Data Briefs

Personal debt in Atlantic Canada

Like most other parts of the world, Atlantic Canada is characterized by social inequality. Stagnating real wages, rising costs of living, and economic restructuring have triggered growing demands for a living wage, investment in public services and tax fairness (Conference Board of Canada, 2017; Saulnier 2018, 2019). There is considerable academic and public discourse about economic insecurity, but it focuses on income and expenditures, devoting comparatively less attention to how personal debt affects social inequality and the well-being of people and households in the region.

In fact, the last comprehensive study of debt in Atlantic Canada was released over a decade ago in 2008. In its report, GPI Atlantic concluded that Atlantic Canadian households were accumulating debt at a rate faster than the national average, that a greater proportion of households in the region were in debt compared to other Canadian regions, and that the gap between asset and debt growth was highest in the region (Tran and Coleman 2008). This suggests that debt is a very important factor shaping Atlantic livelihoods.