Alberta saw largest decline in household income

Between 2015 and 2020, Alberta was one of only two provinces that saw both total income and after-tax income decrease for their average households.

Statistics Canada recently released income data from the 2021 federal census. I thought I’d take a look at how Alberta households fared compared to the other provinces.

First, let’s look at total household income.

20152020Change% change

According to this data, total household income increased the most in Ontario, where the average household saw their total income increase by $11,000 between 2015 and 2020. That’s an increase of 13.75%.

Ontario was followed by BC ($9,500 or 12.58%) and Québec ($8,000 or 12.40%).

Alberta came in dead last, as one of only two provinces that actually saw total income drop during that same period. The average household in Alberta saw their total income decline by $6,000, or 5.88%. They were followed by Newfoundland and Labrador, where the average household lost $1,500 a year from their total income.

Keep in mind, that these amounts have all been adjusted for inflation.

Next is after-tax income.

20152020Change% change

Once again, Alberta is in last place, with the average household bringing home $4,000 less in 2020 than they did 5 years before, a loss of 4.6%.

Newfoundland and Labrador was in second last place, again, but with an after-tax loss of only $800.

Ontario switched spots with BC, who led the provinces with an after-tax income increase of $9,500, or 14.29%, for the average household.

Here’s how things break down for each income group. The following table shows the number of individuals in each group, rather than the number of households.

20152020Change% change
Under $5,000 (incl. loss)213,995154,580-59,415-27.76%
$5,000 to $9,999148,845116,685-32,160-21.61%
$10,000 to $14,999159,425135,570-23,855-14.96%
$15,000 to $19,999169,945171,8201,8751.10%
$20,000 to $24,999213,255255,18541,93019.66%
$25,000 to $29,999161,670227,99066,32041.02%
$30,000 to $34,999147,725198,70550,98034.51%
$35,000 to $39,999140,400185,41045,01032.06%
$40,000 to $44,999137,980173,15535,17525.49%
$45,000 to $49,999134,415158,96524,55018.26%
$50,000 to $54,999127,410145,82018,41014.45%
$55,000 to $59,999118,405132,14013,73511.60%
$60,000 to $69,999209,460232,84023,38011.16%
$70,000 to $79,999172,700187,30514,6058.46%
$80,000 to $89,999141,475146,9205,4453.85%
$90,000 to $99,999115,575124,5208,9457.74%
$100,000 and over540,790465,890-74,900-13.85%

The income group that saw the largest increase was those making between $25,000 a year and $30,000 a year. If that income was made working 40 hours a week, it’d work out to between $12.02 and $14.42 an hour, which is less than minimum wage.

The next largest increase was in the next highest income group: $30,000 and $35,000. In 2020, there were nearly 51,000 more people in this income group than there were 5 years previously, an increase of 34.51%. That works out to between $14.42 and $16.83 an hour at full-time hours.

The only income groups that saw fewer people making that amount were the 3 lowest groups (all under $15,000) and those making over $100,000.

Let’s consolidate them a bit more.

20152020Change% change
Under $20,000692,210578,655-113,555-16.40%
$100,000 and up215,865173,935-41,930-19.42%

We see that the largest increase (just shy of 30%) was among those making between $20,000 and $40,000 a year, which works out to between $9.62 and $19.23 an hour, if they worked 40 hours a week every week of the year.

Over 200,000 more people joined that income group, which accounted for 58.3% of all growth among income groups that saw increases.

The next largest was $40,000 to $60,000, which saw 13.27% more people in that group.

And here’s how each income group fares as a percentage of the total number of people in all income groups.

Under $20,00019.26%15.73%
$100,000 and up15.05%12.66%

All income groups made up a larger percentage of total income earners in 2020, compared to 2015, other than those who made under $20,000 and those who made over $100,000.

The largest increase was those making between $20,000 and $40,000. In 2015, they accounted for 18.45% of all income earners, but 5 years later, they accounted for 23.57%.

Next, let’s look at inequality.

Statistics Canada published data on the Gini index, which is measure of statistical dispersion used to represent income inequality. The index ranges from 0 (maximum income equality) and 1 (maximum income inequality. The lower the number, the less income inequality there is.


Alberta ended up with the second highest income inequality among all 10 provinces. On the plus side, we had the highest income inequality in 2015, so we’re improving!

Plus, in 2015, Alberta was 0.025 points higher than the national average of 0.387, but 5 years later, we’re only 0.003 higher than the national average.

Also, while every province saw an improvement in their Gini index rating, Alberta’s improvement was the most pronounced, having dropped 0.062 points. The next largest drop was seen in the other two Prairie provinces, which each saw a drop of 0.038 points.

Yet, even after having the most improved Gini index score, Alberta still ended up with the second worst score in the country.

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By Kim Siever

Kim Siever is an independent journalist based in Lethbridge, Alberta. He writes daily news stories, focusing on politics and labour.

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