A majority of Canadians consider themselves less wealthy than the average Canadian, with many in the highest income categories feeling less wealthy than the average.

May 23, 2024

Cost of living has been on everyone’s mind in recent months, which inspired us to dig deeper to investigate how Canadians see their financial situation compared to others, and what factors influence their views.

Results show that a majority (61%) perceive themselves as being less wealthy than the average Canadian, while a small minority – just 14 percent – believe that are wealthier. As may be expected when examining results by household income (HHI), there is a clear pattern in that the perception of being less wealthy than the average Canadian decreases as household income increases. However, a surprising number of households with incomes above the national median (HHI of $84,0001) believe they are less wealthy than the average. Indeed, over one-third (36%) of Canadians in the $100,000+ HHI category perceive themselves to be less wealthy than their fellow Canadians. Further, only three in ten Canadians (31%) in this upper HHI group acknowledge that they are wealthier than other Canadians on average, despite the fact that all in this income bracket are, in fact, wealthier than the average.

While these findings are clearly not congruent with the reality of the wealth distribution within Canada, other studies, including a poll conducted by Mclean’s from 2017, support that the majority of Canadians (~70%) believe themselves to be “middle class.”2 What is unique to the results of this study is that the majority tends to believe they are less well-off than average, pointing to the inflationary environment having taken a toll on all Canadians, shifting their perception of wealth. Indeed, our results show that regardless of wealth, nearly all Canadians consider grocery prices before making a purchase (92%).  

In terms of positive statements related to wealth, three-quarters own their car (74%), while one-half each own their home (51%), travel at least annually for vacation (50%), and eat out at least once a week (48%). While four in ten (42%) Canadians do not have any debt, the other factors examined – maxing out investment accounts (24%), owning other property (17%), and purchasing luxury items (12%) – apply to one-quarter of Canadians or less. Results show many Canadians are living for today, particularly the youngest cohort, who is twice as likely as Canadians overall to purchase luxury items, and 1.5 x more likely to eat out regularly.

Travelling for vacation at least once a year, eating out at least once a week, maxing out investment accounts, owning property that is not one’s primary residence, and purchasing luxury items as often as desired all have a clear relationship with perceived wealth. That is, those who perceive themselves as wealthier than the average Canadian are more likely to indicate that these statements apply to them, followed by those who consider themselves equally wealthy, and more distantly by those who believe themselves to be less wealthy

Interestingly, other factors such as owning a car, owning a home and debt are less closely linked to perceptions of wealth. Further, those considering themselves wealthier are as likely to state that they own a car/home and/or do not have debt as compared to those Canadians who consider themselves equally wealthy. It should be noted that those who consider themselves less wealthy are less likely to own their car or home, and more likely to have debt.

Perhaps most strikingly is the notion that Canadians in all perceived wealth groups are equally likely to indicate they look at the price of groceries before adding them to their cart. This finding, combined with the notion that this habit is near universal, aligns with the recent media attention grocery prices have been given across the country, and articulates that it is not a wealth-dependent concern.

Results are from an online survey conducted in partnership between Narrative Research and the Logit Group. The survey was conducted between April 9 and 12, 2024 with 1,230 Canadians, 18 years of age or older from the Logit Group’s online Canadian Omnibus. Data were weighted based on the 2016 Census, by gender, age, and region to reflect actual population distribution, and data tables are available upon request. 

For more information, please contact:

Margaret Chapman, COO & Partner, Narrative Research – 902.493.3834, mchapman@narrativeresearch.ca

Narrative Research (www.narrativeresearch.ca), is a non-partisan, 100% Canadian-owned, research company, certified as a Women Business Enterprise (WBE). Narrative Research provides clients with state-of-the-art research and strategic consulting services. 

Data tables are available upon request. 

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