Low Education Levels and Income Significant to Increased Likelihood of Pre-mature Avoidable Deaths of Indigenous Peoples

Disparities in avoidable mortality of Indigenous Peoples compared to non-Indigenous population were associated with inequalities in education and income.

Indigenous men are 2.0 times as likely to die from avoidable causes, and Indigenous women 2.5 times more likely, compared to non-Indigenous Canadians, according to a Statistics Canada study of adults 25 years and over. The youngest age group of Indigenous Peoples in the study, those aged 25 to 34, had the highest risk of dying from avoidable causes.

Low education attainment and income among Indigenous Peoples are factors that determine their likelihood of avoidable mortality. When education and income were controlled in the study, the risks of dying from avoidable causes among Indigenous Peoples were reduced by 47% for men and 32% for women.

Avoidable mortality rates may be used as an indicator of health inequalities between Indigenous and non-Indigenous populations. The study attributed diabetes, alcohol and drug use disorders, and injuries as the top causes of avoidable deaths among Indigenous Peoples.

Disparities in education for Indigenous Peoples and non-Indigenous population remain despite very modest gains over the years. Longstanding issues include:

  • 9% of Indigenous Peoples aged 25 to 64 who have not completed high‑school nor any post-secondary certificates, diplomas, or degrees relative to 12.1% for the non-Indigenous cohort; and
  • the persistent education attainment gap for Indigenous Peoples and non-Indigenous population at high school, secondary, and post-secondary education levels.[1]

Educational attainment is lower for Indigenous Peoples than non-Indigenous population as seen from the Aboriginal Peoples Survey (APS)[2] data. (see Figure 1)

Aboriginal Educ Attainment

The APS also found that Indigenous high‑school completers had better employment outcomes relative to Indigenous high‑school leavers across the three Indigenous groups of First Nations, Metis, and Inuit peoples. However, the employment rate of Indigenous workers has consistently remained lower than non-Indigenous workers.

The income gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous populations stubbornly persists as in Table1.

Abor Income

Part of Indigenous Peoples income disparity is the result of the enduring pay gap. Among university-educated workers, an Indigenous worker makes 56 cents in the private sector and 86 cents in the public sector for every dollar earned by a non-Indigenous worker.

Addressing education and employment gaps was one of the 94 recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). The TRC called upon the federal government, with Indigenous groups, to develop a joint strategy to eliminate educational and employment gaps between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadians.

According to the Statistics Canada study on avoidable mortality among Indigenous adults, addressing education and income disparities will decrease the risks of pre-mature deaths from avoidable causes.


[1] Statistics Canada. 2011. The Educational Attainment of Aboriginal Peoples in Canada. Cat. No. 99-012-X2011003http://www12.statcan.gc.ca/nhs-enm/2011/as-sa/99-012-x/99-012-x2011003_3-eng.pdf

[2] Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada. The Aboriginal Peoples Survey at a Glance: Preliminary Findings on Education and Employment Outcomes. http://www.aadnc-aandc.gc.ca/DAM/DAM-INTER-HQ-AI/STAGING/texte-text/ai_rs_re_apsgpfee_1406036103534_eng.pdf

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