• MennoMelange
  • Thursday, March 01, 2007

    The Rich and the Rest of Us

    It is all in the title folks. It is a recent report from the Canadian Center for Policy Alternatives... it paints a stark picture. Because it wants to paint a stark picture, not necessarily because reality is stark. The title plays on envy. It paints the 'Us' as outside the classification of rich. Because even the rich are envious of those richer than themselves.
    Check out an article about it in the KW Record.

    Things I noticed after reading the report:
    1. Focused totally on families. A direct quote from the report is
    "Almost half of Canadians (46.3%) live in households that are raising children under the age of 18.1 They represent a big chunk of Canadian society."
    Big chunk? If you want us to take your report seriously, talk about all Canadians, not just a big chunk of them. And the bad thing is, the family only caveat isnt part of the headlines. They know this. It just gets reported as 'Rich vs Poor'. The Record article actually points this out and says
    "Jim Davies, economics professor at the University of Western Ontario, said he finds the study's results puzzling since the income gap has narrowed in the last decade when you look at all Canadian households, not just families."
    2. The next thing to skew the results: only considering family income, not individual income. How many of the top 10% income earning families (that is, the rich) are two income households. Yeah, thought so. While this does nothing to help the bottom 10%, it does hit the middle class where families are more likely to have the choice to earn two incomes or not. And while they may be able to earn 20-30k more (and jump into the next decile) paying for daycare would mean very little extra money for them. They could make more, but their standard of living is exactly the same.

    3. Data was custom compiled by Statistics Canada. nuff said.

    4. Quote from the report:
    Families with children under 18 have consistently displayed the most stable and least unequal distribution of incomes over time among all Canadian households.
    Does that wash with Jim Davies' quote? What about other factors such as the changing household? More single parent families. More dual income families. These factors push both ends of the scale further apart.

    5. Looking at the graphs in the report, the income bars are linear up to (but not including) the 10th decile. This suggests to me a fairly even distribution of income over the population save for the very rich. By discussing just the gap between rich and poor, and that it is widening, we start to expect a double hump type distribution, but that doesn't seem to be happening.

    6. At the bottom end, (which is what we ought to be ultimately concerned with, right?) by discussing income, we see that more often than not, the bottom decile has an income of zero. (must be median not average, I guess... or maybe rounded.) The income change over the 76-04 time line is a stark -80%. But the after tax, after social assistance etc. number is +8%. Seems they are better off now than before. Hunh. Not what the headlines lead you to believe eh?

    Lastly, I'll bring it back to the title. Playing on the envy of the rich. Or for the rich, playing on the envy of the super rich. People who are making more than me ought to do something to help the poor. A telling part of the record article is this quote from a woman who's family makes just over the average salary, which is in the 6th decile:
    "I see the rich are getting richer," she said. "But we're not getting to where we're supposed to be."
    Envy and greed my friends. We can't all be better than average.


    At 10:40 AM, Blogger Kirk Schmidt said...

    And who uses 'big chunk' in a professional article? That's a blog term, not a professional statistical term. It conveys to me that they didn't look at how big a chunk it is, and only assumed that it is "a big chunk"

    Why not say, it represented x% of incomes? Why - because that would require you to know what x% is...

    At 12:22 PM, Blogger bitz said...

    They package that statement with a statistic, 46%. I think what was originally there was some mis-informed person writing that a majority of Canadians live in family homes... and so on and so on... and then draw (poor) conclusions about all of Canadian society. And that changed to this big chunk quote late in the revision process, and hope we infer that this informs society as a whole.


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