Wait. Canadians make more money than Americans? Yep.

David Zetland passes along some income figures via Aguanomics (re posted).  (Dan here…There are more American billionaires and millionaires, so not to worry) :

Cornelia and I were discussing household income and living standards, and I mentioned that median wages in the US were around $35,000.* She was shocked, saying that they were much higher in Canada.
Wait. Canadians make more money than Americans? Yep.

[1] USD** Median household income
50,050  USA
71,300 Canada
Household size
2.6  USA
2.5 Canada
[2] USD GDP per capita (2011 nominal)
48,400 USA
50,400 Canada
USD GDP per capita (2011 Purchasing-power-parity)
48,400 USA
40,500 Canada
[3] Gini Coefficient (CIA, 100 = most unequal)
45 USA
32 Canada
So here’s how I reconcile these numbers:

  1. Median household income is nearly 40 percent higher in Canada, even after adjusting for the number of people in the household.
  2. PPP GDP per capita is higher in the US by nearly 25 percent. This number, mind you, refers to total economic activity and cost of living, not income to individuals.
  3. These numbers are reconciled via inequality: Canada is more egalitarian (similar to Spain and Italy) than the US (similar to Bulgaria and Iran), circa 2005-2007. I reckon that inequality has recently worsened in the US.

So it seems that the income derived from economic activities in the US is skewed in distribution — with more going to rich people than the average person — compared to Canada.**

Bottom Line: Canadians are well known for their higher levels of social harmony. This harmony may be due to a fairer distribution of income, but it’s also accompanied by a higher average incomes.*** Americans are both poorer AND less equal than their neighbors.

* Average wages in 2011 are $42,000 in the US and $32,600 in Canada, but those numbers do not account for employment (66.7% and 71.5%, respectively) or the distribution of wages/capital gains. Right, Mitt?
** Gross income is not the same as income net of taxes, and total taxes are 27% of GDP in the US and 32% of GDP in Canada, but those rates ALSO do not take the distribution of the tax burden into account.
*** My definition of the American Dream — “being able to do what you want” — does not match common definitions that include upward mobility. That dream is — relative to the past and relative to other countries — more dream than reality [pdf].