More people living alone than ever before

Diverse living arrangements are becoming the norm across the country, according to the latest census data.

Statistics Canada Wednesday morning released the third series of data from the 2016 census. The numbers show that fewer and fewer Canadians are living in traditional households — made up of a mom, dad and kids — and more people are living alone, as part of a couple without children, or as part of a multigenerational family.

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With 2017 marking Canada’s 150th birthday, Statistics Canada is highlighting how Canadians’ lives at home have evolved since Confederation. In 1871, there were on average 5.6 people per household; that ratio dropped to 2.4 by 2016.

The changes are the result of demographic shifts, such as the aging population and an increase in cultural diversity, as well as social, economic and legislative changes. The evolution of Canadian households can also have an impact on the housing market and on intergenerational relationships.

How, and what, census data is collected has also evolved over the years. It measured common-law unions for the first time in 1981, same-sex couples in 2001, and foster children and step-families in 2011.

For the first time in Canada’s 150-year history, one-person households are the most common type of household — surpassing couples with children, which was down from 31.5 per cent of all households in 2001 to 26.5 per cent in 2016. One-person households accounted for 28.2 per cent of all households last year, that’s up from 25.7 per cent in 2001.

At the time of Confederation, the vast majority of Canadian households were family households, and few people lived alone. The number of people living alone has steadily increased since 1951, from 7.4 per cent to 28.2 per cent.

According to Statistics Canada, a number of social, economic and demographic factors have contributed to the rise in the number of people living alone — income redistribution, pensions and the increased presence of women in the workforce have led to more people being economically independent today than in the past, especially in older age groups. Higher separation and divorce rates have also led to more people living alone. An aging population and higher life expectancy have also contributed to the rise in one-person households — there are more seniors living alone compared to other age groups.


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