Just over 16 months ago, the Occupy Wall Street movement started drawing attention to the growing gap between America’s very rich and everyone else. The movement spread to other cities, including here in Alberta. New data released yesterday by Statistics Canada for the 2010 tax year show the income gap is far from closing. Since 1982, income distribution has become less equal.
In 2010, the median before-tax income reported by the top 1 per cent of tax filers in Alberta was $277,800. It’s one thing to say these high-income earners have worked hard for their money. Most of them probably have. But what has sparked the outcry from some critics is that the gap between the very rich and everyone else has actually widened.
Back in 1982, the median income of the top 1 per cent was a little more than twice the top 10 per
cent. But by 2010, they were earning more than two-and-a-half times as much as the top 10 per
And compared to total tax filers, the top 1 per cent of income earners made about six times the average in 1982; that gap spread to nearly eight times the average by 2010.
The progressive income tax system (at least at the federal level) and other tax transfers do help ease
the size of the gap. And the gap has actually shrunk a bit since peaking in 2007. Yet there’s no
denying it: the rich truly are getting richer. *
* Todd Hirsch, Senior Economist, ATB Financial