The middle class
By Chad Ingram
Published Nov. 2, 2017
It’s a buzz term favoured by politicians of the moment – middle class.
It was used frequently by both Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the guy who was elected president of the United States during the most recent elections in Canada and the U.S.
It’s been much-used during the past couple weeks, with the Liberal government backing away from a series of unpopular tax proposals and attempting to stifle the controversy surrounding the country’s finance minister.
Everyone, it seems, is out to help the middle class.
But who is the middle class? What does that mean?
Most view class as related to income. Trudeau has given the figure of household income of $90,000 a year or thereabouts as definitive of the middle class. The 2016 census shows the median Canadian income is about $34,200 – meaning half of Canadians earn less and half of Canadians earn more. It shows the median household income figure to be just over $70,000.
The top 10 per cent of earners are those making more than $93,340 annually, the top five per cent more than $120,220 and the top one per cent more than $234,129.
According to Statistics Canada, an individual with an after-tax income of less than $22,133 is considered low-income, the same for a family of four with an after-tax income less than $44,266.
I point all of this out because, regardless of our incomes, the majority of us consider ourselves to be middle class.
A poll by Maclean’s earlier this year showed that 70-something per cent of Canadians see themselves as middle class. Figures varied from by province, from 68 per cent in Ontario to 79 per cent in the Maritimes.
Of course, salaries in Ontario are generally higher than they are in the Maritimes, which begs the question of whether the definition of middle class is tied to income as much as it is to one’s standard of living.
Let’s say my pre-tax income is $50,000 a year. Am I middle class? In Haliburton County, that’s likely enough for me to afford a house and a car, hallmarks of the traditional idea of the middle class. If I live in Toronto on the same salary, it’s likely enough for me to rent a small apartment and buy a TTC pass.
But income doesn’t always tell the full story. It doesn’t always represent total wealth. Let’s say I make $50,000 a year, but come from a wealthy family that helps me out pretty regularly. Am I middle class?
The point is that whether a Canadian makes $40,000 a year or $140,000, there is a good chance that person considers himself or herself part of the country’s middle class. The middle class is more of an ideal, a concept, than it is an actual category of people. Yet it’s a category that most of us put ourselves in.
And that makes it a great political catch-all. When a politician says “middle class,” most of us think that politician is talking about us.
What about you? Are you middle class?