Most Canadians Are Now Better Off Than Most Americans
Middle-class people in the U.S. are losing ground to their peers in other rich countries.
A report released this summer by the Centre for the Study of Living Standards, an Ottawa nonprofit, contends that as of 2016 Canada had in fact pulled ahead of the U.S. in median household income, with a $59,438 to $58,849 advantage in U.S. dollars if (and this is a reasonably big if) you use the Canadian government statistical agency’s formula for converting Canadian dollars into U.S. ones. The study also compares incomes in every percentile of the income distribution, and finds that up through the 56th percentile Canadians are better off than their U.S. counterparts.
Finally, and this is of course totally anecdotal, but I think most Americans who have visited Canada lately would attest that it feels like a more broadly affluent place than the U.S. does. That is, the claim that most Canadians are more prosperous than most Americans is not patently unreasonable.
It’s not just in Canada that those in the middle of the income distribution have been gaining on their American peers. From 1990 through 2018, according to the World Bank, per-capita real gross domestic product grew at the same 1.5% annual rate in the U.S., the European Union and the OECD, which counts 36 affluent democracies on five continents as members. 1 In other words, the rough-and-tough U.S. approach to capitalism hasn’t delivered faster per-capita growth, and because growth in the U.S. has been concentrated at the very top of the income distribution, that means Americans in the middle and the bottom have been losing ground to their counterparts in other countries.