Five key take-aways from StatsCan’s latest census drop


Record changes in income and more people living alone or with roommates are among some of the key findings in new census data from Statistics Canada.

On Wednesday, the agency released new figures on income, household dynamics, and the military.

Here are five take-aways:

Roomies are the fastest growing household type — but more people are living alone than ever before

More people are living alone than ever before, but the number of households where roommates live together or multiple generations of a family share a home is quickly on the rise.

Statistics Canada says 4.4 million people lived alone in 2021, up from 1.7 million in 1981. Roughly 15 per cent of all adults aged 15 and older lived alone in 2021, the highest share on record. One-person households continued to hold the top spot among households in 2021, representing just under three in 10 households, or 29 per cent. This phenomenon is almost entirely explained by the aging of the population, StatsCan says.

While more people are living alone, the number of homes shared by roommates increased by 54 per cent between 2001 and 2021, the fastest growth of any household type. Sharing homes with roommates was more common in urban centres, particularly where large post-secondary institutions are located.

The census also found that fewer young adults aged 20 to 34 are living with a spouse, partner, or child. Young adults sharing a home with at least one parent, living with roommates, or alone has grown by 10 per cent since 2001. While those living with at least one parent has remained the same since 2016’s census, there’s been a growing trend of more older adults living with parents.

The census also found the number of homes being shared by multiple generations of a family — two or more families living together or one family living with people they may or may not be related to — grew by 45 per cent over the last 20 years.

Solo living declines among older women

As more younger adults live alone, the opposite is happening for older women. In 2001, 60 per cent of women aged 85 and older lived in private households. Now, it’s 53 per cent.

According to StatsCan, the reason for the change is the gap in life expectancy for men and women is gradually closing — with men living longer. From 1980 to 2020, men’s life expectancy at birth increased faster (from 71.6 years to 79.5 years) than it did for women (from 78.8 years to 84.0 years) over the same period.

This has led to more women living with their spouse into old age. Over half of women aged 65 and older were in a couple in 2021, up from 41 per cent in 1981. This development allows older adults to “age in place” as they can receive care and support from a partner at home for longer.

Canada leads G7 with percentage of common-law couples

Canada leads G7 countries with couples who live together but haven’t tied the knot.

From 1981 to 2021, the number of common-law couples increased by 447 per cent, much faster than that of married couples over the same period (just 26 per cent). Marriage actually declined in Quebec, Newfoundland and Labrador, and New Brunswick, over this 40-year period.

However, marriage remains the predominant type of union. In 2021, more than three-quarters of couples were married, with the remaining 23 per cent living common law.

Quebec is the main reason Canada leads the way with common-law unions — home to 43 per cent of the country’s common law couples. Also, since 2011, common-law couples in Quebec were more likely to have children living at home than their married counterparts.

While common-law is more prevalent in young adulthood and drops off quickly among older couples, common-law arrangements has grown in prevalence at all ages. However, it’s increased most rapidly during young adulthood, as, in 1981, 23 per cent of young couples aged 20 to 24 were common law, drastically rising to 79 per cent in 2021.

Canadian income sees boost as share of low-income earners decreases

The pandemic benefits cushioned losses for low-income earners and helped to narrow income inequality in Canada. And across the country after-tax income grew, except in Alberta and Newfoundland and Labrador.

The agency reported that the median household after-tax income grew 9.8 per cent to $73,000 from 2015 to 2020. Even though fewer Canadians received employment income during the pandemic, COVID-19 benefits partially offset job losses as roughly two-thirds of Canadians received relief program aid.

The number of Canadians earning less than $20,000 grew by more than 415,000 as many lower-paid jobs disappeared. But overall, the low-income rate fell and the number of Canadians who reported no income drastically declined by nearly one million compared to 2019.

Women make up almost one-fifth of currently serving Canadian military

In the first census profile of Canada’s military in half a century a snapshot of women in the military indicates that one in five people, or 19.3 per cent, serving are women — a number that’s low compared to other industries, says StatsCan.

In 2021, the Labour Force Survey said women accounted for almost half of the employed labour force. The two sectors with fewer than one in five women employed were construction and forestry, fishing, and mining.

However, compared to other countries the share of women in the military is relatively high. Canada ranks among the top five countries with the highest percentage of full-time military women in 2019, along with Hungry, Greece, the U.S. and Bulgaria.

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