Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics Profile Series

    Household Income and Victimization in Canada, 2004

    Canadians living in low-income households more likely to be 55 or older, unattached, recent immigrants, visible minorities and outside the paid workforce

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    In 2004, about 4% of Canadians or approximately 1.1 million people lived in households with annual earnings below $15,000, according to the GSS (see Text box 1). While individuals living in low-income households differed in their range of personal and household characteristics, some characteristics were more prevalent among low-income households (Table 1).

    Table 1
    Selected personal characteristics of respondents who declared their household income on the General Social Survey, Canada, 2004

    For example, compared to individuals with household incomes of $60,000 or higher, Canadians living in low-income households had a greater tendency to be aged 55 or older, and were more often unattached (i.e., single, separated, divorced or widowed). Those living in low-income households were more often recent immigrants,1 visible minorities, retired individuals, homemakers, students and those looking for paid work.

    The majority of Canadians with low-incomes occupied one-member households, lived in apartments and rented as opposed to owned.

    While these characteristics may be related to household income, as previous research suggests, they may also be associated with an individual's risk of criminal victimization. For example, Gannon and Mihorean (2005) identified low-income, in addition to other factors such as being young, single and unemployed, a resident of a rural area as well as frequent participation in evening activities, as increasing one's risk of violent victimization. The chances of experiencing a violation against one's household property are also related to income, along with other factors such as home ownership, length of residency in one's home, urban versus rural location, household size and the type of dwelling in which one lives (Gannon and Mihorean, 2005).2

    Text box 1
    Household income and the General Social Survey (GSS)

    While the 2004 General Social Survey (GSS) collected information on both the personal and household incomes of its respondents, this study examines the relationship between household income and victimization. The impact of personal income on victimization was examined, and it was determined that it was not significantly related to the risk criminal victimization. It may be that household income, rather than personal income, is a better indicator of one's actual living conditions and socio-economic circumstances (i.e., their access to resources, wealth, status and social advantages) (Headey, 2008; Brady, 2003). Whatever their personal income, individuals who share a household may draw on the resources of other household members to overcome financial burdens and avoid hardships (Bauman, 1999).

    Respondents to the 2004 GSS were asked a series of questions about their total household income, before deductions, from all sources during the past 12 months. From this set of questions, several income groups were derived. The lowest income group (i.e., under $15,000) was used as a proxy for low-income households and represented about 4% of Canadians. The highest income group (i.e., $60,000 or more), constituting about 36% of Canadians, was used as a proxy for high income households. However, these income groupings do not take into account the number of people in the household or place of residence, the two primary factors used in calculating Statistics Canada's Low Income Cut-off.3 As a result, caution should be used when interpreting the results.

    The GSS and Statistics Canada's Low Income Cut-offs do show similarities, however, in the factors associated with low incomes. For example, data from the GSS suggest women, unattached individuals and those in lone-parent families are all more likely than their counterparts to live in low-income household.


    1. Recent immigrants refer to those who had arrived in Canada during the five years preceding the 2004 GSS.

    2. For the most part, this profile examines household income as a single factor relating to the risk of victimization and perceptions of safety and the criminal justice system. Therefore, it is important to keep in mind that household income is but one of several factors (i.e., such as age, sex, immigrant status and visible minority status), many of which may be interrelated, impacting one's chances of becoming the target of crime or how one perceives crime, safety and the justice system. For more information on these additional factors, please refer to the other profiles in this series.

    3. Statistics Canada's Low Income Cut-off represents the after-tax income threshold, below which families or individuals will spend a larger than average share of their income on the necessities of food, shelter and clothing.

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