in military camps; and persons living in institutions full time (for example, inmates of penal institutions and chronic care patients living in hospitals and nursing homes).

Individual characteristics such as age and education pertain to that of the major income earner of the household.


Assets: Real estate (principal residence and all other real estate), employer pension plans (on a termination basis) and all other assets (including RRSPs, RESPs, RRIFs, stocks, bonds, mutual funds, vehicles, household possessions, bank accounts, collectibles, accumulated value of family businesses, and other financial and non-financial assets).

Debt: Mortgage debt on the principal residence and all other real estate (Canadian and foreign), and consumer debt. Consumer debt includes debt outstanding on credit cards, personal and home equity lines of credit, and secured and unsecured loans from banks and other institutions including vehicle loans, and other unpaid bills.

Wealth (or net worth): Total value of assets, minus the total value of debt.

Total income: Total income (before tax) of all members of the economic family. Income quintiles are calculated on the basis of this income measure.

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 relationship or adoption. A couple may be of the opposite or same sex. Foster children are included. Unattached individuals are included in this study and are considered as distinct family units.

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