The Rise of Common-law Coupling in Canada March 8, 2007Posted by Ninja Clement in Sociology.
Common-law coupling has been on the rise in Canada for decades now. Census data from 1981, 1991 and 2001 shows the following trends in family types:
|Married with children at home||55.0%||48.1%||41.5%|
|Married without children at home||28.1%||29.2%||29.1%|
|Lone parent families||11.3%||13.0%||15.7%|
|Common law with children at home||1.9%||4.0%||6.3%|
|Common law without children at home||3.7%||5.8%||7.5%|
As of 2001, 13.8% of family types in Canada are of the common law variety. This figure only stood at 5.6% in 1981.
The growth of common-law coupling is even more apparent when the data on conjual relationships in general is considered. Between 1995 and 2001, the number of married couples increased by only 3.2%, from 6.2 million to 6.4 million. Over the same period, the number of common-law couples climbed from 1.0 million to 1.2 million, a 20% increase. Nationally, 16.0% of all conjugal relationships as of 2001 are common-law.
Underlying the national rate, it should be noted, is considerable regional variation. In Québec, more than one in four couples is in a common-law union – as high as the rate in Sweeden (30%) and higher than that in Norway (24.5%), Finland (18.7%) and France (17.5%). Indeed, the proportion in the rest of Canada excluding Québec is only 11.7%. [Common-law unions are also popular in the Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut].
Common-law coupling is, not surprisingly, a more popular option among those under the age of 40. As of 2001, more than 42% of men and more than 53% of women aged 20 to 29 can be expected to choose a common-law arrangement as their first union. This drops to 40.5% for men 42.3% for women aged 30 to 39 [the survey presumably covers men and women who have been partnered at least once, through marriage or common-law]. The rate among men and women aged 40 to 49 is only 28.4% and 26.7%, respectively, and is much lower still within older male and female cohorts.
Again, the pattern in Québec is exceptional. In that province, only 26% of women aged 30 to 39 in 2001 are expected to choose marriage as their first union, compared to 59% of women in the same age range in the other provinces. The remainder, 70% of Québec women aged 30 to 39, can be expected to start their first unions in common-law. This is more than twice the rate in the other provinces, at 34%.
Agreeable attitudes towards common-law coupling are more prevalent among domestic-born and non-religiously observant Canadians. A Statistics Canada survey shows that the odds of living in a common-law arrangement are 1.4 times higher for persons born in the country than for those born elsewhere. Non-religiously observant people (measured by rate of weekly attendance at a religious service) are 5.7 times more likely to be open to common-law living than those who attend religious services weekly.
Bibliography: Statistics Canada, “Profile of Canadian Households: Diversification Continues” 96F0030XIE2001003, 2001 Census of Population (2002), “Changing Conjugal Life in Canada” 89-576-XIE, General Social Survey – Cycle 15 (2002) and “Would you live common-law?”, Canadian Social Trends, Fall 2003, No. 70 (2003)
Next up in Sociology – the instability of common-law coupling