Alberta’s two largest cities have enjoyed a healthy rivalry in many ways over the years, but in at least one area— average family income—Cowtown has enjoyed a slight advantage. However, over the last decade Oiltown has been catching up.
Median family income (before taxes) in Calgary was $89,490 in 2010. That is up from $60,800 ten years ago and second only behind Ottawa-Gatineau in the country among major cities. Edmonton, hot on Calgary’s heels, ranked number three in the country with median family income of $87,930. Both Edmonton and Calgary far outpaced the national median family income of $69,860.
The peak year for family incomes in both cities was in 2008, just prior to the economic downturn. Paycheques bulged that year due to extremely low unemployment, plenty of overtime hours paid and in some cases, large annual bonus cheques.
While Calgarians may be tempted to feel a bit smug about their higher median, there are some qualifications. Living expenses—particularly home prices—are generally higher in Calgary (although
residential property taxes are slightly lower).
Other costs such as downtown parking and gasoline prices tend to be higher in Calgary, reflecting what the market will bear for these goods and services.
But the gap between our two cities is narrowing. In 2000, median incomes in Calgary were 7.8 per cent higher; by 2010, they were only 1.8 per cent higher. And in case anyone in Calgary is feeling superior, consider Wood Buffalo, where median family income
tops the scale at $169,790.*
*Todd Hirsch, Senior Economist, ATB Financial