Section 4
Size and trend of transfers

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Chart 1 shows the size of voluntary inter-household transfers received by Canadian households, and compares them with other current transfers in 2008.

In 2008, Canadian households received $8.5 billion in voluntary inter-household transfers from other households, representing about 1% of total income received. 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 some major government social programs, such as social assistance and child tax benefits.

Chart 1 Total dollars received by households from voluntary inter-household transfers, court-ordered alimony and child support payments, and major government transfers, 2008

The recent trend—that is, from 1998 to 2008—is that of rising numbers and percentages of households sending voluntary inter-household transfers. Table 2 shows the number of households sending voluntary inter-household transfers increasing by 51% from 3.6 million households in 1998 to 5.4 million households in 2008. The share of households sending transfers grew 10 percentage points from 31% to 41% in the same period.1

Table 2 Number and percentage of households that sent inter-household transfers, from 1998 to 2008

Although year-to-year changes are quite volatile2, total amount of inter-household transfers trended upwards from 1998 to 2008.

Chart 2 compares the total dollar percentage change in real terms relative to the base year 1998 of voluntary inter-household transfers sent, household income, and charitable donations by Canadian households, adjusted to 2008 constant dollars3. In 2008, voluntary inter-household transfers sent by Canadian households increased by 46% in real terms  compared with 1998. Over the same period, the amount of money spent by Canadian households on charitable donations rose by 32% in real terms, and their household income increased by 33%.

Chart 2 Percentage change in real terms on the amount of inter-household transfers sent, charitable donations, and household income received, 1998 to 2008


  1. Bootstrap weights for SHS have been applied for the available reference years.
  2. Tests indicate that the volatility is concentrated at the top of the distribution. The increase over the period is similar in magnitude, but smoother, when the top 1%, 5% and 10% of remitters are trimmed.
  3. Source: Statistics Canada. Table 326-0021 - Consumer Price Index (CPI), 2005 basket, annual (2002=100 unless otherwise noted), CANSIM (database). (accessed: April 6, 2010)
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