Skip to main content

John Clark and Michelle Rhodes relax in their Toronto townhouse on Sunday, September 18, 2012. Once upon a time, a declaration of lifelong love and commitment could be boiled down to two simple words: "I do." Numbers from the 2011 census suggest a pairing of a different sort: "Why bother?"Patrick Dell/The Canadian Press

The institution of marriage is on the decline in the metropolitan area of Toronto, according to new census data that offers fresh insight into the complex composition of modern-day Canadian families.

The latest information from the 2011 census, released Wednesday by Statistics Canada, reveals the many different ways Canadians live together as a family unit: married, common-law, same-sex, with or without children and – tracked for the first time – in Brady Bunch-style step-families.

When the census was taken in May 2011, there were 1,529,235 families in the census metropolitan area of Toronto. Statistics Canada defines a family as being composed of a married or common-law couple, including those with children, or of a lone parent living with at least one child in the same household.

Married couples – those with and without children – make up 74 per cent of families in the Toronto region. That's a decrease from the last census taken in 2006 when 75.3 per cent of couples were married. Common-law couples make up 8.2 per cent of the families, up from 2006.

Across Canada, the percentage of married couples has dropped over the last five years from 68.6 per cent to 67 per cent of all families. Couples living together without being legally married make up 16.7 per cent of all families across the country, an increase from the 2006 census when it was 15.5 per cent.

The new census data shows some other interesting details about families in the Toronto region:

> Step-families – defined by Statistics Canada as couples living with one or more children where at least one child is the biological or adopted child of only one of the parents – represent 4.9 per cent of all families in the Toronto region. This is the first time Statistics Canada has counted step-families in a census.

> The percentage of people in the Toronto region who are divorced is 6.6 up from 6.1 per cent in 2006.

> A total of 0.3 per cent of children under the age of 15 live with at least one grandparent instead of a parent.

> 17.8 per cent of families are headed by single parents: 14.7 per cent by single mothers and 3.1 per cent by fathers.

> There are 12,370 same-sex couples (1 per cent of all metro Toronto couples), up from 9,620 (0.8 per cent) in 2006.

> 12.3 per cent of households have adult children aged 25 and over still living at home.

Statistics Canada uses the term census metropolitan area to describe any area with a population of at least 100,000, where the urban core of that area has at least 50,000 people. Looking at metropolitan areas this way takes in to account the growing impact of suburban areas on Canada's largest cities.

Here is a local breakdown of family structure information for some communities in the Toronto area:

(Note: Figures on same-sex couples in communities smaller than census metropolitan areas were not released Wednesday by Statistics Canada. The agency said it was withholding the data because of concerns about the accuracy of numbers in smaller communities. Similar data was available in 2006.)