The High Education Low Income Paradox College and University Graduates with Low Earnings-Ontario

Research Summary:

According to the 2008 report, Education at a Glance from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the percentage of university- and college-educated workers who earned at or below half of the national median employment income (or $16,917) was higher in Canada (and Ontario) in 2006 than most, if not all, key OECD countries.

Using Statistics Canada’s Survey of Labour and Income Dynamics (SLID), the authors seek to understand the factors that contribute to low earnings situations as well as to identify which individuals are most at risk of not receiving high returns to their investments in postsecondary education.

The key factor explaining why some individuals fell into the low earnings category is the nature of their labour market attachment.  Those who cited self employment as their main form of employment, those who listed another activity other than working, or those that listed both selfemployment and not working as their main activity earned at or below half of the national median employment income.

After self-employment and non-working earners were removed, university- and college-educated workers in low earnings situations in 2006 compromised only 5 per cent and 8 per cent respectively, of the overall postsecondary-educated earners in Ontario.

About the Authors

Klarka Zeman has been an analyst with the Centre for Education Statistics at Statistics Canada for the past six years. Her previous work includes reports on youth transitions from education to the labour market and youth post-secondary participation. 

Kathryn McMullen is Chief, Education Matters and Integrated Analysis, Tourism and the Centre for Education Statistics Division, Statistics Canada. She is an analyst who has conducted research in a wide range of areas over her career, most recently on issues relating to education, training and the labour market.

Patrice de Broucker is Chief, Education Indicators and Special Projects, Centre for Education Statistics, Statistics Canada. His research has covered various issues on school-work transitions, youth labour market, labour market dynamics, human capital development, determinants of educational achievement, addressing such issues both in the national context and in international comparisons.​