Canadian family portrait changing

Globe and Mail Update
Tuesday, October 22 – Online Edition, Posted at 8:47 AM EST

The Canadian family portrait has undergone significant change in four years, the latest census numbers from Statistics Canada show.

Information from the 2001 report shows the proportion of traditional families — mom, dad and the kids — continues to decline in Canada while the number of childless families is on the rise.

As of May 15, 2001, Canada had 8,371,000 families, up from almost 7,838,000 in 1996.

Married or common-law couples with children aged 24 and under living at home represented only 44 per cent of all families. These accounted for 49 per cent of all families in 1991, and represented more than one-half in 1981 (55 per cent).

Couples who had no children under 25 living at home accounted for 41 per cent of all families in 2001, up from 38 per cent in 1991. In 1981, this family type accounted for barely 34 per cent.

The 2001 census showed that an increasing proportion of couples are living common-law. Married couples accounted for 70 per cent of all families in 2001, down from 83 per cent in 1981. At the same time, the proportion of common-law couples rose from 6 per cent to 14 per cent.

In 2001, the census counted 5,901,400 married couples, 1,158,400 common-law couples and 1,311,200 lone-parent families.

The trend toward common-law relationships was again strongest in Quebec, where the 508,500 common-law families accounted for 30 per cent of all couple families. Almost 29 per cent of children were living with common-law parents in Quebec, more than double the national average.

The number of common-law couples in Canada with children under the age of 25 is also increasing. In 2001, they accounted for 7 per cent of all couples in Canada, compared with only 2 per cent two decades earlier.

The census counted almost 11,563,000 households in Canada in 2001, up 6.9 per cent from 1996. The increase of smaller households was the biggest contributor to the growth of private households.

"The size of households has dropped in the last two decades, as fewer people live in large households and more people live alone," the report said. "In 2001, there were about as many one-person households as there were households with four or more people."

Households consisting of four or more people accounted for only one-quarter of all households in 2001; two decades earlier, they accounted for one-third.

    Highlights of 2001 census data
  • The proportion of traditional families - married couples with children - continues to decline. Married couples accounted for 70.5 per cent of all families in 2001, down from 83 per cent from 1981.
  • What was once known as “living in sin” is more common than ever. Couples living together without being married represented 13.8 per cent of all families in 2001. Twenty years ago, the proportion of common-law couples was only 6 per cent.
  • Among Canada's provinces and territories, Nunavut (31.3 per cent), the Northwest Territories (26.3 per cent) and Quebec (25.2 per cent) have the highest proportion of common-law couples. Quebec represents 44 per cent of the total number number of common-law couples in Canada.
  • Marriage is most popular in Newfoundland and Labrador (75.4 per cent of total families), Ontario (75.4 per cent) and Prince Edward Island (74.1 per cent).
  • The 2001 census was the first to include same-sex relationships within the definition of common-law couples. A total of 34,200 gay and lesbians identified themselves as living in same-sex relationships - which represents 0.41 per cent of all census families.
  • About 81 per cent of same-sex couples live in Canada's 27 major metropolitan areas. The cities of Vancouver (1.98 per cent), Montreal (1.47 per cent) and Victoria (1.26 per cent) had the highest proportion of same-sex couples among all families.
  • A total of 15.7 per cent of Canadian families were headed by just one parent. In the northern territory of Nunavut, about one in four families were lone-parent.
  • More people than ever are living alone. About one out of every four of the country's 11.5 million private households was occupied by just one person. One major reason: the growing numbers of seniors, who are more likely to live alone.
  • There is increasing evidence of a “crowded nest” syndrome. About 41 per cent of young Canadians aged 20-29 were living with their parents in 2001. Twenty years ago, the proportion was only 27 per cent. Statistics Canada analysts offer several explanations: adult children returning home after failed marriages, delayed marriage, more people in their 20s still in school, the difficulty of those young adults in finding jobs.
  • Canadian Press

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