Growing & Shrinking Households in Canada

According to the most recent Census, there were 13.32 million households in Canada in 2011, with an average of 2.5 persons in each one.

Looking back--way back--the number of households in this country has grown exponentially, from 374,491 in 1851 to 1.06 million in 1901,  3.41 million in 1951, and 11.56 million in 2001. While the root driver to this growth has been an expanding Canadian population, the pace of population growth has lagged household growth: between 1851 and 2011, the number of households in Canada grew at an annual rate of 2.3%, while the national population grew by only 1.7% per year. 

Why the difference in growth rates? The answer lies in shrinking household sizes, which have fallen dramatically over time: compared to the current 2.5 persons per household, there were 4.0 persons per household in 1951, 5.0 in 1901, and 6.2 in 1851.

Since the mid-1940s, changes in household sizes have largely been driven by the baby boomers, first during the 20 years during which they were born (resulting in a temporary halt in the long-term downward trend in household sizes during those two decades), and then during the years in which they moved out, got married, and had (relatively few) kids of their own. Indeed, the average households size in Canada fell below 3.0 persons in 1981, where it has since remained. (It's worth noting that the rising prevalence of apartments within the Canadian housing landscape has also, more recently, played a role in the downward trend in household sizes.)

Our latest viz charts the long-terms trends in the number and average size of households in Canada. There are other stories to be uncovered in the data, so check it out and see what you find.