Household debt in Canada

By Raj K. Chawla and Sharanjit Uppal

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In 2009, two-thirds of households had outstanding debt that averaged $114,400.

The incidence and amount of debt was higher in certain groups: younger homeowners, young families with children, the better-educated, and those with high household incomes. Over 60% of household debt was held by those under 45 years of age, and nearly one-half was held by couples with children.

Household debt was more unequally distributed in populations that are considered more economically vulnerable, such as the less-educated, unattached individuals and renters. Conversely, debt was more equally distributed among the better-educated, couples with children, people with higher household incomes and mortgagees.

Debt was higher in some regions—particularly in areas with higher housing costs. Households in British Columbia, Alberta and or Ontario owed, on average, between $124,700 and $157,700, compared to the national average of $114,400.

Those who were more likely to correctly answer questions related to financial knowledge and had higher levels of self-assessed financial knowledge were also more likely to have higher levels of debt, even when other characteristics such as income, age and education were taken into account.

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