Alberta living high off the hog

Many Albertans are aware that incomes tend to be higher here than in other provinces. But, according to a comprehensive measure of after-tax earnings, incomes here are not only higher, they are way ahead of all other provinces.

As of 2009 the Alberta median after-tax income for families of two or more people was the highest in the country at $77,800 per year. This is well above the Canadian average of $63,800 and compares to $69,900 in Saskatchewan, the province with the second highest family median income. In general, disposable income is higher in Western Canada and in Ontario than in Quebec and Atlantic Canada.

There are many different measures of earnings (such as average weekly wages) but when it comes to comparing overall disposable income, median after-tax family income is probably the best measure available. Unlike average weekly earnings, it includes income from sources other than wages (like investments) and takes account of taxes and government transfers like EI payments.

Alberta has led the country with the highest median after-tax income since 2004. After that, thanks to the mid 2000s economic boom, the gap in average family disposable income accelerated. This means that, as of 2009, average family incomes are a staggering 22% above the national average.

In 2008 and 2009 income growth in most provinces (including in Alberta) really cooled off. However, even though the country went through a severe recession median family income did not fall – a fairly impressive statistic that many other developed nations would not be able to boast.

Dan Sumner,

ATB Financial

Dan Sumner’s column is distributed through Troy Media.