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mast-head for "Perspectives on Labour and Income"
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March 2001     Vol. 2, no. 3

Experiencing low income for several years

René Morissette and Xuelin Zhang

  • Between 1993 and 1998, some 13% of all individuals lived in families with low income. For these persons, family income was 31% to 38% below the low income cutoff.
  • About 8% of Canadians lived in families experiencing low income for four years or more between 1993 and 1998. Only 3% experienced low income for all six years and some 76% lived in families with no experience of low income during the period.
  • Some 29% of children under six experienced low income for at least one year; about 12% lived in families that had low income for four years or more. Conversely, only 6% of people 65 and over had low income for four years or more between 1993 and 1998.
  • Between 1993 and 1998, fully 38% of people living in families headed by a lone parent experienced low income for four years or more, compared with 23% of unattached individuals.
  • Of all those who started a spell of low income in one year, 50% to 60% no longer had low income the following year. On the other hand, some spells of low income last a long time: of all Canadians falling into low income in 1994, some 30% remained for three years or more.


René Morissette and Xuelin Zhang are with the Business and Labour Market Analysis Division. They can be reached at (613) 951-3608 or, or (613) 951-4295 or, respectively.

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