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Canadian income gap widening faster than in US: Conference Board

Income inequality in Canada has been rising since the mid-1990s, the Conference Board of Canada says. And the gap is growing faster here than in the US.

In a news release, the Conference Board's President and CEO Anne Golden said:

"Canada had the fourth largest increase in income inequality among its peers. Even though the U.S. currently has the largest rich-poor income gap among these countries, the gap in Canada has been rising at a faster rate.

"As we highlighted in our analysis of Canadian income inequality in July, high inequality both raises a moral question about fairness and can contribute to social tensions. In Canada, the gap between the rich and poor has widened over two decades, especially compared to our peer countries."

The release noted that the "Gini index," a widely used measure of inequality grew in Canada from 0.293 in the mid-1990s to 0.320 in the late 2000s. A Gini index under 3 is an indicator of low income inequality. Meanwhile, the US Gini index rose from 0.361 to 0.378 in the same period.

Observers such as Linda McQuaig and Richard Wilkinson associate income inequality with social unrest, higher stress levels, ill health, and shorter life expectancy.

Meanwhile, the US Census today released data showing that in 2010 the median household income declined 2.3 per cent from 2009. The poverty rate rose for the third consecutive year and is now at 15.1 per cent. In a news release, the US Census said: "There were 46.2 million people in poverty in 2010, up from 43.6 million in 2009 ─ the fourth consecutive annual increase and the largest number in the 52 years for which poverty estimates have been published."

The number of Americans without health insurance rose from 49.0 million in 2009 to 49.9 million in 2010.

In related news, a report in the Canadian Medical Association Journal finds that in seven North American cities including Vancouver, Ottawa and Toronto, low socioeconomic status is associated with higher incidence of sudden cardiac arrest.

Crawford Kilian is a contributing editor of The Tyee.

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