Family Income Inequality



Further to my earlier post re Margaret Wente on Inequality

the  Ottawa Citizen ran two letters today, from Armine Yalnizyan and myself, responding to Bill Watson’s similar view that  we can’t do anything about inequality since it is driven by personal marital choices.

The Ottawa Citizen

Re: Why we need more Pretty Woman-style romances, May 15.

Any economist who refers to Pretty Woman as a guide for public policy should spend less time watching movies and more time examining the numbers.

The numbers tell us Canada’s after-tax income gap is widening. It is at a record and rising when economic conditions should be leading to its decline.

Not only are these trends unsustainable, they reflect serious economic insecurity for families at the bottom and in the middle of Canada’s income spectrum.

This should not be dismissed with a glib prescription for poor women or men to marry up or for brainy and affluent women to marry down.

For generations women have been told to marry for economic security. It wasn’t the answer then, nor is it the answer today.

For the past two decades, most Canadians’ wages have stalled or fallen despite the fact that both men and women are better educated and working more.

Mr. Watson concedes “inequality can be complex.” Elementary, my dear Watson. Indeed, far more complex than his Pretty Woman thesis would suggest.

Armine Yalnizyan,


Research associate,

Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives

© The Ottawa Citizen 2007


Growing inequality

The Ottawa Citizen

Trust columnist William Watson to latch on to a couple of lines in a Statistics Canada study to dismiss inequality as an issue which policy-makers should worry about.

True, Andrew Heisz’s conjecture that high-income, highly educated women marry high-income, highly educated men helps explain growing inequality between families. But a lot of other studies tell a different story.

The tax data show that the one in every 200 people making more than $250,000 a year now make about $1 in every $10 earned in Canada, sharply up from the income share of the very top half of one per cent or so in the early 1990s.

Senior executive pay is exploding compared with that of the average worker. Capital gains and dividends paid out of bloated corporate profits aren’t going to most ordinary working families either. In short, changing patterns of marriage are only a small part of the story behind growing class inequalities.

Andrew Jackson,


Chief economist,

Canadian Labour Congress

© The Ottawa Citizen 2007

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