UPDATED: More Canadians live alone than have children

Statistics Canada says the number of same-sex couples went up by nearly two-thirds over a decade

More people are living alone in Canada now than ever before, the latest census data suggest.

Statistics Canada, which released its household and family data on Wednesday morning, reported that 28.2 per cent of Canadians live in one-person households. That compares to 26.5 per cent of Canadians living with children.

In B.C., the numbers were only slightly higher: 28.8 per cent of people live alone.

In the Lower Mainland, senior economist for Rennie Group Ryan Berlin said he’s seeing a correlation between where smaller housing units are being built and where single people are living.

“Our housing stock isn’t necessarily conducive to bigger household sizes,” said Berlin.

That’s reflected in some obvious cities like Vancouver, where 90 per cent of the new households where couples without kids or people live alone. It’s also reflected in less obvious cities, like Pitt Meadows where the figure is 94 per cent.

On average, single-person households and couples without kids made up two-thirds of new households in the region.

“Where you see below-average [growth in those categories] is in Surrey – they’re at the bottom of the list,” said Berlin.

“Even though Surrey is changing and densifying, they’re adding a lot of ground-orientated multi-family [units], which are conducive to families.”

WATCH: Surrey now has the third tallest tower in B.C.

As for people in relationships, the census found that most couples in Canada are common-law – more than one-fifth of them, or 21.6 per cent, compared to 6.3 per cent back in 1981. In B.C., common-law pairs made up 16.7 per cent of all couples. (Couples living together for two years were given common-law status in 2013.)

There is also a rise in the number of childless couples, both married and common-law.

Berlin attributes that what he calls the “pig in the python” effect.

“It reflects our changing demography,” said Berlin. “The typical couple in B.C. or even the Lower Mainland is in their mid-50s. If they had kids when they were 25 or 30, they’re kids are around the age when they would move out.”

Those empty nesters, Berlin said, are contributing to the increase in childless couples – not people having fewer children.

“The fertility rate has been dropping for 40 years now, that’s not new.”

More same-sex couples

The number of same-sex couples in Canada is rising.

Between 2006-2016, that number shot up by 60.7 per cent, compared to an uptick of 9.6 per cent for opposite-sex couples.

Half of the country’s 72,880 same-sex couples live Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, and Ottawa-Gatineau.

“It’s still a really, really small proportion of all couples,” said Berlin. The figure stands at 0.9 per cent of all couples as of 2016.

While the number of couples with kids dropped overall, the number of same-sex couples with children rose. One-eighth of had at least one child living with them.

UBC School of Economics professor Marina Adshade attributes the jump to changing social norms. Same-sex marriage was legalized in Canada in 2005.

“[The increase] is both interesting and not interesting,” Adshade said. “Turns out, if you give people the right to marry – they do.”



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