On Wednesday evening, September 17th, I will be at the University of Toronto as one of the panelists participating in the Keith Davey Forum on Public Affairs to discuss “The prospects for this generation in an unequal world”. Here are two facts that I think are important for understanding the economic prospects of the young, and the public policy concerns that arise.
It is a particular honour to have my paper, “Income Inequality, Equality of Opportunity, and Intergenerational Mobility,” chosen for the 2014 Doug Purvis Memorial Prize. The prize is awarded annually by the Canadian Economics Association “to the authors of a highly significant, written contribution to Canadian economic policy.”
That is certainly honour enough, but I’m particularly grateful for another reason.
“Employment is up by one million since the recession ended.”
A statement like this may indeed be a big talking point when Statistics Canada releases the results of its monthly Labour Force Survey on Friday.
While a million more people at work sounds like a lot, the Canadian population has also increased by roughly the same amount with the result that the fraction of Canadians working has been pretty well unchanged for the last five years, and has yet to return to rates before the recession.
A million is a big number, but it’s not enough to signal a complete recovery from the recession.
The Great Recession has disrupted the lives of families and their children in an unprecedented way.
It has changed everyday life in some ways that can be measured by money, but in others that cannot, and at the extreme it has even led to a six-fold increase in the risk children will be physically abused.
Lost jobs, falling incomes, and foreclosures will likely compromise the capacity of children to become all that they can be, with the effects of the recession echoing not just across years, but also across generations.
The suggestion that the middle class is stagnating, the linchpin of Justin Trudeau’s economic platform—to the extent it exists—is an idea shamelessly borrowed from the United States.
Shameless it may be, but it is, nonetheless, true.
Clearly there are some ways in which we are all better off not withstanding what President Obama tells the American public, and notwithstanding how closely Canadian political leaders listen to him.
In 1980, a cell phone was something carried in a brief case; and a Sony Walkman—you surely recall the portable cassette player the size of a thick paperback that strapped “conveniently” to your belt?—was the cutting edge musical accessory.
But shops filled with more variety, and more quality, make us and our kids better off only to a degree, and not only because the power to blow your ear drums out has increased exponentially.
In 1980 middle-income Canadian families reported a total of $57,000 on their tax returns, and 30 years later, … well exactly $57,000.