A generation ago, it was a given that a growing economy meant people were better off than they used to be.
In a poll taken in April, 1989, nearly three-quarters (74 per cent) of Canadians believed they were better off than their parents were at the same age.
Today, that assumption no longer exists. Although Canada’s economy has more than tripled in size since 1989, little more than two in 10 Canadians (22 per cent) now say they are better off than their parents, according to a study from pollster Ipsos, released Thursday.
“Over 27 years there has been a sharp and steady increase in the proportion of Canadians [who] believe they are in worse financial shape than their parents were at the same stage in life,” Ipsos said in the study, carried out for Global News.
Older Canadians, those aged 55 and up, are the most likely to say they’re better off than their parents. But even in this group, only 37 per cent say they’re better off, while almost the same number — 36 per cent — say they’re worse off.
Only 13 per cent of the 18-34 crowd and 14 per cent of the 35-54 crowd say they’re better off than their parents.
Thirty-six per cent of respondents say it has gotten harder to make ends meet in the past five years. That may have something to do with the rising cost of some of the largest outlays people tend to face.
House prices have been rising relentlessly in some markets. Though low interest rates have helped soften the bite of those prices, recent data suggests affordability is eroding.
According to the Toronto Real Estate Board, home affordability in Canada’s largest city is the worst it has been in more than two decades.
Home affordability in Toronto has eroded to the worst level seen since the early 1990s. (Toronto Real Estate Board)
Education costs are also adding pressure to household finances. Tuition fees have tripled over the past 20 years, to the point Canadian fees are estimated to be among the world’s highest. And projections from recent years suggest there will be more tuition hikes in the years ahead.
On top of that, the Canadian dollar has been falling for several years, this week breaking below 70 cents U.S. for the first time in 12 years. That has led to sharp increases in the costs of some staples, like fruit and vegetables, and will eventually pass through to the costs of all imported items in Canada.
Albertans are the most likely to say they are better off than their parents were at the same age, with 29 per cent saying they’re better off, and 35 per cent saying they’re worse off.
Quebecers are the least likely to say they’re better off (14 per cent), with 43 per cent saying they’re worse off.
British Columbians are the most likely to say they’re worse off, with nearly half (47 per cent) expressing that sentiment. Twenty-seven per cent feel they’re better off.
Ontarians are the second-most likely to say they’re worse off — 45 per cent, compared to 22 per cent who say they’re better off.
The poll sampled 1,007 Canadians between Jan. 4 and Jan.7, 2016. It has a margin of error of +/- 3.5 per cent, 19 times out of 20.