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2006 Census: Family portrait: Continuity and change in Canadian families and households in 2006: National portrait: Households

Household size continues to decline

Throughout the 20th century and into the 21st century, the proportion of large households has decreased with each successive census, and there has been a steadily increasing trend toward smaller households.

The 2006 Census found that there were more than three times as many one-person households as households with five or more persons. Of the 12,437,500 private households, 26.8% were one-person households, while 8.7% were households of five or more persons.

In 1941, only 6.0% of households contained one person, while 38.2% were comprised of five or more persons. The proportion of one-person households surpassed that of large households in 1981.

Figure 4 More one-person households, fewer large households

Households have been declining in size as people have fewer children or no children living at home. Smaller households also result when people live alone or when adult children leave the parental home. They are also the product of higher rates of divorce and separation, which generally creates two smaller households from one which was previously larger. These patterns may have implications for housing needs, as households with only one or two persons may require less living space than a larger household.

The trend toward one-person households is not unique to Canada. It is also occurring to varying degrees in many other countries, where the proportion of one-person households ranges between one in five households to nearly two in five.

In 2006, the proportion of one-person households in Canada (26.8%) was similar to the United States (27.1%), but lower than recent data from such other countries as Norway (38.5%) and Germany (37.5%). However, the proportion in Canada was higher than in New Zealand (22.6%), Ireland (22.4%) and Australia (20.7%).1

Figure 5 Proportion of one-person households in Canada similar to the United States but lower than some European countries

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