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The reality of racial discrimination underlined in new Census Data


The Census data for 2015 released yesterday reveal that there is significant discrimination in pay and employment.

The data provide some metrics on the incomes of “visible minority” persons, defined as those who are not aboriginal and are non-white or non-caucasian. This note will refer to racialized and white persons.

As we have learned from previous Censuses, there are large income gaps by racialized status, even when holding constant other important factors that shape differences in income.

The median total (or pre tax) income for all individual Canadians in 2015 was $34,205, meaning that one half had higher incomes and one half had lower incomes.

Racialized persons had a median income of $25,514, just 69.8 per cent of the median income of white persons of $36,538.

Racialized men had median incomes of just 65.9 per cent those of non-racialized men, while racialized women had median incomes that were 75.6 per cent those of non-racialized women.

Part of the wage gap by racialized status is associated with the fact that many racialized persons are younger than the population average, or are recent immigrants who were not educated in Canada and thus often have undervalued international educational credentials and work experience. However, the Census data allow us to partially control for such differences. Looking at the incomes of second generation persons age 25 to 54, born and educated in Canada, the median income for racialized persons was $44,591. This was 87.9 per cent of the median earnings of $50,729 for white persons in this age group who were also born and educated in Canada. That amounts to an annual pay gap of $6,138. The pay gap is also larger for men than it is for women.

The data also show that the racial income differences have the greatest impact on West Asians, Blacks and Chinese Canadians. For example, second generation Black persons age 25 to 54 had median incomes of $36,703, just 72.3 per cent of the median earnings of white persons in the same age category.

The Census release also provides data on low income in 2015, defined as an after tax income below two thirds of the median. The low income rate for racialized persons was 20.8 per cent compared to 12.2 per cent for white persons. The rate was even higher for West Asians (34.7 per cent), Blacks (23.9 per cent) and Chinese Canadians (23.4 per cent).

These data and further releases from Statistics Canada need to be analyzed much more closely to look at levels and trends in pay differences by racialized status. But the fact that these differences persist among second generation Canadians suggests that there is indeed significant discrimination in pay and employment.


Andrew Jackson is Adjunct Research Professor in the Institute of Political Economy at Carleton University, and senior policy adviser to the Broadbent Institute.

Photo by Olu Eletu on Unsplash