06/03/2015 04:01 EDT | Updated 06/03/2016 05:59 EDT

Household wealth survey shows assets of rich growing fastest: StatsCan

The wealthiest Canadian households saw their wealth increase by 80 per cent between 1999 and 2012, while in the poorest families wealth expanded more slowly, at 38 per cent.

That's the finding of a study of accumulated household wealth among Canadians by Statistics Canada, done using data from its Survey of Financial Security which was conducted in 1999, 2005 and 2012.

The top 20 per cent of income earners held about 47 per cent of wealth in 2012, ahead two percentage points from 1999. Their average net worth, including real estate, grew to $1.3 million.

But those in the bottom 20 per cent had fallen behind, with their share of wealth declining from five per cent in 1999 to four per cent in 2012.  Their average net worth was $109,300.

About 3.5 per cent of Canadian family units had low income and no wealth, with this group more likely to be single, immigrants or a family headed by a person under age 34.

Stuck in the middle

While the richest Canadians got richer and the poorest got poorer, those in the middle stayed almost the same in their share of Canadian wealth, with about 16 per cent of the total.

The average net worth of Canadian families rose from $319,800 in 1999 to $554,100 in 2012, a 73 per cent jump in 2012 constant dollars. 

The 13 years from 1999 to 2012 included the boom of the early 2000s, followed by the financial crisis, which reduced job prospects and made markets uneasy, but after that came a rise in the value of real estate and by 2012 a recovery in stock markets.

Half of the increase in the overall value of assets among Canadian families was due to real estate, while the other half was due to other types of assets (including employer pension plans).

The rising value of real estate assets tended to give a stronger boost to net worth among poorer families, with home value representing 73 per cent of the increase in their net worth.

The top income earners got a 44 per cent boost to their wealth from real estate, but 55 per cent from their other assets.