A recent Statistics Canada study uses nationwide administrative data to spotlight Canadian families caring for family members (including extended family members) who have severe and prolonged impairments in physical or mental functions. It documents the prevalence of families claiming the Canada Caregiver Credit (CCC) among all tax-filing families and breaks down the results by several essential family characteristics, such as age, family status, family income and immigrant status.
The CCC was introduced as a non-refundable federal tax credit in 2017 to provide financial relief to caregivers who support a low-income spouse or common-law partner or low-income dependants with a physical or mental impairment. A person claiming the CCC must provide evidence that the dependant’s ability to perform basic activities of daily living is significantly limited and that the dependant requires the assistance of a caregiver to maintain everyday living. The impairment is expected to be long-lasting or permanent, and the dependant is expected to rely on help from others to a larger degree than other individuals of the same age.
A longitudinal study
An important strength of this analysis is that it is based on data from individual income tax returns, minimizing the subjectivity in the assessment of the disability status of those who receive care and the involvement of those who claim to provide care for their infirm spouse, children or parents.
The study identifies three CCC types: the CCC for infirm children younger than 18 years; the CCC for infirm spouses (including common-law partners); and the CCC for infirm adults (excluding spouses), a category that may include adult children, parents, siblings and other relatives. The data cover the three-year period from 2017 to 2019, which are linked to the 2019 Longitudinal Immigration Database. The main unit of analysis is a family, and a family in which at least one member is a CCC claimant is deemed a caregiver family. The study looks at several key characteristics of families claiming the CCC: family status, age, immigrant status and family income.
About 406,800 families in 2017, 421,500 in 2018 and 433,100 in 2019—approximately 2.5% of all families in each of these years—claimed at least one CCC type. The number of families claiming the CCC for infirm adults—about 180,000 (1.1% of all families) in 2019—was higher than the number of families claiming the CCC for infirm spouses (partners) or infirm children in all three years. About 130,000 (0.8%) families provided care for infirm spouses, and a similar number of families provided care for infirm children.
The prevalence of families claiming in Atlantic Canada was considerably higher than the prevalence of those in Western Canada. Newfoundland and Labrador (4.1%) registered the highest prevalence of families claiming while Quebec (1.7%) had the lowest prevalence of these families.
Older families were more likely to claim the CCC for spouses and common-law partners than families with a reference person younger than 70 years, while families with a reference person in their 40s were particularly likely to claim the CCC for infirm children.
Income affects claims
Canadian-born couples were considerably more likely to claim for spouses than immigrant couples. By contrast, immigrant families were generally more likely to claim the CCC for infirm adults (e.g., infirm parents). Family income was only weakly associated with claiming for infirm children, but the degree of association was stronger for other CCC types. A higher family income generally meant a higher prevalence of families claiming the CCC for infirm adults.
Sung-Hee Jeon and Yuri Ostrovsky are with the Social Analysis and Modelling division, Statistics Canada. Excerpted from full study.