A truffle rooted out from the heap of… bad news

There was one more bit from one of this morning’s stories that I thought was an interesting development, and deserved its own post:

The proportion of women among the ranks of Canada’s wealthy elite has almost doubled over the past 30 years, new data released by Statistics Canada Monday shows. The data agency published its analysis of the richest one per cent of Canadian tax filers between the years 1982 and 2010 on Monday. From the total number of all Canadian tax filers, Statistics Canada narrowed its list down to 254,700 people at the top, who make up Canada’s “one per cent.”

Among numerous findings, the proportion of women in that group nearly doubled over the time period, from 11 per cent in 1982, to 21 per cent by 2010. That’s 53,200 individuals. The women in that group were slightly less likely to be married or partnered than the men were. Some 68 per cent of women were married or in a common law relationship, compared with 87 per cent of men.

So the sort of ‘broad brush’ good news aspect is that there’s something in the Canadian economy that makes the elite-level wealth professions not quite as gendered, or at least less gendered than it was in 1982. Whatever structural adjustments that have been at the levels of education and training, and more than likely an accompanying cultural shift in attitudes toward women, has resulted in the closure of a gender gap in this particular echelon. This news fits well with shifts we’re seeing in political representation at the highest levels of government. So while we’re not seeing proportional gender representation in all walks of life, we’re at least seeing things moving in that direction.


The other thing I think is fascinating is the fact that these women were less likely to be married than men with similar incomes. I’m sure this will frustrate the living shit out of a host of MRAs who believe that women, unable to get rich on their own, latch on to unwary and upwardly-mobile husbands and leech money off of them through various exploitative means. At least in Canada, it appears that women make it to ‘the top’ on their own steam – at least insofar as that is true for rich male Canadians (or perhaps more true – a 19% gap is likely statistically significant with an n of more than 53,200).

What I am interested in seeing is whether or not this is the first evidence of a ‘cohort effect’, whereby women who were highly qualified but who faced structural barriers early in their careers were able to skyrocket upward when those barriers were removed. If that’s the case, then we’re seeing the effect of reforms that happened many years ago, and can expect the trend to rise (perhaps even past 50%). If we are instead seeing an ‘ecological effect’, whereby women are able to ‘make it’ in a small number of fields that were relatively immune to (or otherwise affected by) recent economic instability. If that’s the case, then this ‘doubling’ is not necessarily the result of a steady positive trend, but a ‘one-off’ statistical artifact that will disappear when the economy moves out of recession.

I am also quite interested to see how this group breaks down by occupation, age, and race or ethnicity. There are some young people with remarkably high incomes working in the oil industry, which is more volatile than, say, being a multinational CEO or something. Also, the income cutoff of $201,000 would include most medical specialists in the country, which is quite a different ball of wax than the image of a mega-rich elite of investment bankers (and has profoundly different implications when it comes to legislating income inequality). Finally, it would be worthwhile to examine the relative ease of immigrants from various groups (including people whose parents are immigrants) in breaking into the top earners.

This, incidentally, is the stuff I geek out to in my spare time.

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  1. anon1152 says

    “Also, the income cutoff of $201,000 would include most medical specialists in the country, which is quite a different ball of wax than the image of a mega-rich elite of investment bankers …”


    I’d like to see similar stats for the 0.1% and the 0.01%. I suspect that the number of men in those categories is much greater.

    But you are right. This is good news.

  2. Holms says

    This, incidentally, is the stuff I geek out to in my spare time.

    I… I just…

    There are no words.

  3. MrPopularSentiment says

    Regarding fewer of the women being married than men, I’d call that worrisome. It tells me that even if women are now able to be more competitive in their careers, it’s still very much seen as a choice between career and partnership/family – to an extent that it isn’t for men.

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