CALGARY, March 19, 2015 /CNW/ - It is sometimes difficult to tell which group is more distressed about the purportedly deteriorating well-being of Canada's middle class: Politicians courting middle-class voters, or the Canadians who actually identify as middle class. Even more difficult to discern is whether either group truly understands precisely who it is they are worrying about. There is no firm consensus on where the upper and lower boundaries of the middle class lie, with economists and statisticians disagreeing on the income levels and brackets that should be included in the definition of middle class, and some even arguing that income itself may be an inappropriate measure.
A new report released today by The School of Public Policy and authors Philip Cross and Munir A. Sheikh, reveals that, despite all the conflicting approaches to measuring the middle class, what emerges from a review of the array of definitions and data sources is that the politicians and voters can at least partly justify their angst.
While the middle class has seen its income grow, it has not kept pace with the income growth rate of higher-earning groups. But not all members of the so-called middle class face the same plight. The workers who have lost the most ground relative to higher-income groups, are those with below-average human capital (that is, lower skill and education), and are at the lower end of the middle-income bracket.
More gains have been made by those with high levels of human capital. Public-sector professionals in particular have come to share the human-capital and income characteristics of Canada's highest-paid managers and professionals, often enjoying greater job security as well. In reality, anxiety over the state of the middle class and its future is actually about the working class. According to Cross "lumping middle-class factory workers and clerical assistants in with middle-class teachers and nurses — as current political discussion tends to do — obscures the truth about which members of that group are genuinely struggling to keep up."
As long as politicians continue to promote policies aimed at helping everyone within such a vague and broad target group, they will only end up misdirecting resources by enriching those who are already doing reasonably well, rather than focusing on those working-class Canadians who are slipping relatively speaking.
The paper can be downloaded at http://www.policyschool.ucalgary.ca/?q=research
SOURCE The School of Public Policy - University of Calgary
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