One-person households boom in Canada

Javier Stokes
August 4, 2017

Still, one-person households were the most common type of household in the country past year for the first time in the country's history. Statistics Canada counted 28,030 foster children aged 14 and under in Canada in 2016.

"The big shift has been a shift away from families with children to empty nest couples or younger people deciding not to have children", said Doug Norris, chief demographer at Environics Analytics.

ONE-PERSON households accounted for 28.2% of all households in 2016-the highest share since Confederation in 1867. Multi-generational families are becoming more common in Metro Vancouver, while single-person and child-free households are growing fastest on the Island and in the Okanagan, possibly due to an aging population. Opposite-sex couples grew by just 9.6 per cent during the same period.

Besides one-person households and households comprised of at least one census family, a small share (4.1%) of households were comprised of two or more persons who were not members of a census family, such as roommates or siblings living together.

Several social, economic and demographic factors have contributed to the rise in the number of people living alone, including more women being in the workforce and economically independent, Statistics Canada said.

The share of one-person households increased the most in the Atlantic provinces compared to the rest of the country during the past 15 years, the latest census data from Statistics Canada shows.

The highest rates were noted in the province of Ontario, home to Toronto, its suburbs, and even further-flung commuter cities, where house prices have more than doubled in some places since Canada's housing boom began in 2009. One-third of them were "married". The percentages were still higher in Sweden (36.2% in 2011), Norway (40.0% in 2012) and Germany (41.4% in 2015).

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"Young adults may be living with their parents because they never left home or because they returned home". Those living with children fell to 25.5 per cent from 32.9 per cent in 2001.

More than 1 million children, or 19.2 per cent, were living in a single-parent family in 2016, up from 17.8 per cent in 2001.

The proportion of couples living with children has been decreasing for some time. That is significantly more than in the USA, where just 5.9% of couples decided not to tie the knot in 2010, but well below the percentage in Sweden at 29%. (No, they're not thrilled about it, either.) The percentage of young people with families of their own has dropped to 42 per cent from 49.

While married couples still dominate, 21.3 per cent of all couples were living common-law in 2016, compared with 6.3 per cent in 1981.

The proportion of couples living common law was higher in Canada than in the United States, where 5.9% of couples were in non-marital cohabiting unions (in 2010). "This proportion has increased by 20.3 per cent since 2001".

MULTIGENERATIONAL households are the fastest growing type of household. Some 2.2 million Canadians lived in a multigenerational household in 2016. The changing composition of households also reflects other developments such as immigration. This type of living arrangement is more common among Aboriginal and immigrant populations, which account for a growing share of Canada's population.

The implications for Canadian society is enormous, said demographers at Statistics Canada, which said effects will be felt society-wide, including on "the housing market, on caregiving and care receiving and on intergenerational relationships".

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