Revising Statistics Canada's Low Income Measure (LIM)

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by Brian Murphy, Xuelin Zhang, Claude Dionne


Statistics Canada introduced its Low Income Measure (LIM) in 1991 as a compliment to its Low Income Cut-Offs (LICOs). The Low Income Measure (LIM) is a dollar threshold that delineates low-income in relation to the median income and different versions of this measure are in wide use internationally. Over the intervening 25 years there have been a number of useful methodological and conceptual developments in the area of low income measurement. To make the Canadian LIM methodology consistent with international norms and practices, a revision of the Statistics Canada LIM methodology appears desirable.

This paper describes three modifications to the LIM that Statistics Canada plans to introduce in 2010: replacing the economic family by household; replacing the current LIM equivalence scale by the square root of household size; and taking household size into consideration in determining the low-income thresholds. The paper explains the rationale behind each modification and demonstrates the impacts the revisions will have on low-income statistics in comparison with those under the existing LIM. Overall, the revisions do not have any significant effect on broad historic trends in low-income statistics in Canada. However, compared to the existing LIM the revised LIM produces lower estimates of low-income incidence for certain groups of individuals such as unattached non-elderly individuals.
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