In Search of the Middle Class: Class Identity and Financial Stability in Canada

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July 9, 2019 – In the 5th and latest wave of In Search of the Middle Class: Class Identity and Financial Stability among Canadians, Pollara has found that most Canadians feel Middle Class, but that they don’t feel financially secure.

Most Canadians continue to identify as “Middle Class” on a “gut” level, but just four-in-ten feel this way when considering their place in a 4-class hierarchy. Thus, political appeals to this class identity are most effective when general and superficial. 

And, what is the state of Canadians’ personal financial situation? Overall, it appears that salaries and wages are not keeping up with a fairly positive job situation and the cost of living. Indeed, the public’s cash flow appears very tight. Just 8% feel financially secure and only 31% say they are getting ahead with some savings, whereas a majority (61%) say they are just getting by with no savings (46%) or falling behind on their monthly expenses (15%). About half say that their financial situation (50%; +6) and quality of life (47%; +9) have declined, and that they are having trouble making ends meet (49%). Notably, two-thirds of Canadians feel their income has not kept pace with their cost of living, although fewer feel this way than last year (67%; -11 since 2018).

And, if there was suddenly no household income, 37% of Canadians feel their household could survive just 1 month before they would run out of the money required to pay for necessities and bills. This figure climbs to almost half (46%) after 2 months without any income. 

There are some bright spots in the study. As alluded to above, most Canadians report high levels of job stability, as just 12% report a household job loss in the past 12 months and only 14% feel that a household job loss is somewhat or very likely to happen in the next 12 months. There are also caveats. Although job stability is quite high, income is not stable for all Canadians – a quarter (26%) have experienced income variability in the past 12 months.

Finally, the study found further illustration of Canadians’ tight cash flow. To learn more about Canadian views on class identity and their personal finances – including their financial planning, saving, spending, and borrowing patterns – please read our report

For additional analysis of the political implications of these sentiments, please see the Maclean’s article about this study.

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