By the Numbers: Changing Portrait of Canadian Families and Living Arrangements

Ottawa – January 3, 2013 – A recent Statistics Canada report focusing on the 2011 Census shows significant changes and diversification in the makeup of Canadian families and living arrangements over the past 50 years.

Although still predominant as family structure, married couples are in decline, single parenting continues to rise, and for the first time, Statistics Canada says there are more people living alone than there are couples with children.

Married couple accounted for 67.0% of all census families in 2011, down from 70.5% in 2001.

The proportion of common-law families increased from 13.8% to 16.7%. Common-law couples were highest in Nunavut (32.7%), Quebec (31.5%) and Yukon (25.1%), more than double the average of other provinces (12.1%).

63.6% of all children, aged 14 and under, lived with married parents in 2011, compared to 68.4% in 2001. At the same time, the percentage of children living with common-law parents increased from 12.8% to 16.3%, over the same period of time.

The proportion of lone-parent families increased from 15.7% to 16.3%. Between 2006 and 2011 the male single-parent families almost doubled (+16.2%) compared with female single-parent families (+6.0%).

8 in 10 lone-parent families were single mothers with children. Nearly 1,078,600 children lived with lone parents in 2011 (or 19.3% of all children). More than 4 out of 5 children who lived with a lone parent, lived with a single mother.

Same-sex couples accounted for 0.8% of all couples. Between 2006 and 2011, the number of same-sex married couples almost tripled (reflecting the changes since same-sex marriage was legalized in 2005); same-sex common-law couples also increased 15.0%.

Stepfamilies represented 12.6% of the nearly 3.7 million couple families with children. Of these, 7.4% were considered simple stepfamilies, whereas complex stepfamilies accounted for 5.2%.

1 in 10 children aged 14 and under, in private households, lived in a stepfamily.

4 in 10 young adults aged 20 to 29, lived with their parents. Young men were more likely to live at home than young women.

The number of seniors aged 65 and over living in couples has increased (56.4% up from 54.1% in 2001), and more seniors are living in their homes or with relatives than previously. Only 7.9% lived in nursing homes or residences for seniors.

Over the past fifty years, Canadian families have become smaller. The average number of children per family decreased from 2.7 in 1961 to 1.9 in 2011. Also the average number of people per family declined from 3.9 to 2.9, over the same period of time.

While family size shrank the number of private households has increased, to the point where between 1966 and 1981 the number of private households grew faster than the population in the households.

In 2011, one-person households accounted for 27.6%, an increase of 9.3% since 1961. The number of large households comprised of five people or more, decreased from 32.3% in 1961 to 8.4% in 2011. For the first time in 2011, the number of one-person households exceeded the number of couple households with children aged 24 and under.

Source: Statistics Canada, Census in brief, Fifty years of families in Canada