One of the earliest Upshot articles attracted a lot of attention in Canada. David Leonhardt (who has since joined Opinion and become one of the The Times’s columnists) and Kevin Quealy worked with a research group to analyze middle-class incomes around the world. Their finding: Sometime around 2010, Canada snatched from the United States the distinction of having the world’s most affluent middle class. Along with David, I spoke with Canadians about their economic hopes and disappointments.
Both sides of the border have experienced economic changes, for better and worse, since then. Canada’s unemployment rate of 5 percent is a decades-long low. But the employment outlook is not uniformly bright across the country. In Alberta, where I went to report on the provincial election earlier this month, low oil prices continue to drag down the energy industry, the province’s leading employer. And earlier this week I was in my hometown, Windsor, Ontario, where Fiat Chrysler Automobiles will eliminate a third shift at its minivan plant in September and lay off about 1,500 people.
It’s not possible to rerun the Upshot’s analysis from five years ago, largely because the research group it worked with is currently updating its Canada data. But I found another indicator suggesting that Canada’s middle class is still better off than its American counterpart.
By some measures, middle-class Canadians are better off than their American counterparts.CreditAlana Paterson for The New York Times
First, it’s important to remember that the middle class is more a way of describing people who are neither rich nor poor than a precise economic term. The Upshot found that while the phrase has been around for two centuries, it didn’t start appearing frequently in The Times until the 1960s.
Economists sometimes use median income to define the middle class. Median income is the point at which half the families in a country earn more and the other half earns less. Right now that figure is 92,700 Canadian dollars for families and 33,000 Canadian dollars for individuals.
When it compared nations, The Upshot analysis took into account taxes and other factors. In creating its annual “global wealth report,” the bank Credit Suisse also takes a broad look at people’s overall economic position in various countries, including the value of their homes.
It found that Canadians’ median wealth of $106,342 is significantly higher than the comparable figure of $61,670 for Americans. And it doesn’t stop there. Compared with the United States, Canada has a lower percentage of people with wealth below $10,000 and a higher percentage with more than $100,000.
(In case you’re wondering, 1,595 Canadians are part of the world’s top one percent of wealth holders, according to Credit Suisse’s calculations.)
Politicians, particularly Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, can’t resist the opportunity to present themselves as champions of the middle class. That’s probably because most Canadians, regardless of their actual income level, have historically viewed themselves as middle class.
There are signs that may be changing, including the rise of contract work rather than full- time employment. And soaring housing costs in places like Vancouver and Toronto may be increasing feelings of economic insecurity.
A poll by Ekos Research for The Canadian Press news agency conducted in late 2017 found that 47 percent of respondents defined themselves as middle class. That’s a big drop from 2002 when about 70 percent of people identified that way.
Class is as much a state of mind as it is an accurate reflection of income or wealth. That’s why politicians as disparate as Mr. Trudeau, a Liberal, and Doug Ford, Ontario’s Conservative premier, can both claim to be fighting for middle-class voters. It’s also why the phrase will be unavoidable during the six months leading up to this year’s federal vote.
—Canada’s privacy commissioner said that Facebook thumbed its corporate nose at him after his office found that the company had illegally compromised the privacy of more than 600,000 Canadians. He’s now taking the social media giant to court.
—President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines has marked hundreds of tons of garbage from Canada with return to sender.
—A Canadian doctor who lectures at the University of Toronto is using iPhones to bring medical imaging to remote parts of Africa.
—In Opinion, a psychology student, Rob Henderson, tells how seeing a YouTube video of Jordan Peterson, the University of Toronto professor whose views many find offensive, changed his life.
—In June, DNA evidence from genealogical sites will be prominent at the trial of a man accused of killing a couple from British Columbia nearly 32 years ago.
—One thing is certain following the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs: no Canadian team will emerge as the champion.
—It seemed impossible, but a woman in Calgary had no vitamin D in her blood, nor the protein needed for her circulatory system to capture it. “That shouldn’t work,” a researcher said. “That person should not be alive.”
Around The Times
—Even Huawei, the Chinese telecommunications giant whose chief financial officer remains under house arrest in Vancouver, has trouble when it comes to explaining who owns the company.
—Finland’s biggest craze and latest export is hobby horse riding. Really.
—A project funded by Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, and his wife, Priscilla Chan, a pediatrician, brought online learning to underfunded schools in Kansas. It has not been well received.
—President Trump’s tariffs on washing machines have generated $82 million for the United States Treasury but cost consumers $1.5 billion. They also created 1,800 jobs at a cost of $817,000 each.
—Sarah Lyall profiled the author and historian Jan Morris, 92: “Having reached her age and lived for equal amounts of time as a man and as a woman,” Ms. Lyall writes of her subject, “she says, the transition she made so long ago somehow feels less relevant.”