This question is part of an age-old debate between the two largest nations of North America. The societies of both Canada and the United States hold the view that their own country is the better place to live. Generally, neither country knows all the facts about what the other country has to offer. So, which is better: Canada or the United States?
Canada’s 2019 gross domestic product (GDP) was $1.73 trillion, while the United States reported a GDP of $21.4 trillion. While the U.S. is a much larger superpower in terms of the economy, the incomes of citizens are much more closely aligned. The U.S. Census Bureau reports the median income for U.S. families at $68,703. In Canada, the median income for 2018, the latest data set available, was $61,400.
- The U.S. and Canada are two countries in North America with many similarities and quite a few important differences.
- While the United States is much larger than its northern neighbor in terms of GDP, the average income per capita is similar in both places.
- While people generally pay more in taxes in the United States, Canada offers superior social benefits.
- The cost of attending a university and expenses for health care are typically less in Canada.
Taxes can also be a key differentiator for the two countries. While U.S. federal income tax brackets span from 10% to 37% for individuals, in Canada, tax rates are between 15% and 33%. However, in the U.S., singles making over $40,126 annually pay 22% in taxes, whereas Canadian singles making less than $48,535 only have to pay 15% in taxes.
According to the website numbeo.com, the cost of living is higher for Americans than Canadians. The Numbeo Cost of Living Index estimates that consumer prices in Toronto are about 24.83% lower than in New York City, and Toronto's rent price is approximately half the price of renting an apartment in New York. This Index looks at rent, groceries, restaurant prices, and local purchasing, which are all higher collectively in the United States ($ in USD):
|USA vs. Canada: Cost of Living (for 2020, all prices in US$)|
(New York City)
|Rent (monthly) for a 1-bedroom apartment||$3,298.31||$1653.36|
|Monthly utilities (electricity, heating, cooling, water, garbage)||$148.04||$122.68|
|Bread (1 lb)||$3.55||$2.05|
|Chicken (1 lb)||$6.35||$4.89|
|Meal, Inexpensive Restaurant||$20.50||$15.76|
|One-way Ticket (Local Transport)||$2.75||$2.56|
|Taxi (1 mile)||$3.00||$2.54|
|Pair of Levi’s Jeans||$59.48||$60.52|
|Pair of Nike Running Shoes||$89.88||$85.82|
Spending time with your children as they grow up can represent a great financial need of parents. How does each country support new mothers and fathers?
Canada has mandated leave and benefits. The government supports this through provincial employment insurance. The program includes both mothers and fathers. Benefits paid could be up to $595 per week.
The United States is less progressive in this area. The U.S. offers some support under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). FMLA can allow for 12 weeks of unpaid leave. Individual states also have their own laws.
The United States has the highest healthcare costs in the world. Per capita, individuals can expect to pay approximately $10,739 annually. This compares to an annual average of $7,068 for Canadians.
University can be another large expense in a person's life and puts many students deep in debt. The United States tops the list for countries with the most expensive university costs, with Canada coming in fourth. The average annual tuition at a public college in the U.S. is estimated at $8,200. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, undergraduate tuition, fees, room, and board were estimated to be $17,797 at public institutions, $46,014 at private nonprofit institutions, and $26,261 at private for-profit institutions. In Canada, the average annual tuition at a public college in 2021 was $7,938 Canadian dollars (US$6113.61).
Montreal is the largest city in Quebec, Canada where many residents are bilingual, speaking both French and English. In fact, according to Census Canada 2016, 20% of Canadians claim French as their native language.
Climate and Culture
Both the United States and Canada are large countries spanning from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean coasts, meaning their climate and culture vary greatly by state or province. As a whole, the United States is more densely populated and warmer than Canada, being nearer to the equator.
USA vs. Canada FAQs
Can I Live in Canada if I Am a U.S. Citizen?
As long as you apply for the right kind of citizenship—whether as a skilled worker, student, or unskilled worker—you can keep your U.S. passport while living up north.
Is It Cheaper To Live in Canada Than the U.S.?
Overall, it is cheaper to live in a metropolitan city in Canada than in the United States. Of course, this depends based on the city you are looking at and your income tax bracket.
Are American and Canadian the Same?
No. Though both North American cultures share similarities, they are not the same.
The Bottom Line
The United States is a larger global superpower and as such, Americans can expect to pay more in nearly every aspect of living. People in the U.S. and Canada generally have similar annual incomes. However, taxes are reportedly lower in the U.S., which can offer Americans a slight take-home pay advantage.
In the area of social benefits, Canadians have a somewhat stronger government-mandated family program with greater government funding for maternity leave through employment insurance programs. Canadians can also expect to pay less for healthcare costs. Furthermore, educational university costs are also lower (on average) in Canada, which could be a final factor that tempts many citizens across the border when considering long-term family planning.
World Bank. "GDP (current US$) - Canada, United States." Accessed Nov. 28, 2020.
U.S. Census Bureau. "Income and Poverty in the United States: 2019." Accessed Nov. 29, 2020.
Statistics Canada. "Canadian Income Survey, 2018." Accessed Nov. 28, 2020.
Numbeo. "Cost of Living Comparison Between New York, NY and Toronto." Accessed Nov. 28, 2020.
Government of Canada. "Employment Insurance Maternity and Parental Benefits." Accessed Nov. 28, 2020.
Department of Labor. "Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)." Accessed Nov. 28, 2020.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Health Expenditures." Accessed Nov. 28, 2020.
Canadian Institute for Health Information. "Health Spending." Accessed Nov. 28, 2020.
Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development. "Annual average tuition fees charged by public tertiary educational institutions to national and foreign students at bachelor's or equivalent level (2015/16)." Accessed Nov. 28, 2020.
National Center for Education Statistics. "Tuition costs of colleges and universities." Accessed Nov. 28, 2020.