For a decade or so, it's become common knowledge that the Québécois enjoy a standard of living considerably lower than that of our American neighbors, from about 20% less, according to some, to as much as 45% less, according to others. The situation is such that we sometimes read that people in every state, including the historically poor Mississippi and Louisiana, are richer than the Québécois. For those who've visited these states, such a statement is puzzling.
The fact that the world's largest economy generates, per person, more wealth than Québec comes as no surprise. However, witnessing the difficulties of the American middle class, strangled by the exorbitant cost of private medical insurance and tuition and stagnant income, seems in contradiction with the notion that Americans keep, on average, between 20% and 45% more than the Québécois in their pockets.
We also know that our neighbors to the south, and more than anywhere in the Western world, has seen an alarming rise in wealth inequality over the last 30 years. The gap between the super-rich and the average American has returned to its level of the years prior to the depression of the 1930s. Québec hasn't seen such excesses.
Could it be that the super-rich are skewing the figures? Could the vast majority of Québécois be at least as rich as the vast majority of Americans?
It could... setting aside the top 5% of the richest U.S. taxpayers and the top 5% of the richest Québécois, thus comparing 95% of the population, 2007 figures show that the income per capita are $18,932 and $18,998. In short, there is a very thin margin in favor of the average Québécois.
But converting apples and oranges to make a fair comparison between the two is a tedious task. Click here [Google translation] to know more about this interesting analysis.