Beyond Wages: Quebec’s Wealth Divide

Graphic by Carleen Loney / The Concordian

INRS research chair Maude Pugliese’s study uncovers the hidden dimensions of wealth distribution between men and women in Quebec.

In a study published in December of last year, the Institut National de la Recherche Scientifique (INRS) unveiled findings that highlight stark wealth disparities between men and women in Quebec. The study, spearheaded by professor Maude Pugliese, chair researcher of the newly established Canada Research Chair in Family Financial Experiences and Wealth Inequality, marks a significant leap in understanding wealth inequality in the region.  

Until recently, the dialogue surrounding economic disparities in Quebec and the broader Canadian context has primarily focused on income and pay inequalities. However, Pugliese’s research has shifted the spotlight to wealth distribution, a critical yet underexplored facet of financial well-being.

“Wealth is an even more important resource for well-being than income because it can act as a safety net in times of hardship and is crucial to well-being in retirement,” Pugliese said, underscoring the necessity of addressing wealth disparities to grasp the full spectrum of economic inequality.  

The study’s findings, derived from a comprehensive survey conducted in 2022 involving 4,800 respondents, reveal that men in Quebec possess almost 30 per cent more average net wealth than women. This gap widens alarmingly among partnered individuals, with men in common-law relationships holding wealth at a staggering 80 per cent greater than that of their female counterparts.   

Single women, on the other hand, have positive net wealth across all percentiles. These disparities, according to Pugliese, surpass the pay gaps currently observed between men and women in the province, indicating a deeper, structural issue within the financial fabric of society.  

“These gender gaps are far larger than the pay gaps we are currently seeing between men and women in Quebec,” Pugliese noted. The research points out that even after accounting for income differences, a significant portion of the wealth gap remains unexplained, prompting a call for more nuanced investigations into factors such as inheritance, access to financial services, and advice.  

The groundbreaking nature of Pugliese’s study lies not only in its findings, but also in its methodology. For the first time, wealth in Canada was measured at the individual level rather than the household, unveiling the hidden inequalities within couples that previous data collection methods have masked. This novel approach laid the groundwork for more detailed and accurate data collection on private and family wealth, which Pugliese and her team argue is essential for understanding and addressing gender-based economic disparities.  

As the INRS continues to lead in research intensity across Quebec and Canada, this study not only contributes to the academic institution’s legacy, but also the broader societal understanding of economic inequalities. It challenges policymakers, financial institutions, and society at large to reconsider how wealth is accumulated, distributed, and measured, to foster a more equitable economic landscape. 

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