Dictionary, Census of Population, 2016
Prevalence of low income

Release date: May 3, 2017 Updated on: September 13, 2017


The proportion or percentage of units whose income falls below a specified low-income line.

For the 2016 Census, the reference period is the calendar year 2015 for all income variables.

Statistical unit(s)

Not applicable


Not applicable

Reported in

2016 (100% data); 2011Note 1 (30% sample); 2006, 2001, 1996, 1991, 1986 and 1981 (20% sample). For availability prior to 1981, refer to Appendix 2.0.

Reported for

Population in private households where low-income concepts are applicable (see Remarks)

Question number(s)

Derived statistic


Between 0% and 100%


The prevalence of low income can be calculated for each of the five low-income lines available in the census for various population groups at different levels of geography.

See also low-income status, Low-income measure, after tax (LIM-AT), Low-income measure, before tax (LIM-BT), Low-income cut-offs, after tax (LICO-AT), Low-income cut-offs, before tax (LICO-BT) and Market Basket Measure (MBM).

Note that the prevalence of low income based on the Market Basket Measure (MBM) is only available from the sampled population.

Low-income concepts do not apply to the full population. For example, persons living in collective households are excluded from the concepts because their living arrangements and expenditure patterns can be quite different from those of persons living in private households.

The low-income concepts are also not applied in the territories and in certain areas based on census subdivision type (such as Indian reserves). The existence of substantial in-kind transfers (such as subsidized housing and First Nations band housing) and sizeable barter economies or consumption from own production (such as product from hunting, farming or fishing) could make the interpretation of low-income statistics more difficult in these situations.

Since their initial publication, Statistics Canada has clearly and consistently emphasized that the low-income lines are not measures of poverty. Rather, low-income lines reflect a consistent and well-defined methodology that identifies those who are substantially worse off than average. These measures have enabled Statistics Canada to report important trends, such as the changing composition of those below the low-income lines over time.

For additional information on various low-income concepts, see 'Low income lines,' in the Income Research Paper Series (Catalogue no. 75F0002M).

For additional information about data collection method, coverage, reference period, concepts, data quality and intercensal comparability of the income data, refer to the Income Reference Guide, Census of Population, 2016.


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