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November 2002     Vol. 3, no. 11

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Cumulative earnings among young workers

René Morissette

  • Between 1988 and 1999, Canadian-born men aged 26 to 35 in 1999 cumulated $246,500 in wages and salaries (in 1999 dollars), fully $40,000 less then their counterparts between 1973 and 1984. Young immigrant men fared worse. Their cumulative wages and salaries fell by more than $75,000 between the 1973 to 1984 and 1988 to 1999 periods.
  • Canadian-born women of the same age amassed $172,000 between 1988 and 1999, $20,000 more than between 1973 and 1984. Cumulative wages and salaries of young immigrant women remained virtually unchanged at $176,000.
  • The decline in cumulative earnings (wages and salaries plus self-employment earnings) of young men is likely the major factor underlying the decline in median wealth of young families. Median wealth of young Canadian-born and immigrant families (aged 26 to 35) fell by $8,000 and $23,000, respectively. The substantial decline in cumulative earnings of young immigrants was associated with a decline in homeownership among these families.
  • Student debt played only a minor role. Between 1982 and 1995, the average amount owed at graduation by male bachelor's graduates increased by about $4,000 (in 1999 dollars). This is less than one-tenth the decline in cumulative earnings of young Canadian-born men between the 1973 to 1984 and 1988 to 1999 periods.


René Morissette is with the Business and Labour Market Analysis Division. He can be reached at (613) 951-3608 or

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